Five Things To Do For Your Health This Month: April

For much of the world, spring is in the air. It’s a time of rebirth, renewal and re-joy. Temptations swirl around us like

Clumps of yellow pollen on a flower head.
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clouds of pollen – some temptations we should avoid, and some we should savor because they can help us bloom.

1) Banish Bikini Brain – Here’s a temptation to avoid. Now is when the makers of powdered, chemical potpourris assault us with promises to make us all look (all natural! – for only a few $$$!) exactly like Gisele Bundchen or Tom Brady (your choice). And, amazingly enough, this can all be yours in only a few weeks! These ads are so tempting, and so pervasive, that sometimes you need to inoculate yourself against them to make it to June. How do you protect yourself? One of the most effective ways is to do a reality check – I don’t know about you, but when I look around, I’m not surrounded by Gisele Bundchens or Tom Bradys. I’m surrounded by real people with real struggles and wonderfully unique imperfections and a genuine desire for health. If just a few hundred dollars and a powder could make us look like a photo-shopped model, then wouldn’t we all be surrounded by thousands and thousands 0f insectoid-waisted co-workers/parents/classmates/shoppers? Studies have shown that these diet “supplements” are ineffective over the long term, expensive, and sometimes lethal. Maybe you have a friend who swears one of them helped her lose twenty pounds? Studies also show that whatever you lose in the very short run, you’ll gain it back plus more in the long run. For better health, make a commitment to yourself to banish bikini brain between now and June and use all that frustration or angst to fuel a renewed approach to getting healthier – a long, slow, sneaky-habit approach that doesn’t rebound into more weight gain. The simple approach of smaller portions and more exercise are two effective ways to start a change for life.

2) Succumb to Nature – Flowers are calling your name. They’re waving as you drive past, hoping to catch your attention. The glory of spring is a temptation that we all should embrace. Soon the hot days of summer will keep many of us housebound. But now is the perfect time of year to heal your health and your soul with the great outdoors. Start a new family habit between now and June – like a neighborhood walk before supper. Make a promise to yourself to meet your friends on weekends earlier in the day at a park – instead of an evening movie or restaurant. Wake up just 30 minutes earlier (exactly the same amount of time as a TV show!) so you can drink your coffee as you take an early-morning walk. Just be sure, if gardening or starting to exercise is your drug of choice for this season, to take it slow and easy in the beginning. Let the lure of the outdoors this season support you in your desire to get fitter.

3) Assess Your Resolution History – Hey, are we talking about New Year’s Resolutions here? Wasn’t that a long, long time ago? April is the perfect month to take the time to assess your most recent resolution experience. For many of us, that experience was the siren call of a New Year. Why should we dwell on the past – if we succeeded, who cares and if we failed, isn’t it just beating ourselves with a stick to re-hash the issue? Um, well, no. See, when it comes to behavior change, understanding how and why you “relapse” is key to achieving your goals long-term. If your goal is exercising to be healthier, your “relapse” is to give up and become sedentary again. If your goal was better eating habits, your “relapse” might be the gradual process of re-stocking your kitchen with things you know you probably shouldn’t be eating on a daily basis. When it comes to relapses, it’s important to remember that almost no one makes a major life change on their first attempt. Now is the perfect time to look back and recognize what undermines your efforts to change – whether you were able to overcome those undermining efforts or not. The important ingredient in relapse assessment is being an honest pragmatist. Are there warning signs from yourself (or a pattern of magical thinking/anger) that precedes your relapse? Is there a person who resists your change and undermines your efforts? Is there something that you learned from this attempt that can help you in future attempts? Take out a piece of paper and write them down. Your efforts to change have value – whether or not they stick this time. Use April as a month to study yourself and learn from your best, idealistic self – so that you can stack the odds even more in your favor the next time you set a behavior-change goal for yourself.

4) De-Stress – April manages to encompass both America’s Tax Day (April 15) and Stress Awareness Month. Coincidence? Many accountants would say it’s not. Make a promise to yourself to take your stress level during April. Given the economic strains today, it’s hard to imagine anyone who’s not feeling a tad bit high on the stress-o-meter. This month is a good time to go on the offensive and take your stress level down a notch. How do you do that? Try taking control of your thinking. If you’re the kind of person (and aren’t we all?) who tends to ruminate about problems – meaning that your thoughts brooding over and over something you can’t change – take charge and re-frame the situation. Stop yourself when you find your thoughts going round and round the same territory. Intentionally find something more positive to do. Try getting the issue out of your head and onto paper. Share with a friend. Stress really does respond to daily, consistent meditation. Even if you’re a skeptic, make a promise to yourself to try it for six weeks, twenty minutes a day – that’s only 14 hours total (less time than the average American spends watching TV in a week!) – then re-assess your results in June. You may discover (like the Beatles) that meditating is time well spent.

5) Snort Milk Out Your Nose – April happens to also be National Humor Month. Dose yourself with some humor. Read a funny book, see a comedy, try to tell a story to a friend in a way that makes everyone guffaw out their food. Go ahead and indulge the urge to laugh at yourself and the world – it’s Humor Month!

Have a tip for a great funny author or movie or other humor source? Share it in the comments section below!

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