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Forget resolutions. How about New Year's intentions?

Posted Dec 29 2009 12:00am
New Year’s resolutions seem to have fallen out of style lately, and with good reason, I think. A friend explained it best: “I don’t make resolutions anymore. I always end up breaking them, and it’s a bummer.”

Indeed, it’s discouraging to plan on accomplishing some health goal -- say, losing twenty pounds or working out five days a week -- and then wind up not doing it, year after year. Who needs the guilt?

But it's still good to take stock of your health routine and perhaps plan some changes for the upcoming year. The difference is in how you approach it.

Instead of making resolutions -- a word that implies grim inflexibility and the ever-present possibility of failure -- how about setting New Year’s intentions?

When you intend something, you’re working toward a goal. But you’re also letting go of the feeling of total responsibility for the outcome. Much desperation, in this day and age, comes from trying our hardest and then watching events take unexpected turns. It’s a relief to relinquish control over everything that happens and just appreciate the value of the process itself.

If you intend to eat more healthfully, without demanding a specific result from that, you’ll still be ahead of the game.

For example, instead of the resolution I will lose twenty pounds, try substituting the intention I will try to include fresh fruit or vegetables in every meal.

Instead of the resolution I will work out five days a week, try the intention I will go outside and breathe fresh air every chance I get.

Note that the second of these two goals is a lot easier to achieve, but also, it allows for the possibility of success every day, or at every meal. If you plan to work out five days a week and miss one day, then you probably won’t be exercising five days that week. But if you’re too busy to go outside and breathe one moment, you can always try the next.

So rather than start off with a perfect diet/workout plan on New Year’s day, with nowhere to go but down, you’ll be giving yourself chances to improve all year long.

Over time, you’ll eat more vegetables and inhale more fresh air than you would have if you’d aimed for the moon and then gotten discouraged and given up. You’ll feel better, and it just might encourage you to take further small, healthy steps.

Happy New Year!
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