Have Your Own Back: Why Micro Changes Are Better Than Resolutions
Every New Year brings opportunity to shed regrets and set new goals for the future. For some, resolutions are around achieving career milestones, strengthening personal relationships, or overcoming fears. But many of us also resolve to improve our physical health and wellbeing. After all, the New Year comes just after the holidays - a popular time for indulging in cold-weather comfort foods, feasts around the dinner table, and cookies and sweets not just for dessert - but for anytime you walk past overflowing tins in the kitchen.
You’re not alone if you’ve looked at your holiday-ridden body and run out to buy a gym membership. “I’m not just going to drop the holiday weight, I’m going to lose 10 pounds and eat salads for lunch and develop a more active, healthier lifestyle,” you tell yourself.
It’s even hard to find an open treadmill at the gym these first few weeks, as 12% of all new gym members join in January, according to 2014 statistics compiled by CreditDonkey. But by February, more than 14% of those new gym members have cancelled their membership, and by May over 80% have thrown in the towel - and you might be one of them.
Why? Because life happens. You get back into work, and spending hours in front of the computer really sucks the energy and motivation to go crazy on the elliptical right out of you. You’re juggling errands, family, and social activities, and suddenly there just aren’t enough hours in the day to fit in a workout (unless you want to put on your sneakers at 5am, and it takes a very special kind of person who really wants to do that).
The sad part, though, is you don’t just flush the gym membership down the drain, but you flush many of your well-intended aspirations of living a healthier lifestyle right along with it. You just don’t have enough time or energy to make a drastic lifestyle change.
That’s why the key is to make those changes less drastic.
The thing is, you don’t have to make major changes to improve your physical and mental health. There’s an easier way that doesn’t involve long hours at the gym or crazy diets, and it’s all about mindset: the way you think about your lifestyle, and the individual micro choices you make throughout the day, every day.
I was only able to finally grasp this concept, and implement it into my own daily life, shortly after I started working with StandDesk. When I make small decisions to be more active during the day, like standing periodically, I notice a physical difference in how my body feels as compared to days when I’m more sedentary, and the difference affects everything else throughout my day.
Take a look at my sit-stand chronicles...
|A Day In the Life with My Butt in a Chair||A Day In the Life with Mindful Movement|
7:50am: I roll out of bed, head downstairs, and look back and forth from my StandDesk to my kitchen table and the big comfy chair next to it. A giant morning yawn and my decision is made - I move to the table, sit down, and start hammering away at emails.
7:50am: I roll out of bed, stretch a little bit, and get dressed for the day. I put on a cup of coffee and walk over to my StandDesk to skim emails while waiting for it to brew.
9:30am: I still feel groggy despite the coffee I drank an hour ago. I dial into a conference call and feel myself zoning out, barely listening to the potential-partner on the other end. I forget to ask key questions and my notes trail off.
10:15am: I’m skimming through pictures of my friend’s wedding, liking some of the photos. I realize I’ve been doing this for 20 minutes and haven’t made a dent in the presentation I need to finish today. I close Facebook and tell myself I’m going to focus only on work for the next 90 minutes.
11:45am: I’ve gotten through two slides and my neck is starting to cramp from hunching over my screen. I think about making a salad for lunch, but the smell of something warm and savory from the apartment next to mine changes my mind - I’ll pick something up when I head into the office for a meeting.
1:00pm: At a lunchtime yoga class, I feel my hamstrings and calves straining in my first downward dog. I pedal out my legs, all of the muscles in my body tense as I move through flows.
1:50pm: The instructor moves us into Supta Virasana - hero pose. “If you feel the slightest twinge in your knees, move out of the pose” she warns. I brush off her warning and lie back into the pose. My knees feel a little tight, but I just power through until we switch poses a few minutes later.
2:02pm: I squat down to roll up my mat and feel a twinge in both knees. A quick glance down and I can tell they’re swollen.
3:40pm: At the office now, I move into the conference room for a meeting and make myself comfortable on the futon. My back is stiff and all I can think about is sprawling out, but this is not a sprawl-out kind of meeting, so I stay seated.
5:05pm: My coworker in the other room Slacks me a request to help him with something. I spend 15 minutes typing out instructions, which I could have shown him in 3 minutes time had I gotten up and gone over there. Whatever, I feel lazy and my knees are still aching.
