A friend has a daily goal of 15 minutes of movement, so I thought she might enjoy tracking her efforts as part of the Facebook group 222 workouts in 2022. She wrote back that she didn’t think it would be a good fit because people who do 10k hikes and own Peloton bikes would not be interested in her 15 minutes of stretching or struggles with a 20 minute dance routine of warmups and isolation exercises.
My response to her original post this was to share this cartoon, and the comments below it.
“If you read all the posts, there are plenty who are doing 30 minutes of yoga (I am doing that series and it is a lot of just sitting and breathing). But many of them won’t finish the 30 day series. I know I didn’t finish until about May last year. Late last year there were a lot of “I took my elderly dog for a slow shuffle” posts, and through most of the year many of us posted #slmsmph (stupid little walk for my stupid mental and physical health). The thing is, it doesn’t matter what you do, except to you. The rest of us are just there to be cheerleaders. There are weight training, indoor cycling and gymnastics workout posts that are irrelevant to my interests and abilities. But I like to look at the pictures, especially when people go outside to do a walk or bike ride. Having it pop up in my feed every day helps me remember I want to move, even if it is just to walk to the park and back (takes me about 20 minutes).”
She wasn’t convinced, but that’s okay. The year of tiny pleasures is also about doing what works for you.
My tiny pleasures right now are all things that don’t require me to leave the house because it is too cold. I am focusing on my on-line ballet classes, with some yoga offered by a work colleague, and the occasional gentle movement class with a local studio. I have abandoned that 30 day yoga challenge already.
As soon as it gets a little warmer, I look forward to getting outside with friends. A short walk with some duck watching, as I did with my buddy April recently, was a joyous hour of connecting with someone I haven’t seen in too long. That shared time was more precious than the thing we did (though 5km on a frosty day was nothing to sneeze at).
I am holding these two images close to my heart for 2022. The first reminds me that not every fitness activity needs to be exciting or a big challenge. The second reminds me that the best part about being active that I get to spend time with friends.
2022 isn’t shaping up to be a great year on the global scale, but I intend to make it as pleasurable as possible at my tiny scale. I will make opportunities to connect in person for walks or outdoor swims. I will continue to draw inspiration from my virtual friends at 222 workouts. And I will garden (good workout, good for the planet, good way to spend time with friends and neighbours). Mostly I will grow food, but I will also plant some flowers.
One of the trickiest things about adding something new to our lives (or about continuing a habit when other parts of our lives have changed) is actually fitting it into our schedule.
We can have a clear plan and all the good intentions in the world but we still need actual time to exercise, or meditate, or stretch, or whatever we have chosen to explore right now.
And if we don’t consciously choose a time for that new habit, it will probably get pushed down our to do list until we are scrambling to fit it in before we let ourselves go to bed or we end up putting it off until “tomorrow.”
I know this happens because I do it ALL THE TIME. My ADHD brain thinks time will expand to let me fit everything I want to do into a day. It NEVER works. I apparently do not have control over the flow of time after all.
So, if this happens to you, too, I invite you to take a few minutes today to consider WHEN you will work on your new habit.
Do you need to be in a specific location? Do you need particular equipment? Will you need to shower/sleep afterwards? Is it too noisy to do at night or early in the morning? Do you have caregiving responsibilities that you need to work around? When do you PREFER to do your practice and is it possible to do it then?
I know we would all like to assume that we will just automatically do the things we want/need to do in a day but the truth is that we need to make room for them.
And while you’re trying to figure out your timing, please ignore the nonsense advice that says “If you *really* wanted it, you’d make it happen.” because that’s garbage. Your desire to include this new habit in your life is only one factor in the equation and reality is much more complicated than that. Please do NOT let advice like that add to your pile of guilt-related shoulds. (In fact, burn that pile of shoulds at your first opportunity.)
If you discover that you don’t actually have time in your schedule for your planned habit right now, it’s ok to make a note in your calendar to reconsider it later. (I like to put things like that in my calendar so I don’t forget to return to them.)
And it’s also okay to scale down your habit so you can fit them in at the moment. For example, if you can’t figure out how to fit 10 minutes of meditation into your days right now, maybe you can start by taking three deep breaths while the kettle boils for your tea. Or you can do 5 squats while you text a friend.
Every little bit counts and your efforts will help you feel a bit better, even if you have to go slowly.
And, speaking of your efforts, here’s your gold star for today.
I’m proud of your hard work.
For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.
Christine’s post from yesterday hit me at just the right time. My son and his girlfriend had just left after a week-long visit. During that visit, I did little except cook or sit on the couch and knit while chatting. My vacation is officially over, but I have two statutory holidays before returning to work. There have been multiple discussions about setting goals and how to achieve them. A favourite app for tracking walks disappeared when I upgraded my phone recently and I haven’t decided what to replace it with, if anything. Today was very much a “between time” and I started working on what comes next.
