New beginnings. A fresh start. Each year, January 1st gives us the chance for a reset, an opportunity to make our lives better, happier, and healthier. Although it is just one date on the calendar, most of us see New Year’s Day as an opportunity to break bad habits and begin anew.
And we set out with the best of intentions. “I will lose 20 pounds.” “I will start to meditate.” “I will begin an exercise program.” We start out with enthusiasm and commitment. We wake up early to get a run in before work, shop for healthy ingredients for a new diet, or set aside time to meditate. Some of us will succeed in making these changes last a lifetime, but most of us struggle, eventually succumbing to old habits and giving up a few weeks—or days—after we’ve begun.
So how can we make this year different? How can we make change permanent? Even if we’ve failed in the past, experts say it’s possible to make our resolutions stick this time.
“To succeed, I recommend limiting the number of goals, being specific about what you want to improve, and focusing on making incremental changes to accomplish goals gradually,” says Tracy Scheller, MD, medical director of the Graf Center for Integrative Medicine. “It also helps to enlist support from others and take advantage of the expanding resources that have become available as more and more people strive to live their best lives.”
One tool many find helpful is a vision board. Vision boards are usually made by attaching images and words that represent goals to a poster board, which serves as a physical reminder of what the user wants to accomplish and what success looks like. The board is placed in a prominent location where it can be seen often. Vision boards can also be created digitally or online—think Pinterest—and pulled up whenever the user needs motivation, or used as a screen saver that will be seen throughout the day.
This winter, the Graf Center is offering two workshops on creating vision boards so you can help achieve your own goals for 2020. The 75-minute workshops will be taught by Mary Ann Fernandez, who also teaches yoga and meditation at the center. The class will start with a discussion on what vision boards represent, their purpose, who uses them, and why vision boarding is a successful practice. Class will include a gentle meditation to open up your mind, and will end with a focus on your individual goals. Mary Ann says vision boards can be effective motivators. “There’s power in visualization,” she says. And creating a board is “a really fun way” to make goals for the new year.
The Graf Center and its staff offer a wide range of services for those who resolve to live healthier, happier lives. Acupuncture therapy helps clients reduce stress, and meditation classes teach them how to relax and sharpen their focus. Massage therapy can improve circulation, reduce pain, lessen side effects from chemotherapy, and even reduce insomnia. Aromatherapy, in which essential oils are diffused into the air, promotes health and well-being and helps clients stay focused on their goals for mind and body. Staff members are engaged and supportive, working closely with clients to help them feel better and accomplish their health objectives.
In addition to being an instructor at Graf, Mary Ann has been a client herself. She took advantage of the center’s services after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. She says she especially liked Reiki, a Japanese technique involving gentle touch that aims to reduce stress and promote healing. Mary Ann says it helped her relax, “accept what was going on at the moment, and allowed my body to heal.” She believes Reiki and other Graf Center resources are especially helpful for those receiving challenging treatments such as chemotherapy.
Today Mary Ann is cancer-free. Reflecting on her treatment at Englewood Health, she expresses gratitude for the care she received and looks forward to a bright future. “I was in the best hands I can imagine,” she says. A self-declared optimist, Mary Ann says every day is New Year’s Day—an opportunity for new beginnings and fresh starts.
Suggestions from the Graf Center Team
“Making fitness and health changes can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Accomplishing your goals can be simple and enjoyable when approached correctly. Motivate yourself by choosing meaningful, realistic, and specific goals, with an ultimate achievement in mind. Consider working with an expert to help guide you, monitor your progress, and adapt to obstacles. Lastly, remember to celebrate your achievements, both big and small.”Katie Reiss-Tolliver, Exercise Physiologist
Creating realistic and sustainable changes in nutrition and health is never a “one size fits all” solution. Everyone is different. People often tell me exactly what they should and shouldn’t eat or do to lose weight. I work with them to tease out what stops them from making the “right” choices, i.e. identifying triggers. We then work together on behavioral changes to support an overall healthier lifestyle and tenable weight loss. It’s important to create an action plan—a sequence of short-term goals that help change habits gradually and create new sustainable patterns of behavior when it comes to nutrition and health.Nina Spiegel, Holistic Nutritionist