Written By Kristen Hung, MPH, RDN
There has likely never been more collective anticipation for the start
of a new year than for 2021! As we leave 2020 behind, one of the more
challenging years on record for us all, we can start to feel hopeful in
the promise of a fresh start. After navigating a difficult year, many
will resolve to make changes in their lives through setting resolutions.
Perhaps this year more than ever. These often include a refreshed focus
on health and well-being -- a resolve to forsake unhealthy habits and
engage in healthier behaviors.
How can we be successful in making desired health-related changes, especially
after such a difficult year? The answer may lie in resilience. Resilience
can be described as “the ability to cope with stressors, uncertainty,
or tragedy” or “the skill of thriving in one’s life
regardless of the situation” according to Dr. Moe Gelbart, PhD.,
Director of Behavioral Health at Torrance Memorial and founder and Executive
Director of the
Thelma McMillen Recovery Center.
Gelbart notes resilience is essential to health and well-being as it dictates
how we navigate challenges. Whether you have a glass half empty or half
full perspective, Gelbart says, “the glass doesn’t have to
change, only your approach does.”
Improving our resilience may be pivotal to changing our health and well-being.
The good news is like many skills, resilience can be improved with training.
Consider the following three practices to help strengthen resilience as
you prepare to take on the new year with renewed hope.
Practice Realistic Thinking
The gap between expectations and reality is where mental health issues,
such as anxiety and depression, often arise,” says Gelbart. If we
adjust our expectations to better match reality, we experience less frustration
and disillusionment. Regarding health-related resolutions, this may include
attempting more realistic and attainable goals rather than complete overhauls
to current lifestyle habits. For example, the weight loss goals many set
for the new year feel so unattainable that many lose hope after encountering
the first plateau in their attempts. Realistic thinking acknowledges the
months it took to gain those extra pounds and the time it will likely
take to lose them. Being realistic recognizes metabolism often slows with
age. Focusing on smaller goals (e.g. the next five pounds) and on the
behaviors affecting the outcomes is a more effective approach. Gelbart
suggests directing our attention to what is in our control to change.
Focusing on the present can help us take meaningful action rather than
remaining paralyzed in abstract thinking.
Take Away: The handy
2021 Resilient Resolutions Calendar is a great place to start in making small and realistic changes to your
diet and lifestyle.
A positive outlook is also key to resilience. When we think positively
about a situation, we are more empowered to deal with the challenges at
hand and view setbacks as temporary and attainable. When practiced, positive
thinking can help stimulate growth in areas of our brains involved in
logical thinking, decision making and achieving goals. Reappraising a
situation and looking for the positives, opportunities, and even benefits
when we experience setbacks can help us approach these setbacks with more
optimism and a problem-solving mindset. For example, the gyms are closed
and your exercise routine has been upturned. A positive approach focuses
on the monthly membership fees saved, the opportunity to try out different
avenues for exercise you might not have otherwise tried and the discovered
convenience of exercising in your home or in the beautiful outdoors.
Take Away: Positive thinking helps us remember things will not always be
Practice in Partnership
When we study a new language, acquire new cooking techniques or try our
hand at guitar, these skills are often learned in the company of others.
Consider how inviting others into your health journey could improve your
resilience. Consider one of the virtual diet or exercise classes offered
by Torrance Memorial which might provide just the right setting to spur
you on toward your goals. Think about the family members or friends who
can support you in times of uncertainty, brainstorm solutions to your
problems or provide compassion and encouragement when you need it. A registered
dietitian nutritionist can also help you create a nutrition plan, offer
feedback and provide accountability for your goal setting, or a licensed
clinical psychologist may be the coach you need to help you process trauma
or learn new emotional regulation skills.
Take Away: Find creative ways to connect with those in the community who
are working toward similar goals to improve health, and you will realize
you are not in this alone.
2021 may not come with a map, but we should realize we will encounter roadblocks
along the way. Let us enter this new year with resilient resolutions -
choosing to make small, achievable health-related goals, learning to cultivate
positive thinking in difficult circumstances and attempting to achieve
our goals in the company of others. Join our community in following the
2021 Resilient Resolutions Calendar to guide you in making small changes throughout this new year and see
how collectively we can rise stronger than we began.
If you are interested in making dietary changes and healthier lifestyle
choices, schedule an appointment with one of our Registered Dietitian
Nutritionists at the
Outpatient Medical Nutrition Therapy office or our
Diabetes Self-Management Program at the Torrance Memorial Specialty Center. Call 310-891-6707.
Virtual and in-person consultations available. To learn more about our
Our Nutrition Team page.