It’s that time again, when you step into a new year, motivated, empowered, resolute that this one is going to be a roaring start to a better, healthier you. Chances are, you’ve felt like this before. Chances are, you’ve lost all motivation before January ended.
Why does this happen? Health experts say it’s because most resolutions are too overwhelming to feel feasible once the euphoria of the first few weeks has faded.
The trick, they add, is to break your life-changing target down into many smaller, more doable ones. Want to get more exercise? Start with two-minute breathing exercise done while you’re brushing your teeth. Want to eat healthier? Start by cleaning out your fridge and committing to one home-cooked meal a day.
“We recommend that people start with a maximum of three small changes,” says nutritionist Carlyne Remedios. “Let small efforts add up to big benefits. That way you’ll be motivated to keep going, rather than feeling bogged down by the weight of the goals you have set yourself.”
Take to your feet
Gym memberships usually jump in January. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is the one about getting more exercise. By the middle of the month, you’re already inventing excuses and avoiding your trainer. Instead, be realistic and start the day with a doable workout in your own bathroom.
As you brush your teeth every morning, lift one leg off the floor and place it on your inner thigh (as in vrikshasan). Count to 60 and then switch legs. This will ensure that you brush your teeth for a full two minutes — and get an asana thrown in too.
“Vriskshasan trains the brain to balance better and breathe better,” says Delhi-based yoga instructor Zubin Atre. “It also helps strengthen the lower leg muscles. While doing the pose, work towards focusing on your breathing rather than your balancing.”
Also, resolve to always chose the stairs instead of the elevator. “For a person with an average weight of 65 kg to 75 kg, two flights of stairs help burn 10 calories. Coupled with a controlled diet, you should start feeling fitter and healthier in about two months. Your stamina will increase too,” says dietician Vriti Srivastav.
If the number of floors is too intimidating, commit to climbing half-way up. This kind of exercise is especially vital if your work has you sitting for long hours.
The easiest way to start healthier is to start snacking healthier. Scrub your fridge and your work desk of all junk food such as biscuits and chips. “Replace with roasted makhana, sprouts bhel, chickpea chaat,” says Remedios. “A lot of your hunger is just thirst, so stay hydrated too.”
Another healthy-eating hack is to always have vegetable or chicken stock around at home. That way, if you’re feeling nibblish, you can just heat the stock, add vegetables and treat yourself to a bowl of hearty soup.
Chop up the chores
Want to eat out less? Commit to one home-cooked meal a day. “If you prepare your meals on the weekend and freeze them, they will lose some of their nutrient value with time, but they will still be healthier than outside food,” says nutritionist Luke Coutinho. “Another way is to use the weekend to wash, peel, chop and boil or steam your meat or veggies, then cook it right before you eat.”
With help from Coutinho, Mumbai homemaker Simran Satnani, 41, was able to stick to her January 2017 resolution to eat healthier.
“I began a diet of home-cooked food in February, and I sought help because my resolve was already flagging. Because I was obese, I really wanted to do it. And I discovered that as your body gets used to home-cooked meals, it craves junk less and less,” she says.
If your busy schedule has you stressing about when to meditate, try meditating wherever you are, three to five times a day. “You can meditate almost anywhere, while doing anything. You need not lock yourself in a room,” says Atre. “All you need is three seconds of calm and you can do what is called micro-meditation.”
Focus on the muscles in your body – which ones are tensed, which are relaxed, which are the ones you are consciously engaging.
Close your eyes. Take three deep breaths and focus on the sounds and smells around you.
“What this does is relaxes you, helps calm your nerves and ease stress,” says Atre. “You can even try it amid stressful situations such as a traffic jam, or just do it at your desk.”
Turn in 10 minutes early
Early to bed and early to rise is another common resolution. To make this more feasible, start with a 10-minute advance on your bedtime.
Advance by another 10 minutes when you feel ready, and so on, until you are sleeping an hour or two earlier or hit your target.
“If a working adult gets less than 6 hours of sleep every night, they are likely to be sleep-deprived and could suffer from impaired function,” says Dr Vikas Maurya, head of the department of pulmonology and sleep disorders at Fortis hospital, Shalimar Bagh in New Delhi. “In such cases, even an extra hour of sleep could make all the difference.”