The media give plenty of air time to New Year’s Resolutions. This year, many folks focused on the fact that most of them fail. A lengthy interview with Kelly McGonigal, PhD on The People’s Pharmacy was one of the best I heard. She’s the Stanford psychologist whose work focuses on willpower and how it works; her suggestions are grounded in data and designed to be practical. She writes The Science of Willpower blog at Psychology Today. (The audio of the interview will be posted later this week.)
One of the known problems with resolutions is that we make them too big – and are prone to giving up as soon as we miss the mark. This certainly matches my experience.
If you only do one thing for your health, let it be exercise.
I have been most successful with a goal of walking more that I made several years ago. I’ve used two tools to help me with this goal; when I stop using them, I also walk a lot less.
- A good pedometer – one I can carry comfortably and quietly in my pocket (Omron HJ-113). My sense of how much I’ve walked is really inaccurate: days that seem similar may register 10,000 steps for one and only 3,000 for the other. The pedometer keeps me honest.
- WalkerTracker.com – an online site that logs my steps. It has many types of built-in motivators. WT displays a “Diligence” percentage based on the last 50 days. It awards points and ranks you with color-coded levels for the number of days you’ve logged your steps – with a bonus point if you achieved at least 95% of your goal for the day. Eventually I decided to participate in a few of the social media aspects – especially after some of my real-world friends also joined WT.
There’s growing evidence that getting a bit of exercise is the single best thing you can do for your health (see 23 1/2 Hours for a quick fun overview). But then there are so many other things to do: eat healthy (in hundreds of ways!), reduce stress, sleep more, increase social contacts… it seems hopeless to tackle them all. And so, for the most part, I haven’t done much.
For 2012, I’ve decided to try out MeYouHealth -another online service designed to slowly build better health in six domains – including exercise. Every morning, MeYouHealth sends a small challenge by email – and I mean small! – but varied. One day it’s adding an Omega-3 food to your diet; another it’s about social support, or the SPF of your lip balm. Once you’ve completed the Challenge, you can click “done” on the website.
MeYouHealth awards points and has a system of badges – and the option to take part in online social interactions. Because the service is free, participation surely means that personal data is being gathered and stored for commercial use – the usual cost for online services these days.
I plan to try MeYouHealth for a month – it seems like an organized way to tackle making changes in the many domains of healthy living. I’ll also track whether my Spam increases in volume or other negative effects of data gathering spring up. Look for a report in early February.
- Anti-Resolution Apps – MeYou Health’s App Helps You Break a Habit Without a Resolution (TrendHunter.com) (trendhunter.com)
- Just Do It: Build Willpower to Motivate Yourself to Exercise (fitsugar.com)
- Is the Secret to Change All in How You Phrase It? (psychologytoday.com)