What are My Non-Negotiable Practices?

What are the most important practices you do for yourself? What habits bring you mental clarity or give you a chance to catch your breath? I refer to these as “non-negotiable practices”: simple, healthy habits that you commit to every single day, no matter what.  Prioritizing a daily short and simple practice not only helps you feel better, but it makes you a priority in your own life. 

Keep it Simple

Now, these non-negotiable practices should not be lengthy or cause more stress by trying to complete them daily; after all, “daily” is a strong word! So before you think about adding a new practice, recognize that you may already have one.

Take a moment to focus on all the things you are doing well, and identify what behaviors you want to continue. You may realize that you already have a daily practice that helps restore you: walking around the block with your dog, savoring your morning coffee, a few minutes of deep breathing at night, etc.  If this is the case, recognize and honor how important these non-negotiable practices are for you! Is there a way you can be more present during them?

Start Small

If you’re struggling to find a habit or practice that you already do daily that has potential to restore you, start small. Can you set aside 60 seconds every day for yourself? Two minutes? If so, what type of habit or behavior in that amount of time would bring you the most benefit? 

Got Goals? Four ways to stay on track.

Striving for and reaching goals can be exhilarating part of a health and fitness journey. On the other side of the coin, the disappointment of ‘falling short,’ or not accomplishing an objective can be crushing. If goals are intended for personal accomplishment and empowerment, what gives?

When working with clients, I encourage them to structure their goals around some basic guidelines. These can help put your goals into the appropriate context (aka fitting your goals into your life, and not the other way around) and increase the likelihood of you attaining and maybe even surpassing your aspirations. When setting new goals, try to keep the following in mind.

Start with SMART

You’ve decided on a goal. Now ask yourself: is this goal SMART?  When goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Bound, you’re creating an individualized and workable roadmap for success.

Being specific dissolves any ambiguity around what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Measuring what matters gives you reliable data points to give you feedback on your progress. Being attainable and realistic means you’re striving for a goal that can fit into the lifestyle you lead presently, and time bound allows you to set a reasonable frame in which to meet or reach this goal. 

Ask yourself: is my goal SMART? If so, you should feel confident about your ability to work towards it. If not, ask yourself: ‘What element(s) of SMART goal setting is my goal missing?’ Can you course-correct to make it more SMART?

One at a Time

Taking on all your goals at once can be very overwhelming and lead to burnout. The all-or-nothing approach can be quite frustrating, and for many people is not sustainable.

Instead, try accomplishing no more than ONE new habit each week- that can be as many as 52 new habits in a year! And because your goals are SMART, it’s pretty unlikely you need 52 new habits to make a change. Which leads me to…

Be Patient

Creating a true healthy lifestyle is not something that happens overnight. Consider this: your current goal is not something you are presently doing, otherwise it would be a habit or something accomplished on a regular basis.

In other words, in order to get different results, you’ll need to do some things differently than what you’ve tried before.  Changing your approach takes time! Be gentle on yourself and patient with your progress as you navigate your way through uncharted territory. And speaking of change….

Change is Inevitable 

You are not the same person today that you were yesterday. Think of all the life-altering experiences you’ve had just in the past year!

Setting expectations for yourself based off past accomplishments might be setting yourself up for failure. Think back to your lifestyle one year ago, five years ago, etc. How much has changed since then?

This ties back to the “attainable” and “realistic” elements of SMART goal setting: is this goal appropriate fo the lifestyle you have today?  

How Self Love Helps You Reach Your Goals

Self-love is becoming an increasingly popular concept in goal-setting and mindset. Self-love can look like a lot of different things, and I believe it plays a crucial role at the onset of any health and fitness journey. 

Why start with self-love? In a society that traditionally uses comparison and negative feedback to reinforce goals, this can almost feel ‘counter-culture.’ But there’s a reason self-love is on the rise: it helps. Here are two big ways I think self-love supports your health and fitness goals. 

