This year I plan to show up.
I am not a strong believer in New Year's resolutions. No, I don't think we should have to wait for a new annum to roll around in order to feel inspired to improve our lives in any way (more on my reasons and theory here).
However, it became clear to me as 2012 was winding down, that I had some cleaning up to do. Although the past year has been an exciting one; one filled with great experiences and stellar successes, both personal and professional, there was one area in my life that I struggled.
As I worked full-time, launched my small culinary business, MAP Wellness, enrolled in a 200-hour yoga teacher training program among other courses and classes, plus attempted to write, blog, and recipe develop as much as humanly possible, my relationships suffered. I knew it as it was happening though, my oft overflowing schedule and flooded social calendar proof that something had to give.
And as December wound down, I was forced to face the facts. I had rescheduled and cancelled countless dinner dates, missed many lectures, workshops and classes I'd signed up for, and craved a night of solitude more than anything else in the world. I was over-booked. And it took a long-time friend -- one whom I have been in close relationship with for as long as I have lived in Toronto -- it took her calling me out on my neglect to finally help me see the light. I was living in my own little bubble of busy, and she popped it when I needed it most. Hearing the words "you are slowly burning bridges" from another source, although not welcome at the time, acted as another sign to slow down.
I recently read an article that resonated, as the author had just adopted the new life mantra of "I have no time to rush." I am going to borrow from that idea, and this year, I plan to plan a lot. I have big ideas, grand visions, and a lot of myself to give. So I will do that. And I will plan to be present for all of it. And I will show up. Every time, for everyone. For my life, my friends, my family, and for myself. I will be there no fail, and I will live every second of every moment, no rushing.
2013 is going to be the year that I truly show up for. I promise me that. And I promise you that too. Why don't we all make that deal with ourselves when the clock strikes midnight on Monday night?
Negative body-talk (you know how it goes: ("I hate my arms;" "She gained so much weight last semester") is one of the fastest and easiest ways to make you feel bad about yourself. This year, make a point of avoiding body snarking about both yourself and others, and start paying compliments instead. Once you start to let go of that nasty habit, you'll start to appreciate all the awesome things that make you who you are.
Rather than vowing to count calories or give up sugar forever, make a resolution to snack healthier this year in order to pack in more nutrients, <em>and </em>boost your energy and brain power to fuel you through long days of school and sports. Swap out sugary granola bars and salty chips for apples, almonds, high-fiber energy bars, or low-fat Greek yogurt.
The <a href="http://www.nwf.org/Be-Out-There/Why-Be-Out-There/Benefits.aspx">health benefits </a>of spending more time in nature are numerous. In addition to absorbing more Vitamin D from sunlight exposure -- which has been shown to alleviate depression and food cravings, among other things -- being in nature can make you feel more relaxed and less anxious. Make a goal of taking a walk outside or going on a hike with friends at least once a week to get active and enjoy some fresh air.
It's <a href="http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/why-optimists-enjoy-better-health">scientific fact </a>that optimists, on the whole, enjoy better health and lower stress levels than their glass-half-empty friends. Up your happiness this year by not just thinking more positively, but also engaging in positive self-talk. Replace body-bashing with words of kindness towards yourself -- even if you don't believe it at first, you'll soon learn to accept your own compliments -- and watch yourself gradually become more and more body confident.
Make this your mantra this year: "No more skipping breakfast." We know you've been told a thousand times that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it's true: Eating a healthy, protein-packed meal in the morning can stave off hunger and get you in a healthy mindset for the day to come. Have fun experimenting with fruit smoothies, veggie omeletes, oatmeal topped with nuts and dried fruit, and remember: a giant coffee on the way school doesn't count as breakfast!
If you want to feel better in 2013, it's time to make sleep a number-one priority. Few things will make a bigger difference in your mood and energy levels than making a commitment to getting more zzz's. Making time for more shut-eye -- a minimum of seven hours every night -- can be the difference between barely getting through the day and feeling totally in charge of your life. Plus, it will help you ward off stress, anxiety, fatigue, and even <a href="http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/lack-of-sleep-weight-gain">weight gain</a>.
Stress can negatively impact your health on some many levels, from making it difficult to sleep to causing you to have trouble focusing. And if you're relaxed and free of constant body anxiety, it's a whole lot easier to feel good about yourself. Turn 2013 into your most relaxing year yet (no matter how busy you are) by worrying less about your body, school, relationships and anything else that makes your stress levels spike.
Health isn't about a number on a scale. Any type of compulsive behavior around food and weight -- whether it's meticulously measuring portion sizes at every meal or stepping on the scale every morning -- is unhealthy and can easily contribute to negative body image and even eating disorders. This year, forget about pounds and inches and focus on how you feel -- if your body feels great because you're treating it well, you'll know that you're doing the right thing.
If you're trying to get healthier, try to refrain form creating a restrictive diet for yourself, and instead, gradually add more and more fruits and vegetables into each meal. Many plant-based foods are nutrition powerhouses, packed with fiber and essential fruits and vegetables to keep you feeling your best all day. But don't make it feel like a chore: Keep things fun by finding the veggies you enjoy most and experimenting with different ways of preparing them.
Make 2013 the year that you finally stop fixating over every little flaws and finally start embracing who you are -- including the things you may not love. Being a perfectionist usually comes from a fear of being not good enough, or a fear of the disapproval of others. Loosen the grip of perfectionism by being kind to yourself, refusing to focus on your faults, and reminding yourself that you <em>are</em> good enough -- just the way you are now.
Follow Meghan Pearson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MAPWellness