But, what if the problem is that the steps we’re taking are simply too big? Instead of tying yourself to a vague, overwhelming task come January first — like “eat healthier” or “get in shape” — what if you started with small, manageable changes you could make even before 2014 hits? Caroline L. Arnold, author of the upcoming book Small Move, Big Change , argues that this type of “microresolution” is much more likely to lead to lasting change, partly because we see them as more realistic, and thus, we tend to expect success. To make resolutions that really stick, she says, “we must focus our limited willpower on one mental attitude or habit at a time, until it becomes autopilot.” We’ve come up with a list of super-realistic small steps you can make right now to make sure your 2014 goals are well within your reach.
Easy December Step: Go grocery shopping instead of ordering Seamless
Trust us — we know how dangerous that Seamless app is, especially after a long day of work. But, a quick trip to the grocery store, if done right, can be the best thing to happen to your week. Try to think of something you can make easily and in a big batch, like a quick quinoa salad or a vegetable stir fry. This way, not only will you be making a healthier dinner choice, but that choice can pay off through the rest of the week.
Easy December Step: Stop late-night snacking
This is a hard one — sometimes, there’s just nothing better than that last slice of pizza at 3AM. But, studies show that eating late could wreak havoc on your metabolism (not to mention your sleep). Says Arnold, “Many of us eat a fourth meal’s worth of calories after dinner, and new research shows that what is eaten during natural sleeping hours is more likely to lead to weight gain than the same calories eaten during the day.” If you find yourself suffering a severe case of the drunchies, though, try replacing your fried, cheesy and/or meaty cravings with something raw and relatively filling, like cacao nibs or nuts.
Easy December Step: Change one (small) thing about your diet
With all the (often conflicting) information out there, it can be overwhelming to even think about changing your diet in a serious way. So, take it one step at a time. Maybe cut back on sugar, or cheese, or red meat. You don’t have to eliminate anything entirely — it’s all about making changes that you can commit yourself to, with the hope that you can build on your momentum over the next few months.
Easy December Step: Stop hitting the snooze We all do it — that one little button can feel like a gift from the gods when the alarm goes off on Monday morning. But, consider a moratorium. Research suggests that hitting the snooze can not only ruin your circadian rhythm, but it can also negatively impact your brain chemistry long into your day. Instead of clinging desperately to your pillow, try embracing the day ahead. Your sleep schedule — and your productivity — will thank you.
Easy December Step: Stop multi-tasking
For many of us, multi-tasking is the only way to get through our increasingly overwhelming daily schedules. But, studies show that multi-tasking not only activates stress hormones, but actually decreases your brain's ability to sort through and organize the information that comes at us from all directions. By committing to focusing on one task at a time, you're taking a step toward a more mindful way of living, and you're more able to prioritize what's truly important in your day.
Easy December Step: No more night-owl computing
As Arnold says, "Willpower stores are also restored by sleep — sleep is the self-improver’s secret weapon." To that end, set yourself up for a successful slumber by staying off the internet after 10 p.m. This way, you avoid the harmful effects of your computer's LCD light on your sleep schedule, while ensuring you don't get sucked into a swirling vortex of aimless browsing — or worse, online shopping."
Easy December Step: Take the stairs instead of the elevator
You’ve heard this one before, and there’s a reason: Out of all the ways to add more exercise into your daily routine, this one’s kind of a no-brainer. Whether it’s in your apartment building, your office or school, or the subway, even a few flights of stairs can kick-start your metabolism — and is just the sort of manageable yet decisive step that will make your New Year's fitness resolutions more achievable. And, as Arnold says, “There is lots of new research that shows that even small changes in physical activity can have a large impact on overall fitness.”
Easy December Step: Designate a workout day
With everything we have going on at this time of year (not to mention the rainy, snowy, and generally unpleasant weather), any sort of consistency is a miracle when it comes to fitting exercise into the mix. In the spirit of not going full-on couch potato (and making that transition into get-fit resolution season a bit less painful), try designating one day of the week as your can’t-miss workout day. Whether it’s that free yoga class on Thursday or a Sunday morning run, even a little bit of regularity now can do a lot for your fitness goals down the road.
Easy December Step: Try something new
Instead of waiting for the New Year to make fitness a priority, take a baby step now by trying something you've never done before. Whether it's a barre class, a kettlebell, or the latest circuit workout, incorporating a new element into your fitness routine helps keep things fresh and exciting. If you're having more fun with your workout, you'll be more likely to stay engaged with your fitness goals well into the new year.