By: Tom Shanahan, Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist
Thank you so much for reading my Spiritual Adrenaline Holiday Food and Lifestyle Guides in my previous posts. On my behalf and everyone at Central Recovery Press, we thank you and hope you join the more than 70,000 members of the Spiritual Adrenaline community on Facebook.
Also, make sure to check out the catalog of thought-provoking and innovative books in the CRP library. There’s a wealth of information available to help you and your loved ones achieve sobriety and long-term health and happiness as a sober person. Here are some resolution ideas for you to consider as 2019 approaches.
According to Forbes Magazine, just 8% of people who make a new year’s resolution keep it. Most break their resolutions in the first two weeks of the year. Here is a list of the most popular resolutions for 2018:
Although these resolutions are based upon people in the general population, it is likely that many people in recovery share these goals.
So Why Do So Many People Fail?
The problem with these resolutions is they go to the end game without a strategy to get there. In other words, you really need to have a plan, both short-term and long-term, to lose weight and keep it off, quit smoking or stay fit and healthy. Rather than have such broad and sweeping resolutions as reflected on the Forbes list, what worked for me, and I think may work for you, is to have the long-term goal in mind, but break it down into doable subgroups, and really focus on making progress, baby-step by baby-step. By focusing on the micro-level and succeeding, you are better able to gain the self-confidence necessary to ultimately achieve your goal. No coach goes into a game without a strategy and given that your quality of life is at stake here, neither should you.
If you notice, the list of last year’s top ten resolutions involves a lot of issues we address at Spiritual Adrenaline: losing weight; staying fit and healthy; and, quitting smoking. Rather than incredibly broad resolutions, as I said earlier, you should set smaller, more realistic goals and then do everything possible to achieve it. Once you achieve it, you can set another and keep going. This should be nothing new to members of the twelve-step community who are told to take things a day at a time. It’s the same basic concept applied to what is historically known as “outside issues”.
For example, if you are looking to quit smoking. Develop a plan to address “triggers” that lead you to smoke. For me, that was coming and going from buildings. When I was about to enter or leave a building, I would chew a nicotine lozenge to avoid lighting up. Once I broke the habit of smoking coming and going from buildings, then I addressed not smoking in my car, etc. It was the smaller victories along the way that ultimately enabled me to quit for good. That was more than five years ago as I had my last cigarette on September 27, 2013! It all starts somewhere and the smaller battles won along the way build the self-confidence needed to ultimately win the war.
In the movie “What About Bob,” Bill Murray repeated the mantra “baby steps” over and over. In early recovery, I adopted that mantra for most things. It was incredibly important for me to stop self-defeating and self-sabotage, and instead focus on getting out of my own way and being my own best friend.
Here are some achievable resolutions that will enhance your recovery that will start you down the road towards major change. I picked one for each of the major areas of focus here at Spiritual Adrenaline. Remember, these are only suggestions. Take what works for you and leave the rest or use the general concept to craft your own. We did not all become addicted in the same way and we certainly did not get sober in the same way. There’s no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to these issues so feel free to modify my ideas until you figure out what works best for you.
Recovery Nutrition Resolution
Replace processed sugar and sweeteners with a natural sweetener: Diabetes and hyperglycemia are a major issue for people in recovery. The percentage of people in recovery with these conditions is well above the general population.
According to some studies, as high as 93%, in newcomers. These conditions often make it much more challenging to stay sober as fluctuation in blood sugar dramatically alters mood and energy levels. Moreover, many people in recovery, especially alcoholics, have compromised liver function. If this applies to you, your liver may not be able to break down high-fructose corn syrup and other processed sweeteners. High-fructose corn syrup is quite common, and often the main sweetener in candy, ice cream, ketchup, and many other products. Over time, high-fructose corn syrup that your liver cannot process can build up causing a whole set of other health-related problems. By replacing processed sweeteners with natural sweeteners, you take a major step forward in diet modification and a healthier you.
Recovery Exercise Resolution
Walk At Least A Mile A Day: Move a muscle, change a thought. It is undisputed that cardiovascular exercise will help burn calories, help lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and enhance the production of brain chemicals and hormones that lift your mood. A mile a day is not a long distance at all, and this resolution should be an easy lift for most folks. It can also be the first step towards incorporating exercise into your daily routine, which is a must if you seek to enhance our chances of long-term success in recovery. Once you get comfortable with the mile, you can always go a little further, and then a little further. However, you must start somewhere.
You can measure your mile the old fashioned way, by actually measuring the length to and from certain locations or by driving the route ahead of time. There are countless gadgets and apps that will do it for you. There is no reason not to give it a try. For folks in recovery, this is a great time to meditate, go over a gratitude list in their head, call a loved one or just enjoy nature. If you tend to isolate yourself and have a history of doing so while you were using, invite someone to join you. Maybe you can walk to and from a meeting together.
