Take a Wellness Challenge

 

New Year’s Resolutions focused on health and wellness are often outcome-focused such as a desire to lose a certain amount of weight, or unsustainable, like deciding to go from not exercising at all to doing an intense workout everyday. While these are good goals to have, we may be setting ourselves up for failure by setting our expectations too high, adopting an all-or-nothing attitude, and not being compassionate with ourselves if we fall short of our goal.


For guidance on resolutions that will help build long-term behaviors, HealthySteps to Wellness consulted with our team of Coaches to crowdsource ideas on wellness challenges you can try this year to lead to something bigger.

Start small to make your behavior sustainable over the long-term.

If you plan on making a New Year’s Resolution focused on your well-being, think of your goal as the start of a long-term behavior rather than to solely focus on the outcome you want to achieve.

As with any new behavior, you may have hiccups along the way until you figure out a strategy that works for you. With this, it’s important to contemplate what you’ve learned from your attempts on what works and doesn’t work for you and to re-think your approach, if needed.

Above all, practice self-compassion if you are having a difficult time adopting the new behavior. You are more than what you eat, how much you work out or the number on the scale.

Ask yourself: what are my whys and my greater purpose?

Intrinsic motivation is greater than extrinsic motivation. If you would like to exercise regularly or eat more nutritious food, ask yourself why you want to do these behaviors, and you may find powerful reasons that you can tap into to keep you going.

For example, a person may want to exercise to manage their weight, but when they ask themselves why and dig deeper, they may find that they want to be healthier to set a good example for their children.

To get at your whys:

    • Ask yourself what’s important to you about the behavior you want to sustain and why now you want to adopt the behavior.
    • Tap into your values. Examine your value system by creating a list of values in deciding which ones are most important to you.
    • Create a wellness vision. What are the things you need or want in your life to be at your best?
    • Creative pursuits like vision boarding or journaling can also help you get to that why.

What opportunities are present?

Growth mindset gives us a chance to examine new opportunities. After you decide what behavior you want to pursue, examine if there are any opportunities you can take advantage of to sustain the behavior. For example, shelter in place is an opportunity to explore ways to cook at home more.

We can also find ways to tweak our physical environments to promote our wellness. Creating a way to stand at your desk while working is one example if you’re looking to sit less throughout the day.

Setting new norms or boundaries also applies, for example limit meetings to 50 minutes to lessen our feelings of stress and feeling rushed.

Explore a new or revisit an old hobby or interest.

Hobbies help boost resilience, and they don’t have to be time-consuming or long-term. For example, cooking is an achievable hobby and realize that you should start small without needing to be a gourmet chef right out of the gate.

Reframe your thinking when it comes to hobbies. Aim for 10 minutes and take away the expectation that it’s only worthwhile if you can dedicate significant time to the hobby.

Consider how you can merge your hobbies into family time, as spending time with each child so they all get the same amount of attention is important. Going for a short walk or doing a family puzzle may be good places to start.

Finally, examine how the outdoors can be part of your hobby, especially if fitness was a hobby that the opening and closing of gyms has made difficult to pursue. The outdoors have noted wellness and therapeutic benefits. What role could they play in your well-being?

Be mindful of regularly getting up from your workstation.

We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking. According to Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal, even moving for three minutes has benefits. If you would like, you can increase the increments with time, but you don’t have to get away from your workstation for a prolonged period of time.

There are many ways that you can get up from your desk. Explore stretching or yoga. Check out Yoga X, available on the Stanford Recreation & Wellness virtual fitness page. Recreation also has short-term virtual challenges, which are good for people who are competitive.

Meditation and mindful breathing can help in facilitating workstation breaks. Meditation videos and exercises are available through Healthy Living, Contemplation by Design, and Recreation & Wellness.

Do one new wellness thing a week.

Aiming to do one new wellness thing a week, or even every two or four weeks, will help get you out of your comfort zone and any ruts you may find yourself in. The newness may help in boosting your mood, and the novelty can be invigorating. Additionally, doing new things helps to keep your brain elastic.

You should start small, for example, stand or walk during a meeting or try a virtual fitness class, if you haven’t already, if you’re looking to add more activity in your workday. Doing something new, especially something that challenges you, enhances your resiliency and confidence.


Go plant-based for a week.

Plant-based doesn’t mean any meat whatsoever. Instead, aim to have most of your food come from vegetables or fruits. There are many reasons to aim for a plant-based diet:

    • Whole foods have great nutrition and make you feel fuller for longer with less calories.
    • Reducing your meat consumption is good for the environment.
    • A plant-based diet is better for heart health.

Finally, by switching to a plant-based diet, especially if you’ve been focusing more on meat and dairy, you may end up trying new things, introducing more variety into your diet, and helping you find more enjoyment in food.

Drink more water.

Most of us are aware of the recommendation to drink eight cups of water a day. Hydration is important for alertness and wakefulness. In fact, mild dehydration is enough to cause feelings of fatigue, headaches and lowered concentration. If you’re feeling tired or have a headache, you may just need water to perk you up rather than turning to another cup of coffee or taking a nap. 

Strategies to increase water intake include:

    • Have water at your workstation.
    • Associate water with behavior, such as eating or brushing your teeth.
    • Use a hydration app to log your hydration and send you reminders to drink water throughout the day. 


Explore friendship and/or have a conversation with someone you’ve never talked to.

Social connections are important for well-being, and now more than ever, when we’re isolated, it is vital to reach out to others.

Ideas for fostering connections include:

    • Become a Wellness Champion, to help you connect with other Champions at the hospital or recruit your co-workers to join.
    • Get in touch with someone you haven’t talked to in a while.
    • Explore new relationships and connections – it can be reinvigorating to get to know someone.
    • Join a group where people are doing something you like to do and that can be done while maintaining COVID-19 safety, such as knitting or art, either outside or virtually.


Vocation exploration challenge.

Many of us have seen our job duties and responsibilities shift since the pandemic began. This can be an opportunity to explore what you want your role to be and how you can grow your skills to meet your professional goals.

Give back to others and/or help the environment.

Giving back helps your community and your personal well-being. Try donating goods or services, volunteering, or raising money. One idea is to clean your house to find things you’d like to donate.

You can also aim to help the environment by opting to ride your bike if you have to go somewhere, participate in clean-up days, learn more about recycling properly, or start your own compost.

Once you complete a challenge, then what?

If any of these challenges have been helpful in your pursuit of well-being, encourage others to take the challenge and share your experience with them.

 

By Katie Shumake
January 2021
Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash