New year, new resolutions, new you, right? While statistics on the subject vary from source to source and year to year, one thing remains common: most new year’s resolutions don’t stick for the majority of people. Enter One Word, a book written by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page, which promotes the idea of selecting a single word to be an individual’s guiding principal for the year rather than setting ‘resolutions’ and goals that often get forgotten a few months into the year.
To give an example of how this might work, let’s imagine a scenario. Perhaps you want to start an exercise routine and improve your physical fitness. Your resolution is to go to the gym four times each week. At first, things are going great, but then you come down with a cold and miss a week and a half of workouts. Next, visitors come to town, and you can’t find time to slip away to the gym. Then you must travel for work, and the schedule is very busy, not to mention the fitness center at the hotel doesn’t have your favorite machine. You choose to skip it. Soon enough, your goal to exercise four times per week seems like a failure, so you give up entirely thinking, “There’s always next year.”
Now, let’s re-frame this scenario. You want to be more physically fit, feel better, and have more energy. You select the word MOVE as your word for the year. You may have a plan to go to the gym four times per week, and it’s going great at first. That’s wonderful! Then, you get sick. Remembering that your word for the year is MOVE, you simply try to move around the house that week you’re under the weather. Washing dishes, folding laundry, standing up during commercial breaks, or going for a walk around the block are all things that keep you moving even while you’re sick. When visitors come to town, you decide to go for a walk around the neighborhood, a gentle hike on a nature path, or even ice skating or bowling for a fun activity. While traveling, you walk around the airport, choose the stairs instead of the elevator in the hotel, walk on the treadmill while watching a show in the fitness center, or ask the taxi driver to drop you off a block or two away from your destination. Through all the unexpected changes and abnormal weeks of the year, you have continued to MOVE. Suddenly, this story is one of success and positive change. A new habit and lifestyle behavior has been formed. At home, you resume the weekly trips to the gym when you can and find other alternatives to MOVE when you can’t. Somewhere along the way, you’ve also recognized that timelines for self-improvement are arbitrary; there need not be a start and end date. Each day is a new opportunity to make the choices that will support your health.
This concept of a guiding word for the year can be applied to any aspect of life. With 2019 just beginning, it’s a popular time to set some intentions for the year, and we’d like to help if you like this idea of a single guiding principal in place of numerous resolutions. Below is a list of fifteen words that represent positive steps towards health and wellbeing. Choose one, or be inspired to find another word that may be useful as you set out to establish new habits in 2019.
- BREATHE – This may be a helpful word if stress, anxiety, or anger are commonly experienced emotions. Slowing our breathing and focusing on our breath helps us to come in to the present moment, slow down racing thoughts, and lower our heart rate and blood pressure.
- NOURISH – This word may be useful if healthy eating is a goal. If the focus is on nourishing the body, we may be more likely to choose fruits and veggies and other minimally processed, nutrient-rich foods in place of highly processed foods with many added fats, sugars, and salts. At the same time, occasionally we may recognize that the food which will be most nourishing is one that feeds our soul. It is okay to have sweet treats and higher fat foods every now and then, especially if it will help you to continue making healthful choices in the long run. Just remember, soul nourishing foods should be eaten in small portions and only occasionally.
- BALANCE – This could be a great word to focus on if your typical motto is “all or nothing.” It is impossible to be perfect, but we are always in progress. Focusing on balance may help with achieving moderation in our behaviors and reduce feelings of guilt associated with decisions we tend to think of as “bad.” In turn, this may help us to continue moving forward in our progress towards improvement and reduction of harm, rather than giving up entirely.
- CONNECT – Maintaining beneficial relationships and healthy social activities is incredibly important for mental health and overall well-being. Perhaps you want to focus on connecting with others this year, whether through existing relationships or the start of new ones.
- KINDNESS – Towards yourself and others. We tend to be our own worst critic, but it’s important to recognize that we all have bad days. Give yourself some grace and kindness, and treat yourself the same way you would a dear friend or family member in the same situation.
- ACCEPTANCE – We tend to fight against distressing thoughts and feelings, which can cause a lot of anguish and stress. It can be a beneficial habit to learn to just notice some feelings and give up the struggle. Some situations are not in our control and can’t be changed; in these cases, riding out the waves of emotions may serve us better than trying to stop them. (If you need help from a professional, talk with your health care provider.)
- PERSPECTIVE – We all give different meanings to situations and see things from our point of view. Choosing perspective as a word of the year may encourage you to change perspective, broaden perspective (look at the bigger picture), or even seek new perspective (help from others) to support your general well-being.
- RELAX – This word could take on multiple meanings and serve as a reminder to put self-care at the top of your to-do list each day.
- RECHARGE – Good sleep is essential to good health. Adequate sleep supports normal blood pressure; gives our brain the time it requires to “recover” from the day’s stimulation; assists in regulating metabolism and hunger; and supports good memory, improved learning, and stable mood, among many other benefits that help to prevent chronic disease. Our bodies need time to recharge, and many habits can help to improve restful sleep.
- CREATE – Having fun or being creative helps us feel better and increases confidence. Take time to enjoy being creative in whatever form it takes: play a game with grandchildren, paint, color in a coloring book, write, make music, plant a garden, try your hand at poetry.
- LEARN – Learning a new hobby or skill can support health and well-being in many ways. It will increase your confidence, stimulate mental interest, allow you to meet and connect with others, and may even prepare you for finding new or different work opportunities.
- MOVE – Being active lifts our mood, reduces feelings of stress and anxiety, improves physical health, increases our mobility and opportunities, and gives us more energy. Getting activity in nature adds to the health benefits you may experience, but activity anywhere is excellent for health. Find an activity you enjoy or get active with a friend – it will feel less like a chore and be fun! Whatever you do, move.
- HELP – This word could serve as a reminder that it is okay to ask for help, when needed, or be an encouragement to help others. Getting involved with a community project, doing charity work, or simply helping someone you know can have a twofold effect. When we do something to benefit others, we often feel better about ourselves in return. Helping others also serves as a reminder that we all need a little help sometimes. All we need to do is ask.
- MINDFUL – Many of our behaviors and daily routines are done out of habit, and not all habits are beneficial to us. Being mindful in our actions can be a great way to make big impacts in our health. Think about how you spend your time; notice what, how much, and when you choose to eat; choose to take more steps through the day; disrupt routines that result in poor sleep; note tension and stress you hold through the day; be mindful of and feel your emotions. Sometimes we choose to use alcohol and non-prescription drugs to cope with our feelings, but this only adds to our problems in the long run. Be mindful of actions, habits, and emotions through the day, and address them accordingly. Awareness is the first step in taking action. Seek help from a professional if you need support.
- POSITIVE – Research has shown that positive thinking has the power to “re-wire” the brain. The more common our thoughts, the stronger that pathway in the brain becomes. Think of it like a dirt path that gets worn into grass the more often the path is taken. If we think negative thoughts, that will be the natural reaction of the brain. But if we think positive thoughts, over time, this will become the automatic response of the brain. So, think positively. You might start by writing 3 things you are grateful for or 3 good things that happened at the end of each day.
Remember, whether you’re reading this the day it was posted or five months later, the best time to start is now. So, what will be your one word of the year? We’d love to hear your intentions so we can support you along the way. Happy 2019!