I have mixed feelings about New Year’s resolutions but I enjoy setting goals and tracking them. I will definitely be in on 222 workouts in 2022. I did well on that this year, and gave myself permission to count the movements that were little more than mental health breaks to get myself out of the house. Learning to acknowledge success in smaller chunks was huge for me, because I sometimes allow myself to be overwhelmed by big challenges.
The loss of my Walking to Mordor app made me sad, but it really wasn’t much more than a distance listing with excerpts from The Lord of the Rings trilogy to mark stops along the way. I had gotten about 1/4 of the way (somewhere over 700 km), so this year’s goal will be to re-read the books, and go on social walks or to do errands as often as possible (ideally at least once a week, but I may choose to cycle instead). I am not going to bother with another tracking app beyond what is already on my phone, or to push myself to do anything as physically demanding as the women in this picture.
I am resolutely refusing to set any sort of goal around riding, as Miss Fancy and I have not been getting along well lately. She resists being caught, and it has been so long since I have ridden that I worry my technique is what is making her cranky. I don’t want to set myself up for something I will hate doing. My daughter bought me a couple of lessons for Christmas, so maybe that will help once I schedule them for March or April.
Circling back to Christine’s original post about making space, I have decided to read one magazine a week. I have a weakness for magazines that pile up beside my bed. If I read one each week, that gives me quiet time and (eventually) a little physical space. It’s not quite meditation, but it will do.
It is not in my nature to stay in the reflective mood of this “between time”. Even as I wrote this piece, I found myself considering what I could more or differently, despite having spent much of the last year trying to accept that I am getting older, I can say no to things I no longer enjoy, and I don’t have to say yes to every new idea or challenge. Thank you Christine for having spent an entire month encouraging me to make space for myself. I didn’t try a single one of your exercises or quick meditations. In fact, I didn’t think I needed that space. I was wrong – I just needed to figure out what it meant for me. I am going to hang onto that reflective feeling for as long as possible, and give myself a gold star for my efforts.
Diane Harper lives in Ottawa, where she is slowly learning that balance is more important than juggling all the things.
If your wellness plan for this year is physical or practice-based, you have probably already outlined the steps and systems that will take you towards your goals. Those kind of plans tend to have tangible steps that you can measure in some way – minutes of meditation, cardio, or yoga or reps of one exercise or another.
But if your goals are more intangible, you will have to choose a different approach to measuring your progress.
For example, if you have decided that you want to feel happier this year, you might find it a challenge to create a plan and it might be difficult to measure your progress.
These calendars and their supporting materials give you tangible actions to take that have been proven to increase people’s feelings of well-being and happiness. And they don’t throw them at you all at once (which can cause me A LOT of unhappiness), instead the tasks are ‘scheduled’ for specific days.
If you are a person (like me) who can get overwhelmed by a long list of future ideas, having them organized into a calendar like this can make the project of feeling happier feel a little more in reach.
So, if you are seeking happiness this year, you can follow their daily advice. Doing (or not doing) these daily tasks will help you measure your efforts and you can check in with yourself every so often to assess whether you feel generally happier overall.
Another note: Please don’t think that I am suggesting that you MUST do everything on both calendars. That’s a sure way to feel overwhelmed. Pick one or mix-and-match. Do what you can with the resources you have and then see if their advice helps you to reach your goal.
Here’s a link to a PDF of the calendar above that includes clickable links to articles about the task of the day. The Greater Good Science Center produces a new calendar each month.
Here’s a link to the Action for Happiness website where you can download a copy of the ‘Friendly February’ calendar. A new calendar is available every month.
It’s the last day of January and the last day of this Go Team series so it’s the perfect time to do a some ‘big picture’ reflection.*
The short version of this post would read: It’s ok to change anything about your plans, even your goal itself. Success may look different now than it did in January 1st.
The longer version? Well, that has more details:
If you’ve been reading this series (thank-you!), you probably started this month with plans and ideas for the habits you want to add into your life this year.
Perhaps you had a specific goal in mind, or a set of conditions you want to meet at points throughout the year. (Similar to a goal but maybe not the same.)
Now that you have had a month to explore those ideas and work on those things, do you still want them?
Perhaps this month has solidified your plans and you are dedicated to the path you chose.
Or, maybe you’ve realized that you still want the end result but the path/speed you chose isn’t going to get you there.
It could be that you’ve realized that that goal isn’t something you want after all, or, at least, it isn’t for you right now.
Now that you have a month of extra experience concerning that goal you could have any of a million different ideas/feelings about how much it suits you.
You are not stuck with the plans/goals you chose on January 1.
At any point you can change your plans, change your goals, change your approach.
Only you can know what success looks like for you. And since you are always changing and your life is always changing, your interpretation of what success means will change over time.