6:15pm: It’s the end of the day and I’m only half finished with the presentation. It’s just one of those days where I feel like I never fully woke up, and I’m irritable and hungry. I pack up and head to the grocery store.
7:00pm: Watching people try to find a good parking spot at Vons around dinnertime is like watching someone drop a chicken into a pen of alligators. It’s brutal and ugly. I wait for a car in the first row to pull out for 5 full minutes until I finally clinch the spot.
8:00pm: Sunken into my couch, I toss the remnants of my frozen lasagna into the nearby trashcan. I glance over at the bag of laundry I told myself I was going to do tonight. I’m out of clean underwear (and even out of clean bathing suit bottoms that serve as my no-clean-laundry back up), so the situation is pretty dire. I tell myself I’ll get up and do it after the next episode of Narcos.
9:28pm: My Fitbit buzzes, prompting me to “take it for a stroll.” 4,231 steps today. The daily value recommended is 10,000, which equates to the CDC’s recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Ah well, I’ll hit that goal tomorrow.
10:00pm: Two and a half episodes later and no laundry has been done. It’s too late now, so I opt to just take a shower and get ready for bed. I’ll get to it tomorrow.
8:05am: A short stroll back to the coffee machine confirms my cup is done. While I’m near the sink, I decide to rinse out the pot so I don’t have to do it later.
9:30am: Still standing at my desk, I dial into a conference call and begin to pace around my apartment (I’ve always been an on-the-phone-pacer). I walk back to my computer each time I want to jot down some notes - it’s a productive conversation.
10:15am: Sitting down now, I clear my desk of distractions and dive into the power point presentation I need to have finished by the end of the day.
11:00am: I’m starting to feel a little bored, so I stand up again and do some stretches, using my desk for balance.
12:00pm: I walk back into the kitchen and take a 15 minute break to make myself a salad for lunch. The mini-break is mind-clearing but not stressful, because I’m making good progress on my presentation.
1:00pm: In a midday yoga class, I simply notice how my muscles are feeling without judgement. I can tell that the wake up and mid-morning stretches I did helped prep me for today’s class.
1:50pm: The instructor tells everyone we’re going to move into Supta Virasana, also known as hero pose. I start to lie back but catch myself about halfway when I feel my knees twinge. My body is telling me I’ve gone far enough for today, so I listen to it.
2:11pm: I stroll up to my desk at the office and eat my salad as I proof-read my presentation.
3:40pm: I move into another office for a meeting, and stand near the white board. Everyone trickling in joins around the board, and we jump in and out writing down our strategies.
5:55pm: Presentation complete, I pack up my stuff and head to the grocery store.
7:00pm: The parking lot at Vons looks terrifying, so I park on the street about a block away and walk over.
8:15pm: I finish putting away leftovers from my home-cooked meal, then run downstairs to start my long overdue laundry.
9:28pm: I stand behind my couch folding laundry while watching Netflix, and finishing just before the episode does.
10:00pm: Laundry complete and feeling energized, I pick up a book I’ve been meaning to start. As I walk upstairs, my fitbit buzzes, notifying me that I hit my daily 10,000 step goal.
Which day is more desirable? The answer is obvious - who wouldn’t want to have more energy, be more productive, and go to bed feeling like they accomplished something, even if that just means doing your laundry? Research shows that the more active you are, the more endorphins are released in your brain giving you all kinds of positive feels, which in turn makes you want to be more active. And the cycle continues.
Transparently, most of my days probably fall somewhere in between these exaggerations. But every time I have the opportunity, I try to stop and make a conscious decision to choose the more active route. You’re not going to stand for half the day tomorrow, or walk all the way across the parking garage once on Wednesday, and suddenly feel permanently different - but you’d be surprised how quickly small changes, done day over day, can result in big differences in the way you feel.
Being more in touch with your body and understanding what you’re feeling at any given moment affects everything else in your life. Am I hungry because I need more nutrients, or am I hungry because I’m bored? Am I tired because I slept too much, or too little? Am I sick because I caught an indomitable bug, or because my body is too rundown from being overworked to fight it off? The more in touch you are with your body, the more you can control your quality of your life, and you can get there by making conscious, mini decisions to pay attention, and be more active.
This New Year, don’t resolve to uproot your lifestyle. Instead, decide to change your outlook, and be easy on yourself. You’ll be surprised how quickly you feel the difference.