Tips from an OT to set up your new year for success
January was named after the Roman god Janus who symbolizes beginnings and endings. Janus is depicted as having two faces (one looking into the past and the other into the future). January is a great time for reflection and setting new goals for the upcoming years. January is a great time to focus on self-care. We can't meet our goals and aspirations if we are not in tip-top form.
Check out these tips to start your new year off on the right foot.
Tip #1 - Reflection
The first of the year is always a good time to reflect on the last year and decide what went well, and what you want to change. It is important to take this time to reflect without judgment. As an occupational therapist, my job requires that I write notes after each visit, and this provides me the time and space to think/reflect on what happened in the session and what I can try next time. However, most of the time in day-to-day life we are not held accountable to reflect and document our daily lives. Journaling can be a great strategy and even if you don't like journaling, taking the time to sit down and really think about how things have been going and what you want this year to look like can be beneficial. Consider asking yourself:
1. What are your goals, values, and vision for the next year?
2. Focus on the why: Why do you want to get stronger? Are you wanting to get stronger for the sake of strength or do you want to get stronger so you can go play golf with your friends? Focusing on the why can help you stay on track and see the bigger picture.
Check out this worksheet to map out your ideal day. Having a vision for what you want your life to look like helps you to prioritize your time.
Tip #2 -Set achievable goals
It is easy to fall into the trap of setting elaborate new year's resolutions. Setting goals that are not achievable set us up for frustration. Consider using the SMART format for setting goals.
S: Specific - set goals that are very specific (who, what, when, where..)
M: Measurable - how will you know when your goal has been met?
A: Attainable - set goals that you can achieve through your own hard work. Try not to set goals that include how other people will respond or react. For example, a goal that might say: for my family to get along for the holidays - is not something that YOU can achieve or control.
R: Relevant - set goals that align with your values and vision.
T: Time-based - set target dates or frequency (I will exercise 2 x a week).
James Clear wrote a book called Atomic Habits - which I highly recommend. He talks about how to achieve goals. He recommends focusing on consistency vs intensity. Doing a little bit every day can get you closer to your goals than doing a bunch all at once. For example:
Intensity: run a marathon, organize your whole house in a day, and go on a crash diet...
Consistency: Don't miss a workout (even if only 5 mins), organize a room in your house each month, and eat three servings of vegetables a day.....
"Most people need consistency more than they need intensity. Intensity makes a good story. Consistency makes progress.” - James Clear (2019) Atomic Habits
Check out these two worksheets that walk you through setting some goals:
Tip #3 - Set yourself up for success
Set yourself up for success by scheduling your yearly self-care activities. It is a good idea to get a yearly calendar and fill in all of your appointments and activities that you don't want to miss. Feel free to schedule self-care time such as: going for a massage, getting your nails done, going out for coffee with your friends, or other important activities that make you feel good. Appointments to remember:
Primary doctor check-up
Don't forget to schedule other yearly activities in advance such as:
Yearly car maintenance
Birthday or other celebrations
Time to clean out your fridge, pantry, or medicine cabinet
Come up with a plan if you fall off the wagon. Eventually, we all get off track. You can set yourself up for success by having a plan when that happens. Check out this handout that helps you create a plan to "refocus".
Tip #4 - Keep it social
The research is very clear that staying active with social activities can reduce cognitive decline and keep you healthy. Staying active with family and friend circles is just as important as staying physically active. Life can get super hectic sometimes. Especially if you are managing an illness/chronic condition or taking care of a loved one. Make sure that you are scheduling time to stay socially active. If it is hard for you to get out, consider how you can adapt your usual social activities such as:
Online games with your friends
Invite friends over for coffee vs going out
Schedule time with friends that have a duel purpose (go for a walk together or go grocery shopping together).
Tip #5 - Make a plan for physical activity
The reasons to stay physically active are overwhelmingly related to positive health outcomes. Consider what physical activities fit into your daily life and what you enjoy. Bonus points if your physical fitness plan is social as well. Remember the quote from James Clear above - Consistency over intensity. A little bit of consistent exercise can help you develop a long-lasting habit. Even 5 mins of exercise a day can help you develop a habit of exercise.
I know life can be hectic and it is hard to find time for exercise. If you don't plan and tell your time where to go, it will fly by. Set a time and make a plan to exercise even if it is for a short 5-15 mins.
For more reasons to get some exercise in, check out this sheet:
Did you know it is national soup month?
Soup is one of my favorite ways to simplify meal prep for the week. Soup makes great leftovers and can be frozen. Most soup recipes can be easily modified to specific tastes or dietary needs.
Here are a few soup tips from The National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
1. Load up on the veggies. Most grocery stores carry shredded
veggies that are super easy to toss into soups. Spinach also makes a great soup addition.
2. Choose low-sodium broths. You can add extra seasoning like garlic powder or other herbs to boost the flavor.
3. Use evaporated milk instead of cream (USDA.gov). Creamy soups can be high in fat. Using evaporated milk can add a creamy flavor with less fat than milk or cream. Evaporated milk is also shelf-stable for easy storage in your pantry.
This tried and tested Butternut Squash Soup recipe is the perfect winter meal:
I hope you all had a very happy holiday season, and your new year is full of joy. I am looking forward to what 2024 will bring. I hope you all try a new soup this month! Thank you for reading.
P.S. Check out these tips for staying active in the winter weather.