It’s all about how you want to feel, what you want to do, what you hope to train your body to do…at any given point in time.
You are the only one who can figure out what you want and if your plans and methods will get you there.
Only you can decide if you just need more time or if you need a different method or if you need a different goal.
Changing goals, changing methods, or changing direction are all valid things to do after a month of experimenting with fitness and wellness.
You haven’t failed. You didn’t do anything wrong. You are not lost.
If you feel like you have failed or that you have gotten lost, I invite you to Rudner your plans.
Ages ago, I heard Comedian Rita Rudner make this great joke about how she handles being lost and I have used the idea metaphorically ever since – sometimes literally.
I never panic when I get lost. I just change where it is I want to go.
To extend the metaphor a bit: Making changes at this point (or any point) is like when you are listening to GPS directions and you get off course.
The GPS voice will be telling you that you missed your planned turn-off and it will give you directions to get back to it. (Which is one option.)
If you keep going, it will tell you it is recalibrating and it will give you new directions to the same destination. (Another option.)
Or, you can reprogram that chatty machine and give it a whole new destination. (Also a good option.)
You are in control and you can choose how to respond to the directions from the GPS. Up to, and including, reprogramming it or turning it off.
You are the boss of you and YOU get to decide what success means.
Because, at this exact moment, *I* am deciding what success means. I hereby declare that you have been successful thus far.
You have made an effort, physically, mentally, emotionally, over and over, to move forward with your plans.
It doesn’t matter how far you have moved, I say that your efforts count and they should be rewarded.
Hence, I award you the largest gold star on my collection:
For your efforts, my friends!
Forge ahead. I believe in you.
*I revisit this theme on a regular basis. Here’s a post I wrote on Facebook a few years ago that expands on what I wrote above.
Here we are at the end of January. Go figure!
The end of any month tends to make us compare what we did with what we meant to do, and there is extra weight to January’s reflection because of all the new year brouhaha.
But, here’s the thing, that mental review only has the meaning that we give it.
And we don’t have to be hard on ourselves about it.
Not getting to the end of your to do list is not a personal failure, it is JUST information.
It might be telling us that our list was too long. (This often happens. We think our future selves will be at peak performance levels all the time.)
It might be telling us that we had less time this month than we thought we would have.
It might be telling us that our schedule doesn’t work well for us.
It might be telling us that our systems aren’t serving us well.
It’s information for our future selves to use in making the next steps, it is not an indictment of our past or present selves.
So, that being said, when you make your plans for February, see how you can use that information to be kinder to yourself. See if you can make your requests to your future self a little closer to their capacity and their reality.
(For example, please don’t make the mistake I make and think that a work day with three meetings can also include all of your routine tasks for that day. That’s not how time works, apparently.😏)
And, most importantly, as you look ahead to next month, add in time for rest and for play – especially during busy or stressful times. You need time to recover, physically and emotionally, from challenging times. That’s not weakness, that’s just how human bodies and human minds work.
Finally, as you look at your lists, remember to consider the routine things and the non-tangible things you did. Making meals, returning phone calls, providing emotional support, filing papers, those all count and they all take time.
(Or as I said to a friend of mine recently – “If I measure my success this week in words written, I’m not accomplishing much, but if I measure it in emotional support delivered, I am knocking it out of the park.”)
Be kind to yourself, my friends, things go a lot more smoothly that way.
About 5 years ago, I was all tangled up in how to design and organize my website and a friend of mine gave me some great advice:
“Think about how you want people to FEEL when they visit. Think about how YOU want to feel when you direct people there. Use those feelings to guide your decisions.”
That was a lightning bolt moment for me.
I had always been focused on how I wanted my site to work and what I wanted people to see but I had never included feelings in the equation.
(Which was weird considering how often I nope out of a site because something about it squicks me out.)
It was an excellent way for me to make the decisions* I had to make about my site. And, of course, once it helped me in one area I used it in all sorts of others, too.
I found that it works especially well when it comes to fitness and wellness. And I include emotions and physical feelings in fitness/wellness decisions.
And, often, they become my ‘in the moment’ goals, letting me focus on my process, instead of on my ‘results’ goals which might be a long way away.
How do I want to feel during my practice?
Perhaps I want to feel at ease, or I want to feel challenged, or I want to feel energized. It changes from time to time.
How do I want to feel afterwards?
Perhaps I want to feel happier or I want to feel like I have worked every muscle or I want to grounded. I pick the activity that will (likely) give me the mood I want.
How will this make me feel in my day-to-day movements?
One of my major motivations is that when I exercise regularly the change in my leg muscles makes me feel more grounded and more powerful. Seeking that feeling instead of hoping my legs will *look* a certain way has been helpful for me. (Note: There’s nothing wrong with wanting your legs to look a certain way, I just can’t use it as a metric because I don’t have enough control over the results.)