For people trying to quit smoking, cardiovascular activity is of great importance. Most people who smoke tend to engage in limited activity. The longer you smoke, the less you tend to move, as even minimal movement can be challenging for a smoker, especially those with lung diseases or other smoking-related health issues. When you engage in cardio, you force your lungs to work. By doing this, you can feel the impact of smoking on your lungs and their ability to provide you with oxygen. I can tell you this first hand because this was true for me. After heavy cardio, I would have great difficulty breathing and my lungs hurt. It convinced me that smoking was a behavior that could not continue. By incorporating exercise and proper nutrition into your lifestyle along with like-minded people (i.e., non-smokers), smoking becomes less and less acceptable and appealing.
Smoking Cessation Resolution
Inventory The Times You Smoke and Make At Least One Change To Your Routine: Sit down and figure out the times of day you smoke, and commit to erasing at least one.
When I smoked, I was lighting up when I went in and out of buildings, hanging around the front of twelve-step meetings with the smoking crowd, in my car when I was driving, and in my apartment at night. When I committed to stop, I changed the ways I went to and from work to avoid places where smokers congregated and where I traditionally lit up a cigarette. I changed my meetings, went later and/or left early to avoid smokers, pulled over as opposed to permitting myself to smoke in my car, and left my cigarettes in the mailbox at night so I did not have them available to smoke in my apartment.
Breaking the cycle of smoking triggers is huge. Being around these triggers is what perpetuates the addiction. By changing physical behavior, you change the neurological associations and cravings in your brain and take a huge leap towards kicking the habit. It all starts by inventorying your smoking habits and developing a battle plan. If you smoke less after changing your routine, you’ll develop the confidence to keep going and not give up!
Recovery Vitamins, Minerals, and Hormones Resolution
Eat Something Green Every Day: It sounds so simple but you would be surprised how many people do not eat green vegetables on a daily basis. Green leafy veggies are our best friends for so many reasons.
First, they are not carb heavy vegetables, so if you are looking to lean down, they enhance that goal.
Second, they do not contain substances that convert to sugar or glucose in the digestion process. This is incredibly important given the disproportionate number of people in recovery with diabetes and hyperglycemia.
Third, leafy green vegetables pack the most nutrients per calorie than any other food group. Greens contain significant amounts of Vitamins A, C, E, K and several of the B vitamins. In addition, they are rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium.
As a person in recovery, your body is often used to calorie-rich, nutrient-deficient foods: chief among them candy and alcohol. The benefits of eating something green every day will pay off exponentially as you will be restoring the building blocks necessary to meet your body’s needs and proper brain chemistry.
If you eat some greens every day, you won’t have to worry about the recommended servings per week, as you’ll easily exceed them. In case you were wondering, the USDA recommends three servings of leafy greens each week.
Recovery Spirituality Resolutions
This is a tough category because the issue of “spirituality” is so subjective to each person. So in this category, I will give you three suggested resolutions! You can pick what works for you!
Establish A Morning Self-Care Practice: How you start the day sets the tone for the rest of the day. A morning self-care practice establishes you and your recovery as the priority and the absolute first thing to get your attention in the morning. This need not be a lengthy, highly formal practice. Set aside 5 minutes every morning to reflect on gratitude, your goals for the day, or whatever else you would like to focus on. Use this time to reflect inward, towards your soul, and be driven by your needs. Not the needs of others, clients, significant others, family, or any other person, place or thing. Enjoy your 5 minutes of solitude and stay in gratitude. A person who stays in gratitude will not drink or use drugs.
Journal About Your Feelings: Feelings are not facts and putting them down in black and white is an incredibly powerful experience in many ways. Often times, when I write down how I feel, it makes it unmistakably clear that what is happening in my head is absolutely ridiculous. By writing down my feelings, or as I sometimes refer to them – the “chaos in my head,” I gain perspective and insight into my own head. Journaling also grounds me in reality, makes me think about how my brain processes people, places and things, and makes it easier to share with a sponsor or friend at a later time. A journal need not be lengthy but rather just a few sentences, in the beginning, during or at the end of your day.
Reach Out to Someone and Just Say Thanks or Hello: Once a week, biweekly or monthly, chose someone who is important in your life, someone you have not connected with for a while, and say thanks or hello. Let them know how and why they impacted your life and that you care about them. These types of random acts of kindness will lift your spirit as well as the spirit of the person to whom you are reaching out. We are all so busy these days that often the only time we communicate with people we care about is when some terrible event happens, such as an unexpected death. Have no regrets, seize the day and reach out and say thanks.
I wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy and sober 2019. I am hoping you will enjoy my book Spiritual Adrenaline: Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery, and you’ll join the emerging active sober community. I also hope you’ll check out other books by Central Recovery Press as the Central Recovery Press catalog contains some truly inspirational stories and innovative books written by some of the most respected thinkers in the recovery community.
If this Guide helped you out or you want to share your experience, strength and hope with the 70,000 plus Spiritual Adrenaline community, post it to the “visitor page” on the Spiritual Adrenaline Facebook page, shoot me a message and/or video via Facebook Messenger or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.