It’s that time of year when we set the big wellness goals for ourselves, with good intentions to follow through. If, by a few months in, you have forgotten what the goal even was, know that you are not alone. Most New Year goals are forgotten about by mid-February and it’s not for lack of motivation or determination on your part.
Whether we are transitioning into a new year or starting a new wellness program, focusing on self care with love and compassion is key. The ultimate act of self love is to nourish your body with an array of supportive foods, gentle movement that feels good, reduced stress, and rest. In order to set yourself up for success in all of these areas, you need a plan. Planning out the unique steps it will take for you to set and reach your desired goal will act as your roadmap—one that you can pull out when you need motivation and direction, to track your progress, determine areas that need more attention, and to get clear on areas have you feeling stuck in a rut.
Here are four steps to creating your wellness roadmap:
- Know your “why”: When you dig deep and get honest about how you want to feel and why you want to make shifts to improve your overall health, you have that as a visual to work toward. Get out a pad of sticky notes, write out as many reasons as you can think of why you want to make changes, and post them up around your home as reminders.
- Set SMART goals: Your goal has to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. A goal can go from “I want to eat more healthily”, to one that is more specific and clear, like, “Starting on this date, I will eat one meal each day that is plant-based and made with only fresh ingredients, so that I improve my digestion, immune system, skin, and energy levels. I will revisit this goal and build on it on this date.” An important step to include with every goal you set is to revisit it regularly to check in on how it’s working for you. If you need to feel more passionate about it, if you need to extend the end date, or you want to add on to make it more challenging, do that. It’s your goal and, for you to be successful, know that you can tweak and customize it whenever you need to.
- Build your toolbox: As a survival mechanism, our brain likes to keep things easy and stress-free. We develop habits that are not always positive, but they are the comfortable, automatic ones that our brains, or our thoughts, prefer. When we attempt to make changes in our diet or lifestyle, our brain often resists by pulling out all the good excuses in order to get us to fall back to our old ways. For example, when you are trying to include more home-cooked, plant-based meals but you are having a busy week and failed to meal plan or shop, your brain will convince you to order-in greasy comfort food instead of making a late-night trip to the grocery store for a healthier option. To override these thoughts and autopilot behaviours, we have to fill our toolbox with an array of strategies so we can rewire and reframe our patterns. Recognize what is no longer working for you, get to know the common excuses your brain keeps on file, and have an alternative plan for each one.
- Get accountability systems in place: Whether you are setting annual, monthly, weekly, or daily goals, it’s important to keep track of your own progress and to gather as much support as possible. You can keep yourself accountable by journaling or using a diet diary where you meal plan, highlight your achievements, and become aware of areas that might need more of your attention. If you work better by declaring your goal out loud, you can work with a Nutritionist or Health Coach, or ask a friend or family member to be your accountability partner who checks in on you, and knows your challenges and what you need in order to overcome them.
The key to making any shift in your diet, habits, or lifestyle is to start small and keep things digestible. Small changes that excite you, show you results that you can celebrate, and reduce your stress load are the ones that you will want to follow through with. With repetition, these little shifts become the healthy habits that you can consider big acts of self love.
Jen Casey is is one of Nature’s Fare Markets’ nutritionists and certified health coach through Next Bite Nutrition Coaching. She focuses on holistic, diet-free approaches to weight loss and balancing hormones through nutrition and lifestyle.