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    Turning 2014 Resolutions Into Reality

    kaiOne of the nicest things about New Year’s is the sense of freshness and possibility, a clean slate, and renewed hope to accomplish our dreams. Coming through the Season of Lights illuminating the darkest days of December, there’s been a lot of magic in the air. And now we head into the new year with expectation and resolve, buoyed by a brightened sense of opportunity.

    So let’s tackle the topic of NYRs – New Year’s Resolutions! What are yours? What area/s of your life would you like to upgrade? What could change for you to be happier, healthier, more prosperous and fulfilled? Have you made a list? Written down your wishes so they’re not just swimming around in your head? What are you planning to do to make your resolves real?

    Statistics show that your chances of making positive lifestyle changes are higher if you make NYRs. Yet only about half of us bother, and then only a tiny fraction succeed in turning wishes into lasting better habits. There’s this almost universal downfall of resolutions, where most of our good intentions, and even new actions, don’t survive past the first few days or weeks of January.

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    Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to break old habits and create better new ones that actually stick? Believe it or not, we are wired to develop healthier habits all the time, and inertia can be overcome. But we have to do our part! I once heard a Harvard brain-behavior researcher talk about ‘neuroplasticity’ – our innate capacity to learn and grow throughout life – in terms that I could comprehend. While terribly simplified, some very basic neuroscience has helped me understand why it’s so much easier to keep doing what we’ve been doing. These ideas can also help us set ourselves up for success to turn resolutions into reality.

    Try thinking about a habit as a pattern that is deeply wired into your brain cells and nervous system circuits. You’ve got well-established neural activity and mind-to-body pathways that kick in at the speed of super-highways. This mechanism creates your automatic responses. This helps save you a lot of time and effort, but can also be frustrating when you consciously know something isn’t good for you, but can’t seem to stop what you say, feel or do.

    When you’re attempting to learn new things or make a change, brain cells start growing new dendrites (little structures that conduct electromagnetic energy and convey messages between cells). The dendrites need to find each other and connect to make new neural-muscular pathways. These pathways are the brain-body underpinnings of your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Building them takes some time, and explains why it takes practice, repetition, and 21-30 days to develop a new habit. It also explains why we all so easily revert to old habits. It’s hard for the fragile new pathways to compete with existing ones, which are so strong and fast in conveying brain-body messages.

    Back now to your NYRs. Four main areas contribute to good health and fitness: Diet. Exercise. Rest & Sleep. Self-Care. Sit down for 10-15 minutes with a pad of paper and pen (or Notes on your smartphone or iPad). Think about each area honestly, and then write 1-3 positive changes you’d like to make in each area. For example:

    Diet: 1) Lose weight. 2) Stop eating junk food. 3) Try gluten-free.

    Exercise: 1) I will strengthen my core. 2) I will do aerobic exercise. 3) I will stretch more.

    Rest & Sleep: 1) I will take more power naps. 2) I’ll go to bed earlier. 3) I plan to sleep more.

    Self-Care: 1) I’ll have more fun. 2) I will relax more. 3) I will be on time so I don’t stress so much.

     

    Now, pick one item in one area and get really specific about what you’re going to do. For example:

    Exercise NYR: Strengthen My Core! NYR Actions: 1) Learn core-strengthening exercises (from a trainer, a class, or the Internet). 2) Create a 10-20 minute routine. 3) Do it 4-6 times a week.

    Diet NYR: Stop Eating Junk Food! NYR Actions: 1) Identify what junk foods you’re eating. 2) Refuse to buy them at the grocery store or to order them at a restaurant. 3) Identify healthy alternatives (fruit, vegetables, protein bars, water instead of soda or alcohol, etc.). 4) Start buying, eating and drinking only what you know are healthy choices.

    Focus on that one goal and action for a minimum of one month. Make achievable weekly mini-goals. Lots of small short-term successes do add up to lasting, long-term change! Notice the benefits you feel along the way. Keep a Daily Success Journal. Buddy up with a partner or friend for extra support, encouragement and accountability. Be sure to make your new actions fun. Nothing is as rewarding as success, not to mention enjoying how much better you’re looking, feeling and doing in your life.

    One last guideline to insuring new and lasting success in 2014: Take it one NYR at a time! Give your brain-body ‘road-crews’ a chance to do a really good job of building each solid new neural pathway. And remember – it takes time and energy to practice new thoughts and actions, and at least 21-30 days to develop them. Keep concentrated and committed as you enjoy building each new pathway. You’ve got 12 months ahead, with the potential to create a dozen better habits as you reach for your goals and realize your dreams in 2014.

    For more information about Jamie Leno Zimron and her work, please visit http://www.thekiaiway.com/.