It Allows You To Accept the Present

Ever catch yourself comparing your running times from 10 years ago to today? Comparing your past athletic capabilities or how you looked years ago is not playing fair to yourself. Take into consideration how life has changed over the years, and how your unique experiences have shaped you into the person you are today. 

Career changes, relationships, physical and emotional demands, creating and carrying human life, and of course, the natural aging process may all play into where you are at the present.  

Instead of admonishing yourself for not being where you “used to be,” practicing acceptance and gratitude for where you are today is positive fuel to ignite your health and wellness journey. 

You Can Be Your Own Best Friend 

Think of the most recent negative thing you said about yourself. Now imagine saying that exact thing to the most important person in your life: could you do it? Self-love allows you to view yourself as a friend, and in turn treat yourself with the respect and kindness you show to your bestie. 

After all, we want only the best for our dearest friends and loved ones, don’t you also fall into that same category? We tend to “zap” and deplete ourselves in order to care for others, but self-love helps you accept that putting yourself first is the most important thing you can do for people in your life. 

Laying Foundations

There is nothing ‘typical’ about the upcoming New Year’s resolutions. In 2020, we collectively experienced challenges, difficulties, disappointments, and general “plot twists” that no one could have predicted. For many of us, this past year forced our health, wellness, and fitness goals to the back burner just to manage the unpredictable changes to our lives. I hope you can look back at 2020 and recognize your own personal growth, and identify small triumphs that you’re proud of: I know they exist.

Looking to 2021, I’m encouraging my clients to do a self-check on some healthy foundations before going full-tilt on additional resolutions. There’s nothing wrong with goal-setting, but in my experience starting with these three foundations can help set you up for long-term success, wherever your ambitions take you.

Drink Up

You probably already know this, but I’ll state if for the record: proper hydration provides numerous health benefits. You get about 20–30% of your daily water intake needs the food you eat, so if we’re following the Adequate Intake guidelines for daily water intake, that’s about 64-73oz of recommended drinking water for women each day.

That’s why I recommend a goal of consuming half your body weight in ounces in water daily; this generally meets the guidelines and is more specific to your size. If this is a new habit for you, start slow and work towards increasing your daily consumption. Don’t guzzle or pound your water, it’s a daily habit, not a race! Try starting with small, consistent sips throughout the day.

Want to learn more about the benefits of adequate water intake? Check out this link.

Set a Sleep Strategy

If you’re onboard with the idea of getting more sleep, but struggle with the execution of snagging more “Zzz’s,” you’re not along. Oftentimes, our nightly routines rob us from a restful night’s sleep. That’s why I recommend creating a “wind-down” routine for better sleep.

Start by asking yourself some questions about your sleep habits. Like most habit-building, you probably won’t be able to do a complete overhaul of your sleep routine overnight (ha!) but if one or two of these stand out to you, consider making small daily changes to work toward your ideal sleep strategy.

1. Do I go to bed and wake up around the same time most days?

2. Do I disconnect from electronics before bed time?

3. Do I eat large meals before bedtime?

4. Do I drink caffeine or alcohol before bedtime?

Practicing regular sleep rhythms, disconnecting from electronics, reducing or eliminating large meals, reducing/eliminating caffeine consumption, and reducing/eliminating alcohol consumption before bedtime are among behaviors most commonly recommended by sleep experts. In my work with clients, I’ve noticed that starting with one or two of these four behaviors can really lay the groundwork for improved sleep.

I like to think of setting a sustainable sleep strategy as creating a calm space to show gratitude towards your mind and body after a hard day’s work. You’re worth it.

Make Mindful Moments of Self-Care

Speaking of your worthiness: self-care is not selfish. It is essential. The final foundation I recommend working on this month is making space for mindful self-care.

In my opinion, one of the most important things you can learn from practicing self-care is that your needs and your wants are a priority. This can help with a greater mindset shift toward prioritizing other life goals you may have, such as training for a race, staying more connected with friends, committing to a meditation routine, etc.

Check out Dr. Lauren’s 2021 Digital Toolkit for more on strengthening the mind through affirmations and meditation, and for inspiration on where to start!