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Starting something new can be both exciting and daunting. It takes work to move from the initial excitement to the action of making it happen, and sticking to it over time. Birthdays, new jobs, and, of course, The New Year are moments when this excitement amps up. These moments have the potential to activate a “Fresh Start Effect” – that moment where you feel you get a reset of sorts, an opportunity to change.
So what are you going to do with your fresh start? Are these moments to change going to pass by or do you want to experience the change you keep saying you want?
What Does A Fresh Start Effect Look Like?
In a study examining Fresh Start Effects, researchers explain, “these landmarks demarcate the passage of time, creating many new mental accounting periods each year, which relegate past imperfections to a previous period, induce people to take a big-picture view of their lives, and thus motivate aspirational behaviors.” The nice thing about these landmark moments is the relatively peaceful opportunity for change they present. It’s not a cataclysmic event or a near-death experience shaking you or scaring you into change. It’s a quiet reset allowing you to create the change you want to make.
How Long Does It Take To Change?
There’s a myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. It came about because a 1950’s plastic surgeon, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, noticed it took about that long for his patients to get used to whatever changes he made to their face or body.
The truth is it isn’t as easy to define how long it takes to change and form new habits. Research by Phillippa Lally shows that it can take as few as 18 days or as many as 254 days. But a majority of the subjects in the study came in around 66 days to form a new habit or routine. So, how long does it take to make good on your fresh start? It depends, in part, on you.
What 90 Days Of Intentional Change Can Do
Forming a new you isn’t just a matter of wishful thinking. Your brain has to rewire new ways of thinking and communicating as it adjusts to the new you. The rest of your body also needs time to catch up with the new way of living, and that includes your hormones. Aside from 90 being a nicer number than 66, it takes at least that amount of time to move your hormones from imbalanced disruption back into a more beneficial function.
When you set your intention to spend 90 days making healthier choices in your food intake, in your movement, and your hormones you might be surprised at how much change comes your way. Aside from just experiencing deep, restorative sleep, you open the door to feel better about your body, about how you show up every day, and about your life – across the board.
Three big areas to work over 90 days:
- MOVE: Exercise really does work for your better self if you take the right approach.
- EAT: What you put in your body makes all the difference.
- SLEEP: Make this a top priority or nothing else will really change.
So what does it actually look like to make the most of your temporal landmarks and take on the fresh start toward more limitless living?
Make The Most of the Changes You Want to See
Don’t Expect Your Future Self to Do the Work
Just because you have set an intention for that future goal it doesn’t mean your present self is off the hook for doing the work needed to get there. Research shows that when we anticipate a fresh start effect we can actually think our future self will do the work of getting us there. That’s kind of like Marty McFly’s 1985 self not having to do anything to make sure he doesn’t end up like his 2015 self – he can’t just leave that up to 2015 self. And to stick with that analogy, you may recall the whole point of the second “Back To The Future” is that 1985 Marty is doing all the work to change who he will be in the future.
Exercise With A Creative Mindset
How you approach anything is how you approach everything. And when you approach changing yourself for the better, you have to go in with a positive, creative mindset.
Christopher McDougall, author of “Born To Run” recently said in an interview: “I think too many of us stray into the world of ‘exercise as punishment,’ as a test of our inner worth”, but what if you change that approach to “exercise as a sense of joyfulness, of creativity, of artistry – and artistry can take any kind of form. But [what] if you believe your ability is to create, not to just destroy or beat yourself up?”
I’ve been running my whole life. I was like all kids – I liked to run everywhere instead of just walk. One afternoon, a few years ago, I went for a high country run in the mountains, and the weather shifted so that on my return I was pounding into a cold, pelting snow headwind. I ended up stopping and starting numerous times in those last two miles. I was miserable. And when I finished, I carried this question of “Why do you do this?” After a few moments I was able to respond with an honest answer, “Because it’s fun.” I wasn’t prepared for that answer because I had just completed a grumbling and miserable, cold, snowy run. But the sense going forward was, “If you want to keep exercising like this, make sure you are having fun. There’s no other reason.”
That was 20 years ago. Since then I’ve gone on to do numerous marathons, a few ultras, pace the Leadville Trail 100 twice, as well as run the Leadville Trail Marathon. And every time, and even during training, I have to remind myself, “You get to do this. You get to have fun. Make sure you enjoy yourself.”
