As the new year begins, many of us are pondering how to create positive change in our lives. The desire to adopt a healthier lifestyle is top of mind, especially if we indulged during the holiday season. A brand-new year provides us with an opportunity to eliminate bad habits and establish healthy new routines. The pandemic has forced most of us to become familiar with adapting to new routines, and 2021 offers a unique opportunity to apply our adaptability to reshape our lifestyle and to choose a healthier one. New Year’s resolutions are easy to create – and even easier to disregard – yet our recent experiences provide a strong catalyst for proactive and long-lasting change.
Like a tree that has just been planted, a healthy lifestyle requires the right conditions to flourish. The quality of the soil or terrain that nurtures this vision will determine whether it thrives or fails. Creating a healthy lifestyle requires a deeply rooted sense of purpose.
In order to successfully move into a healthier lifestyle, we must perceive any changes to be meaningful and relevant. In my practice as a functional nutrition and lifestyle practitioner, I find that most of my clients already know the benefits. Truth be told, they often know what they should be doing to get “healthy.” But they don’t know how to go about it in a way that’s likely to be successful. The key is playing the long game: instead of pursuing a quick fix, continuously make small, manageable, consistent changes over time. This approach creates the foundation for health and longevity.
The long game is about taking smaller, more-intentional steps towards that big goal. For example, drinking two extra glasses of water a day and going to bed thirty minutes earlier can, in a relatively short period of time, dramatically improve overall health. More sleep and increased hydration support every system in the body and positively impacts cognition, mood, digestion and metabolism. Carving out ten minutes a day for physical movement can also drastically improve energy levels over time. Essentially, when bite-sized goals are connected to a purpose and we make micro shifts in behavior, we’re much more likely to succeed.
Bringing mindfulness into our everyday lives offers opportunities to reconnect with our “why” and strengthen the sense of purpose that propels us. The good news is that mindful living is healthy living! Taking the time to breathe, focus and be fully present in the moment will naturally decrease the time we spend in fight-or-flight mode. It is nearly impossible to heal, learn, create or transform when we spend much of our day with our system awash in stress hormones. Sitting quietly and peacefully for a few minutes each day, without judgment or guilt, can instantly reconnect us with the reasons we decided to make the changes in the first place.
I would like to make a radical proposal: In 2021, let’s abandon a quick-fix mindset, fad diets and cultural pressures to look a certain way, and pivot to a narrative of purposeful living as a means to sustainable change. Let’s commit to the long game of taking small but consistent steps toward the lifestyle we know is worth living. When we do that, we will find ourselves living purposefully and more healthily.
Molly Brennand is a native Santa Fean and self-professed nutrition nerd. When she is not reading about how the methylation cycle impacts digestion and brain function, she enjoys cooking, dancing, reading historical fiction, gardening and playing “Taco vs. Burrito” for hours on end with her husband and nine-year-old son.