When the New Year hits, many of us have lofty health goals that we’re determined to accomplish. We usually think about how we are going to get healthier when we’re outside of the office. We set goals to join a gym, set our alarms earlier to exercise before work, and tell our friends that we won’t be heading to happy hour as much anymore because we want to start going to that spin class more often.
While all of these health goals are usually well intended, they can be unrealistic and set the bar out of reach, so come February 1st, we find ourselves feeling like failures again.
Another pitfall with the New Year goals we set is that we attempt to reinvent our entire lives, all at once, with large changes in multiple areas. This sets us up to lose. It’s hard enough to change our habits, let alone many key ones at the same time.
Let yourself off the hook this year and try one small new habit at a time, then add another one into the mix, only after the first has become almost second nature.
What if we thought outside the box this year and tried incorporating smaller habits, seamlessly into our regular routines?
Here are some ideas for achievable whole-body wellness practices at your desk in 2016:
Say goodbye to multitasking.
You’ll actually be more productive, feel less frazzled, and get more done if you do one thing at a time.
It’s easy to convince yourself that multitasking is productive and that there’s no way around it. But unless you’re listening to music while you’re cleaning, the efficiency of your multitasking is an illusion. Our brains make us think we’re doing multiple things at once when they’re actually quickly switching between tasks. This drains our energy more quickly than doing each focused task by itself, one after another. You’ll actually be more productive, feel less frazzled, and get more done if you do one thing at a time.
Take quick stretch breaks.
When we work at our desks all day long, we rarely get up and move, unless it’s to go to the bathroom. Set regular alarms on your phone to stretch in your chair and to get up and walk around, even if it’s just for five minutes. Reach for the sky, touch your toes, and stretch side to side. Reach your arms out in front of you, clasping your hands, and reach them behind you, stretching out your back and shoulders. One of my favorite stretches for my shoulders after typing on a computer all day is to do the arms from yoga’s Eagle Pose. It’s amazing what these small moves can do for our bodies, moods, and clarity.
Drink more water.
Many of us fail to drink nearly enough water throughout the day. Since our bodies are more than 50% water and it is essential for cellular functions, it’s crucial that we’re taking in enough of it during the day. Water does countless things for our bodies, including increasing cognitive function. Replace one of your afternoon cups of coffee with a glass of water one day and see how you feel.
Pack healthy snacks.
When you’re hungry, your ability to concentrate declines. If you work with others, they can most likely attest to your grumpiness when you get too hungry while at work. The diet culture we’re immersed in teaches us to ignore our body’s wisdom far too often, including teaching us to mute our hunger signals. When you pack snacks, you can listen and respond to your hunger. In this way, you can avoid the potential to overeat and binge later in the day. When we listen to the wisdom our bodies give us, we can discover how to feel our best.
Do strength training at your desk.
Another way to move your body during your day at the office is to incorporate some strength training at your desk. If you find yourself stuck on a long conference call that requires mostly passive listening, then you could do these while you wait for it to conclude:
- Tricep dips: Use the edge of your chair, with your hands shoulder distance apart placed behind you, hands facing toward your body, slide your butt off the chair with your legs extended in front of you. Keep a slight bend in your elbows to tense your triceps. Take small dips while focusing on tightening and releasing your triceps. Repeat.
- Leg dips: Slide your butt to the edge of your chair, extend your legs out straight while gripping the sides of your chair and slowly lower your legs to the ground. Then bring them back up to parallel with the floor once more. Repeat.
- Squats: Stand up next to your chair; feet slightly wider than shoulder distance apart with hips, knees, and ankles in line and with your arms straight out, parallel with the floor, sit your butt back as low as you can. Stand back up while mindfully engaging your muscles. Repeat.
- Push-ups: Stand a few feet away from your desk, feet together and put your hands on the edge of the desk. Lower your chest to the desk and push back up. Repeat.
Do a grounding exercise.
If you find yourself overwhelmed and flooded with emotion while at work, a quick grounding exercise can help you regroup before diving back into the task at hand. Sit at your desk, both feet flat on the floor. Place your forearms on your desk, palms facing up. Close your eyes. Breathe through your nose, inhaling evenly, counting how long it takes to fully inhale. Exhale at the same even pace, trying to meet the same pace that you had for your inhalation. Repeat ten times.
Complete a quick brain download.
When we’re completely stressed out, it can be difficult to focus on one actionable item at a time because other pressing thoughts keep invading our focus. Instead of continually being distracted and unable to complete the present task, grab a timer and set it for 10 minutes. Get a blank sheet of paper and locate a pen to use to download all of the tasks and thoughts that come to mind. Don’t edit, just get it all out, stream of consciousness style. At the end of the 10 minutes, compile an actionable list, with each necessary step, and then prioritize. For example, “Make dentist appointment” is not an actionable item. Instead think of items such as, “Search dental insurance website for highly rated dentists near me. Call potential dentists to see if they’re taking new clients and when appointments are available.” Think in terms of tasks that are one step that you can cross off after you make progress, in a stepwise manner.
Instead of overwhelming ourselves with unreasonably ambitious health goals this year, let’s think about smaller, simpler habits that we can shift throughout our daily routines, that add up to significant results over time. Try a few of the wellness practices above to feel better in your body in the New Year. Remember that we are whole beings, with minds, physical bodies, and souls that all require nourishment and care.
Photos by Haley George