Health & Fitness

Take small steps toward making 2015 a better year

Today, many of us will recognize the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year. Since ancient times, the solstice has signified for many different cultures and religions the end of a period of darkness and the rebirth of the sun. Today, whether we mark the day through celebration, or simply acknowledge that daylight begins to increase on Monday, we are all generally thankful for this day’s arrival.

In modern times, spring is thought of as a time of renewal, but winter can be too. As this year comes to a close, many of us take time for reflection; to think about our goals and dreams for the upcoming year and beyond. As I do this, I remind myself of some principles that I try to live by every day:

Practicing these principles allows me to be healthy in body, mind and spirit, and to appreciate my many blessings.

As you reflect on the current year, ask yourself if the principles above are ones that you have incorporated into your life. If they aren’t, consider adding one, two or more of them to your resolutions for 2015.

I know that setting New Year’s resolutions can be tricky; they can challenge us to do things outside of our norms, which can be uncomfortable. But they also offer us an opportunity for self-improvement and growth, which, while difficult, can make us, and even our families, happier and healthier.

I like to remember to be kind to myself when I think about establishing resolutions. I try to think positively about what I can do better, not about what I think I may have done poorly. I know that the more positive I am, and the more I believe in myself, the better able I am to see things through and be successful. Decades of research and writing on the power of positive thinking shows that it not only improves a person’s effectiveness, but also their health.

Setting realistic goals is probably the most important factor when it comes to being able to achieve them. It’s good to dream big and aim high. However, setting smaller, achievable goals will help you stay motivated. Each small goal you reach can lead like steps to your ultimate ambition. You are more likely to be successful if you take baby steps toward your goal. Don’t forget to celebrate your successes along the way!

Setting realistic goals means trying not to set resolutions that will force your to make too many life changes at once. Perhaps quitting smoking at the same time as losing weight is too much to tackle. Or maybe going back to school at the same time as getting a better a job is not ideal. Be fair to yourself and allow yourself to be successful, one thing at a time.

Benjamin Franklin practiced incremental self-improvement by observing 13 virtues, one at a time, throughout his life; despite less than two years of formal education, he went on to become a founding father of our country.

I find that writing down and reviewing my resolutions regularly helps me stick with them. I also enlist the help of family members and friends along the way. It’s helpful for me to talk about my goals with others, and letting my family know my goals in advance helps me create a supportive environment. Then I am more likely to be successful.

Joining a group or a class also can help you with specific goals like weight loss, quitting smoking, becoming more active, improving your parenting skills, or learning how to paint.

There is an added benefit of joining others in your journey toward self-improvement; it’s called collective impact. We have such an opportunity in Thurston County now called Thurston Thrives. For better health in 2015, both personally and community-wide, consider connecting with others in ways that are meaningful to you.

As you look ahead to the New Year, I hope that you will do so with the belief that what lies ahead is an opportunity to renew yourself and grow. On behalf of myself, and the rest of us at Thurston County Public Health and Social Services, I wish you a very happy and healthy New Year.