I give myself credit for not being in the habit of writing down a “list” of New Year’s resolutions. After all, studies show that typical aspirational resolutions are often not sustainable, even if achieved for a short while. Our enthusiasm and conviction during the holiday season for a “better self” the following year are likely due to positive mental and emotional perspective from quality time with friends and family, presents, time off of work, and even some liberal consumption of alcohol. This puts us at risk of creating resolutions without easy-to-execute strategies that will be sustainable based on our hard-wired work habits, long hours, and lifestyle that does not support being healthy. By the way, I hate to admit it, but we are now, yet again, another year further into our aging biology, naturally losing more muscle mass while also experiencing decreasing physical capacity, metabolism, and energy. Don’t stop reading! This may seem like a very pessimistic article, but I promise there is hope!
Explore This IssueJanuary 2020
Here are some common declarations and resolutions we make when envisioning our “best selves”:
- I will lose weight.
- I will exercise more.
- I will go to the gym more.
- I will drink less alcohol.
- I will give up sugar.
- I will call my family and friends more.
- I will read more books.
- I will work less. (Denial is a VERY STRONG coping mechanism for physicians, my hubby saying, “Yeah right…”!)
You get the point.
Instead, how about creating a new list of minor changes and actions you can make for better physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health and wellbeing? These shoud be changes that you can create a few at a time, day after day, until they become a new routine. Just as we do with our professional careers, we must have a strategy that is executable to reach the outcome. Often, people declare goals such as “I want to lose weight” and “I will exercise more” without actual details to achieve the outcome.
How about creating a new list of minor changes and actions you can make for better physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health and wellbeing?
Before we get to my humble suggestions to help all of us achieve increased wellbeing for 2020, it’s really important to understand why we should even try. Take a close, long, detailed look in the mirror, and look at the people whom you love and who love you the most when at the breakfast or dinner table. Look at whom you kiss goodbye every time you are ready to leave the house, and whom you greet enthusiastically when arriving at work in the clinic or hospital. Your purpose for change should be very clear.
Let’s start with physical movement. I intentionally didn’t use the word exercise, which at least to me often implies absolute commitment to Orange Theory or a personal trainer, on some schedule that is firm and contradicts our unpredictable day to day in the clinic or OR. Instead, surgeons can incorporate movements that utilize already existing gravity to increase muscle mass and get a mini “workout” right in the OR, even during a free flap or long case! Here are my suggestions for healthy habits you can adopt throughout the day.