Okay, admittedly, our official calendar indicates that January 1 is traditionally the start of the New Year. That is when all the parties are. That is when we have a day off to celebrate, and hopefully another to recover. But, just for a moment, work with me here a bit: What if there were a more credible and meaningful ‘New Year’s Day’?
Ever since I was in kindergarten, through my many years as a student and then throughout my career as an educator, the first Tuesday after Labour Day, aka ‘The First Day Of School,’ has always held much more significance to me as the start of something new, something special, and has always been more meaningful than January 1. Now, before you dismiss this idea out of hand consider: families’ entire schedules change abruptly when, having school aged children, they have to shift out of summer mode and back to school mode. Businesses adjust stock and staffing to meet new demands at this time of year. So many of us shift to a new set of priorities and schedules. This is a challenge for some, and a relief for others. Life gets very busy, very quickly, and in ways that the days of summer were not. School and bus schedules, music lessons, martial arts, or other extra-curricular activities start up, and we tend to realign our professional and personal commitments as we head in to autumn and the long, cold winter ahead. The changes at this time of year tend to be much more profound than those occurring in the shadow of the Christmas/New Year holiday season.
‘New Year’s Day’ as prescribed by our calendars is, for most, a continuation of the holiday season enjoyed at that time of year. For most of us, usually a few days later into January, it is back to work, back to school, back to the routine we had prior to the holidays. We resume the schedule and patterns (and bad lifestyle habits?) which were in place just a week or two earlier. This return to routine is despite the long-held tradition of fooling ourselves and boasting to our closest confidants about making New Years ‘resolutions.’
Ahhhh, yes. There it is. Resolutions. The calendar triggering, peer pressure and pop media facilitated series of lies we tell ourselves about how we are going to change our lives and lifestyles for the better for no other reason than January 1 rolled around and we are lolling in the gluttony of a post-holiday hangover and want to magically promise to uphold a regime which will erase, not only the effects of the bad habits of holiday of excess, but hopefully those of the past year, or more. New Year’s Resolutions; the most self-delusional set of goals and aspirations we kid ourselves into considering. By and large, these resolutions tend to be focused on adjusting health, wellness, and lifestyle habits towards improved fitness, physical, and mental well-being. Important stuff, non? And absolutely well worth consideration, commitment and effort – any time of the year. It truly is valuable to take stock of one’s health and be mindful of the choices and habits which regularly fill our days. But is the turn of a calendar page enough to help insure both meaningful reflection and effective change? Maybe not. In fact only 25 per cent of people who make New Year’s resolutions are still committed to them 30 days later. Further, only 8 per cent of resolutions are accomplished. This is not a solid foundation upon which to re-set one’s life, lifestyle, habits, or behaviours.
So, let me present an alternative: What about the idea that, rather than making false promises fuelled by holiday optimism and spirit-filled enthusiasm, we consider making real changes in habits, schedules and lifestyle which just might fit more easily into our September back-to-school adjustment period than in the depths of winter following a holiday filled with gastronomic debauchery and liquid courage? Our lives, schedules and routines are turned upside down at the start of September anyway. What if we took an objective and considered look at the new routines about to be launched in September by so many of us, and we tweaked here, conceded there, and prioritized overall a few adjustments to our weekly routines, which supported steps toward robust longevity? What if we applied principles found to support vitality and an active physical lifestyle from mid-life onward, and inserted a few functional, meaningful, short, and truly effective training sessions – only two or three days a week at the real start of the year, in the wake of Labour Day? Take a few baby steps in the right direction. Build upon some short-term positive results towards longer, meaningful changes in health and vitality. Include a plan for your ‘Back to School’/September start-up schedule, and not just for your children. By Thanksgiving, you’d see and feel real differences in your physique. Guaranteed. Your mental health would have improved. You’d be stronger, fitter, and better able to combat any illness or injury lurking just around the corner. More importantly, rather than finding yourself at the end of the calendar year searching for a new and improved approach to wellness and an active lifestyle, you’d already be well on your way! You wouldn’t need any resolution to kick-start a January commitment to self-improvement; you’d be habituated to continue a great pattern of modest, regular, and effective physical activity that you’ve been doing for the last few months. Any holiday hangover you have which added a few pounds will much more easily be erased by simply returning to the activity pattern you’ve already well established back in September.
New Year’s Resolutions? I say ‘Bah, humbug’ to that malarkey. When January 1, 2020 rolls around, just continue the great habits and routines begun a few months ago, return to the gym, tighten up your eating habits, and look forward to the long-term benefits of supporting and planning for robust longevity. Over the next few weeks I will be detailing tips, suggestions, and practical steps towards positive lifestyle changes accessible to anyone committed to improved health and wellness. Please feel free to comment, ask questions and share ideas found in this column and on my website, 45andthrive.com. So, until next time, to all of you, I wish a healthy and realistic Happy New Year!
Michael Patterson, M.Ed.
Lift long and Prosper
Michael Patterson M.Ed, has spent 30+ years as a fitness and health professional. He holds degrees in Physical and Health Education, Psychology, and Education. Find out more about Michael and follow him on his website at www.45andthrive.com, and on Instagram @45andthrive. Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected].
*Disclaimer: The information provided and discussed in this column is based on my personal experience, studies of physical and health education and my expertise as a lifelong fitness and health professional. Any recommendations made about fitness, training, nutrition, supplements or lifestyle, or information provided through this column, should be discussed with your physician or other health-care professional.