Every fresh start tends to evince intense feelings of hope, a resurgence of inner strength and resolve to start anew, the excitement of possibilities and potential of growth, new journeys.
And for many, it creates anxiety from self-imposed stress to reach lofty goals, or successfully achieve unattainable results. For example, people who are overweight and have lived a sedentary lifestyle resolve to hit the gym and diet starting January 2 so they can look sculpted, slim and physically awesome by summertime. Problem is, it’s work they have not been taught or coached previously to do and are not mentally equipped to sustain the routine and food “sacrifices” (ie, changes) needed to realize their vision.
Or, you want to learn and master a new skill or sport. You cannot earn a black-belt in karate by summertime if you’ve never set foot inside a dojo before.
You start. You stop. You shrug your shoulders and say, “next year!”
Unfortunately, of the two-thirds of Americans who make resolutions for the new year, 73% quit before reaching it. Additionally, when it comes to fitness resolutions, three common factors are cited for giving up: finding the time for routine workouts (36%), too difficult to strictly follow a new diet/exercise routine (42%), too hard to get motivated to start again once they stall (38%). And nearly half of those polled gave up their fitness resolutions in six weeks or less.
Clinical psychologist and author Joseph J. Luciani, PhD, writes, “Come the first of January, the hoards of enthusiastic resolutions-ers account for the swelling number of gym, yoga and Pilates memberships as the diet books fly off the book store shelves. By the second week of February, some 80 percent of those resolution-ers are back home with a new kind of remorse staring back at them in the mirror—the remorse of disappointment. Why is it that with such good intentions, getting fit, losing weight and improving our lives seems so elusive?”
Primarily, the failure to sustain goal (resolution) achievement, he asserts, is lack of self-discipline to first change your mind—adopting the mindset and adapting that mindset to the changes necessary to begin to successfully fulfill that goal.
Tips for Successful Resolutions
Embrace your current reality. It’s ok that you are where you are right now. Accept it fully and feel the weight of any guilt leave your shoulders. This is a critical first step to achieving the goals and lasting changes you really want for yourself.
Solidify and clarify your vision. Create a mood board or journal and fill it with phrases and images that reflect you in that future, where you want to be, how you want to look, what you want to accomplish. You can of course do this online, but making more of an effort with a three-dimensional vision-quest project will help you achieve that clarity. Also know that as you start on your new year’s journey, this will be fluid, changing.
Break down the main goal into manageable pieces. When you look at the big picture—the ultimate goal—and compare it to your current status, well, this can be overwhelming. And many people who feel overwhelmed remain stagnant, immobile, not knowing where to begin. Create an outline by doing some research. Write down step by step, small goal by small goal. Oh, and reward yourself when you reach specific small goals. This shows that you are doing it for you first, not anyone else. And, if you reward yourself immediately after success your body will physically register the award in association with that action, and will gravitate towards it in the future.
Setting reasonably achievable goals—large and small—is essential in realizing your resolution. The karate process remains a great example: your first goal or achievement is the white belt, followed by yellow belt, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, red and then black, which symbolizes the mastery, the end—and the beginning of life in the new phase.
(The one exception to the rule is quitting cigarettes. Stats show that those who stop completely, ie, “cold turkey,” are the most successful at remaining cigarette free.)
Expand by creating self-challenges. So, it’s March and you’re making great progress. Enhance that feeling of self-worth by adding new creative (and reasonably achievable) challenges to your routine. This refreshes your mindset and resolve. And it definitely increases self-value.
Read & learn to motivate yourself. There are numerous excellent self-help books devoted to creating a healthy mindset and lifestyle, as well as numerous beginners’ books that teach your new hobby or skill. One great book about developing good habits and dismantling ones that have no purpose to serve you is Atomic Habits by James Clear. He writes, “If you’re looking to make a change, then I say stop worrying about results and start worrying about your identity. Become the type of person who can achieve the things you want to achieve. Build identity-based habits now. The results can come later.”
Clear’s expertise is mentioned in another motivational blog, howtomakeithappen.com.
Take Probiotics: Along with a healthier diet, probiotics can help with the mental pressure and anxiety involved in making changes and acquiring self-discipline to reach that new year’ resolution—and sustain it.
Several strains have been found in animal studies to raise the production of gamma amino butyric acid (GABA), an amino acid and a major inhibitory neurotransmitter that is highly influential in reducing or thwarting anxiety. In one study, Lactobacillus rhamnosus was demonstrated to upregulate GABA biomarkers in certain brain regions and downregulate them in others, signifying distinctive neural changes.
The researchers found that this activity occurred in the vagus nerve, the major communications highway of the gut-brain-axis, a pivotal part of emotional health and well-being. In this study, consumption of L. rhamnosus specifically led to modified neurotransmission of GABA, which was ultimately associated with decreased anxiety and depression in the subjects from modifying GABA neurotransmission.
Depression or low mood may be felt more acutely when in the throes of adopting new, healthier habits—especially in wintertime. Low mood frequently accompanies anxiety when grappling with change (even the good changes that are new year’s resolutions).
A 20-day study investigated the effects of consuming a milk drink containing Lactobacillus casei (Shirota) compared to a placebo in 124 healthy adults. According to the researchers, the study results showed significant improvement in mood in those consuming the probiotic milk. Specifically, the researchers noted that Lactobacillus casei (Shirota) cultures appeared to improve mood among those only with a low/depressive mood at baseline, suggesting that this strain may improve mood among those with subclinical depression.
For those of you who decided not to make any new year’s resolutions, you can still benefit tremendously from taking probiotics. Read our blog archives to discover how probiotics can take you through 2020 and beyond to enrich your health and your life.