Making Change Manageable

Another year comes to a close and everyone is thinking forward to the next year ahead. Many of us are considering what kind of changes we might want to make to improve our health. Unfortunately, many of these well-intentioned goals get left unmet over the year’s time; often times failing before the weather even becomes warm again.  According to the publication U.S. News as many as 80% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February.  

The question is how to avoid becoming a statistic like this with your personal life goals.

One of the big reasons that we fail to continue with changes is that people tend to make their goals too broad, vague and ambitious. It’s not uncommon to set a resolution that sounds something like “I’m going to get into shape this year”. This is doomed because there is no defined goal (What does better shape mean?) or method to attain it (What are you going to do to get there?)  Even a statement like “I want to lose twenty pounds this year” misses the mark.  You might say that this statement has a defined number and timeline, but in reality is just too vague about how this change is going to happen.

Simplification is Key

In a 2011 talk, software engineer Matt Cutts presented a simple but specific method for life change. You can watch it here (only takes 3 minutes 21 seconds).

In his talk he breaks down the idea of making changes to one specific behavior; either adding or taking away something for 30 days to make it a habit. At that time he says you can try on another behavior, and so on. It’s a great way to keep from getting overwhelmed or discouraged. You simply have to focus on one small thing for 30 days.

Only 30 days?

It was long believed that a habit could be formed in as little as 21 days, although modern research suggests it may take some individuals much more time.

The concept of 30 days is helpful because it’s a short enough time that you can remain focused without getting bored, but long enough for some behaviors to become habit, or at least easily maintained without extraordinary effort. If after the 30 days a healthier behavior isn’t quite automatic, you can just give it a go for another 30 days – however long it takes. Thirty days is also a convenient time division, because we already split our time up into almost-perfectly-30-day-long months; so it’s easy to track.

Only 1 habit?

Cutts talks about either stopping a behavior (stop eating sugar) or adding a behavior (workout 5 times per week) for the 30 day period. Focusing on a single behavior helps us to maintain focus without fatiguing mentally over too many or too complicated changes. Even the above “goals” can be improved upon. “Stop eating sugar” is better when it’s defined as – remove added sugars in foods and drinks, and limit natural occurring sugars to 25g (women) or 37g (men) daily. “Working out 5 times a week” can be further defined as – doing 20 minutes of cardio before work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; taking a 1 hour restorative yoga class on Saturday and doing 1 hour of intense yard work Sunday afternoon.  (Notice how that last one gets the regular yard work chore done as well! – Bonus!)

The idea is to be VERY specific about what you aim to do. It’s also important that you don’t try to take on too much. For some of us a simple 20 minute walk 4-5 days will be a great way to change. Do it for the 30 day time period and then move on. Make your walk longer, or add some weights workouts a couple of days instead.

It’s surprising how much you can change your habits for the better in just a few months. Sure, there will be months where the change you pick just doesn’t work out, or you slip up a day or two. Don’t despair or beat yourself up. Simply acknowledge the lapse, and start again. You can pat yourself on the back for getting back on board after a slip-up. They are going to happen. Life is complicated. Let it go, re-focus your efforts, rethink your goal if needed and try again.

How can we help?

Here at Acupuncture and Holistic Health Associates, we want to be able to help you along wherever needed in reaching your health goals. We know that healthy organ systems function in the body can facilitate the outer physical presentations that many seek as New Year’s goals. Regular Acupuncture treatments can help heal old injuries and the pain they cause that makes it hard to increase physical activity needed to get into shape. Acupuncture and herbal strategies help to balance and improve the function of the digestive/metabolic system to aid in the removal of unwanted fat and water weight. Treatments can be devised to curb stress-eating, improve sleep quality and balance hormone levels in the body. All of these issues can stand in the way of you achieving your health and fitness goals, and all of them can be successfully treated with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Formulas.

We invite you to contact us and see how using this medicine to restore function in your body can get you where you want to be in your personal health journey.