I have even been considering tracking how my exercise/wellness practices make me feel every time so I can revisit them when my motivation dips and I need a reminder of why I practice.
Do you use you physical or emotional feelings to guide your exercise plans?
If not, do you think it might be useful to consider them?
And maybe even track them?
I strongly FEEL that you deserve a gold star for your efforts today, this week, and this month. Whether you have been moving, meditating, being mindful, drinking more water, or just trying to do all of those things, your efforts matter.
Keep at it!
*Perhaps this is a natural part of your decision-making process? Previous to that point, I hadn’t really brought my feelings into a lot of those sorts of decisions.
Whether you have been able to work on your habit every day so far or you have been trying to figure out how to make your habit work, I’d like you to claim an easy win today.
What’s the teeniest, most straightforward, simplest example of the habit you have been trying to develop?
Maybe it is one mindful breath.
Perhaps a single yoga pose.
One sip of water.
Think of a tiny thing that represents what you are trying to include in your life.
And do it right now.
Can’t do it right now? Pick a specific time to do it later – use an alarm, a reminder or a cue (i.e. I’ll do a squat while I cook supper.) to ensure that it gets done.
Then, celebrate that easy win – put a star on your calendar, pat yourself on the back, pump your fist in the air, shout ‘Go me!’ Whatever feels good to you.
You can do more than the teeny thing if you want to, of course, but the win lies in doing the small thing. Everyone who does the small thing can claim a victory no matter how much or how little else you do.
You might think of a small win as unimportant but pushing back against the challenges you face and creating that foothold for yourself can be the key to establishing the practice you want.
When it comes to building habits your repeated effort is the most important thing. Once your tiny wins are routine, you can build on them and you’ll be glad that you started small.*
So, go on and lift your arms over your head in a stretch or put your hands out in front of you and roll your fingers into a fist. Stand up slowly and sit back down even slower. Gently stretch your neck to one side and then the other. Squeeze your shoulders up to your ears while you inhale and then let them drop while you quickly exhale.
Do the small thing you can do as soon as you can possibly do and then be proud of yourself for carving out that time today.
I’m proud of your efforts and I offer you this gold star in celebration.
*PS – Even if you did something huge yesterday or the day before but today this tiny win is a challenge, it is still a win. You are still showing up for yourself. Yesterday, I did a single yoga pose (frog) but I still counted yoga as done.
It’s always easier to take on something new if you have a template to follow.
A trainer or coach can come in handy for developing a template for your actual workouts or wellness practices
But perhaps you also need a template for how to fit those workouts into your life?
That’s where a role model could come in handy.
Do you know (or know of!) someone whose life is similar to yours and who has a firmly established fitness/wellness practice?
(Yes, I know you won’t find an exact match but you can probably find someone close enough to use for a template. And it doesn’t have to be a fitness ‘influencer’ either – unless that’s what you are aiming for, too.)
Could you find out more about the kinds of exercises they do and how and when they do them? Perhaps you can even learn more about how they deal with unexpected time and life challenges.
I’m not suggesting this so you can copy them exactly, of course.
You’ll have to tweak and adapt their routines to fit into the specifics of your life.
But, choosing a role model and using the their approach as a template means that you aren’t starting from scratch. Some of the work is already done for you.
(Reminder: It is totally ok to nope out of anything they do that doesn’t sit well with you.)
If you’ve been trying to figure out your new habits and get into your new routine and it’s just not happening – a role model and a template might be the way forward.
Here’s today’s gold star for your efforts to build your new habits – whether you are moving merrily along or still getting into gear.
So far, I have been mostly reminding you that it is okay to take things slowly and to go easy on yourself. I stand by that 100%.
In my experience, most people take on waaaaaaay too much when they start a new goal and it can be frustrating and discouraging.
But, there’s a flip side to that, of course.
Sometimes, we pick a goal that we have a natural inclination for and, instead of overwhelming ourselves, we underwhelm ourselves.
We pick something that isn’t challenging.
Or something that bores us.
Or something that doesn’t push us at all.
That can be just as discouraging and it can have the same symptoms of dread and avoidance as taking on something too large.
So, if you have been reading my posts and thinking, ‘Encouragement is good but this isn’t *quite* the problem.’ consider the idea that you might not feel challenged by your plans.
Maybe you need to increase the time, the intensity or the difficulty of your workouts.
Maybe you need something that challenges different muscles.
Maybe you need to join a challenge group so you have a little friendly competition.
Try to dig into the reasons for your boredom/annoyance/avoidance and see what your brain comes up with.
You might have the perfect challenge tucked away in your brain somewhere waiting to be coaxed out.
Whether you are overwhelmed or underwhelmed, whether you have set your goals too high or set the bar too low, you get a gold star for your efforts to exercise, to meditate, to make change, to consider your process, to find good rest, or to find a new challenge.