You know exercise is good for you. But do you know it’s not a punishment for previous choices? Approach your exercise – whether it’s running, walking, biking, time at the gym or in the swim lanes at your local pool – with a creative, artistic fresh start mindset. It will make the difference in whether you continue toward your long term goals, or just treat it as suffering that you decide is not worth it.
Don’t start your exercise with the mindset of wanting to lose weight or this is a workout. Create the joy first, as Eric Orton says, and the rest will follow. Give yourself a chance to start with the fun.
Eat What Makes Your Whole Body Feel Better
Making the most of your fresh start doesn’t mean giving up the cake, but your body does run and feel better when you give it the kind of fuel and nutrition that works for its good. There is growing evidence that food essentially acts like hormones. “Ultimately food can be considered as a cocktail of “hormones.” A hormone is a regulatory compound produced in one organ that is transported in blood to stimulate or inhibit specific cells in another part of the body...Although food is not produced in the body, its components travel through the blood, and nutrient substrates can act as signaling molecules by activating cell-surface or nuclear receptors.”
Eating the right foods gives your gut, and thus the rest of your body, what it needs to get the right messages, the right nutrients to the right places to keep you, not just alive, but feeling limitless. Contrarily, give your body just sugar, unnatural foods, or overly processed food that no longer resembles what it was intended to be, and your body is going to try and use that to send messages to the rest of your body. Unfortunately, if it’s not the right protein or fatty acid, then those messages are limited, and your body doesn’t know what to do with it so it stores it up, often as fat...kind of like how all the random mail I get that I don't know what to do with ends up in a cabinet for months on end.
Good-for-you-food doesn’t mean it is flavorless gruel. As more and more people are seeing the benefits of choosing more natural, healthy food there are numerous recipes to make healthy food taste amazing. As your approach to exercise needs to be seen as a creative endeavor first, so too bring creativity to how you prepare food you enjoy eating.
When Eric Adams, the current mayor of New York, was diagnosed with an advanced case of Type II Diabetes at 54, after waking up unable to read his alarm clock and an ongoing numbness in his extremities, he set out to reverse diabetes by changing what he ate. That change not only reduced a number of his symptoms within a few weeks, but he reversed his diabetes, lost 35 pounds, and reduced his cholesterol by 30 points. HIs big quote to consider? “Disease isn’t in our DNA. It’s in our dinner.”
You don’t need to go vegan or vegetarian to bring about the kind of change you want to see. You do need to take a real look at what and how much of it you are putting in your body. Ultimately, what you eat can determine how well you sleep, too.
Sleep Better Than A Baby
Anyone who’s had children knows it’s a rare thing that babies actually sleep like the babies in that old saying. If anything, the reason most parents are suffering from hormone imbalance, feeling tired, lacking focus and reaching for too much coffee is because the babies aren’t sleeping. But that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.
Sleep is where so much happens that sets you up for success each day. Sleep is not just being unconscious. If you are sleeping 7-8 hours of uninterrupted, deep sleep then you are giving your body a chance to repair, restore, and rest for the next day. It is only during deep sleep that you generate hGH – which your body needs to repair and support your immune system. It’s also during deep sleep that hormones like testosterone are generated. No deep sleep, no testosterone or hGH. And that may be why you are feeling so down, tired, and never bouncing back from workouts or illness.
You also need to go to sleep close to the same time every night to make the most of it. Staying up super late then hitting the bed early the next day doesn’t provide your body the rhythm it needs to make the most of your sleep. To put it another way, make sure you are getting the right kind of 7-8 hours of sleep. Then, you have more chances of success with the changes you want to make in your life when you are awake.
Create The Change You Want To See
Whether you are approaching another birthday, a New Year, or an anniversary, you have an opportunity for a real fresh start. Mark Twain mocking procrastination once said “why put off tomorrow what you can put off to the day after tomorrow?” Today, though, is the moment you have to create the change you want to see in your life.
Give yourself 90 days and discover just how amazing you can feel, and how much more life is waiting for you with each day of forming new, healthier habits. It’s not something you need to put off, anymore, because you are worthy of experiencing limitless living.