It’s said that it takes 30 days to make a habit stick. If that’s true, then fall is the perfect season to make changes for the better instead of waiting until after the holidays–a time typically spent playing damage control thanks to stress, family drama, overindulgence, and lack of routine.
You know the drill, it starts with a piece of candy meant to go to a petite pretty princess or small scary skeleton trick-or-treating door-to-door. The next thing you know, you’ve gorged yourself on Thanksgiving mashed potatoes and pie, you stress drank your way through the month of December holidays, and you’re waking up hungover on New Year’s Day with a lineup of resolutions that would put Santa’s naughty or nice list to shame. Then, mid-February hits and it’s all, “What resolutions?”
It’s a slippery slope, and it all started with one harmless piece of candy. Admit it, when anything called “fun-size” can take down a quarter of your year, you know the old routine isn’t working. But don’t fret, change can happen, and it doesn’t have to be as hard as you’re likely working it up to be. Here’s what to keep in mind:
Start Small: They’re called “baby steps” for a reason. Drinking less alcohol, eating more vegetables, getting at least eight hours of quality sleep, quitting cigarettes (even the so-called “social smoking”), exercising regularly–these are all really great goals, but if you tried to do all of them at once, you’re likely setting yourself up for failure. Pick one or two that would make an impact in your life, and start there.
Make a Plan: If you plan on drinking less, what will you say when it comes time for the weekly happy hour with your closest friends. If you plan to exercise more, what happens when you wake up late and then get stuck in evening traffic. If every day went perfectly as planned, most people would never need to make resolutions. But nothing is perfect–including you–that’s why you need a Plan B, and probably a C, D, and E.
Tell a Friend: It’s easier to quit when the only person who knows about it is you. Find a tough-love friend (preferably not your spouse or partner)–the one who isn’t afraid to tell you when your jeans give you a muffin top, when you have food in your teeth, or when you need to leave your own pity party. Tell that person what your plans are and go to her when the proverbial going gets tough. Who knows, she might join in for the fall-changing fun.
Forgive and Forget: Remember that part about not being perfect? Remind yourself of that when you have a bad day–whatever “bad” means to you. Then forgive yourself and don’t dwell. It happens; now move on.
See, not that bad! You can totally do this; so let’s get started. It’s time to make autumn awesome. We put together some easy to-dos that will make this fall the season to remember.
Have a Hobby: Do you know what knitting, reading, drawing, blogging, and taking pictures all have in common? Yes, they’re all hobbies, but beyond that, they are also distractions. When you’re trying to eat less but your body is screaming for ice cream, or your children won’t stop fighting and your stress level is rising, a hobby can help to keep you focused on something you enjoy. In some instances, hobbies can even help lower blood pressure. If you already have a hobby you like, find 30 minutes each day to do it. If you don’t have a hobby, why not give something new a try? You might just love it.
Clear the Cabinets: If you have a sweet tooth…and cheek, ear, arm, hand, and leg, you know how addicting sugar can be. The worst part about it, the more sugar you eat, the more you crave. Once you’re hooked, you’d consider taking candy from a baby. You need sugar detox and bad. Start by cleaning out the cupboards of any and all sugary goodness–that includes that hardened bag of brown sugar (you never know where desperation can lead). You may not like seeing the goodies go, but just remember the dangerous candy-land path that can begin on Halloween.
And while we’re here, consider clearing the liquor cabinet as well. If you’re a regular drinker, your liver needs a vacation. See what a month off the sauce can do for your mental well-being. Now imagine how a few extra moments of clarity can lead to less stress and chaos overall.
Buy a New Bottle: No, not liquor. That would defeat the previous task. Instead, get yourself a water bottle that makes you swoon. You’re going to have it with you constantly, so it better be something that you love to look at, is easy to take along, and doesn’t drip. Once you have it, drink early and often–and soon you’ll be peeing the same way. If plain water is not your thing, add some lemon or brew a batch of green iced tea instead.
Go Outside: After a sweltering summer, the cool breezes of fall are welcome, but sometimes short-lived. Get out and enjoy them while they’re here. Take a nature walk, hike a trail with views of color-changing trees, ride a bike on a river path, pick apples, have a picnic, gather friends for an outdoor bonfire, and the list goes on and on. TV will be there all winter, enjoy the weather now before cabin-fever season takes over.
Taste the Season: Focusing on new flavors is a great way to expand your healthy food options. Apples, squash, cranberries, turnips, sweet potatoes and so many more are at their best in autumn. Try lighter soup and stew recipes with fresh ingredients instead of just falling into the heavy comfort food routine of the season.
Play! Fall is back-to-school time. Even if you’re not hitting the books–or elementary-school aged–doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little recess-style fun. Shoot some hoops, jump rope, play hopscotch, hula hoop, toss the football around. Games are great exercise, without even feeling like it.
Keep a Food Log:Similar to a tough-love friend, a food diary can help to hold you accountable. You’ll have a record to review if you’re not seeing the progress you expected, as well as the self-inflicted guilt that comes with having to write down an entire pumpkin pie.
Treat Yourself:No matter what goal you’re trying to reach, don’t forget to reward yourself along the way. Going for a massage, getting a pedicure, buying a new pair of shoes, and taking a midday nap are all positive reinforcements for a job well done. The more progress you make means the more work you’ve done. Give yourself the pat on the back you deserve.
Before the hints of fall air turn into full-on frozen tundra, pledge to start some healthy habits to put you on a positive path–from beginning to end–this holiday season. What does your new leaf look like? Share the changes that you have in store this season.