Let us begin here: A cat sits on a blanket. She licks her paw and rubs the side of her head just below her ear but she does not look quite comfortable. She turns and curls up as if ready to sleep but one eye stays open. She is watching me, not trusting me, unsure. Change has entered her world and she is trying to make the best of it.
She is like a lot of us this holiday season, finding herself in strange situations, in a house filled with more people than normal and, most importantly, not able to follow her normal patterns of behavior. For her it is just a matter of finding somewhere to be warm and cozy, but for us it is a matter of keeping our good habits alive. Fortunately there are things we can do to resist temptation this time of year.
Set ourselves up for consistency: When we are coming into a strange situation it is easy to be distracted from our goals and our good habits because we do not have the usual day to day cues that help us be good. Let us look, for example, at trying to eat healthy. It is easy to do when we stock our fridge with healthy food and drinks, but harder when we sit at someone else's table. However, if we know that desert will be a temptation we can bring something healthy that we like to share. This lets us participate in desert without guilt. When we know the situations that we will find ourselves in we can create strategies to deal with the situation.
Be vigilant: Willpower is good and we need it, but to exercise willpower we must be aware of our actions. In order to be aware of our actions we need the habit of watching what we are doing. Being able to be aware of what we are doing and what we are going to do allows us to correct our actions before we take them, before they become regrets.
Have a margin for indulgence: Indulgence can be fun, and people will push us to indulge. The problem with indulgence is that it feels like we are breaking our good habits, that we are falling back into bad behaviors. But if we have enough willpower and the ability to be moderate we can allow some indulgence. This is not a tool for those of us who once we start eating a package of cookies cannot stop, but for those who can eat three and walk away, this can work great. Creating a plan that says I can have a small piece of pie or I can stay up late or I can skip my exercise this morning is fine. We must also have a plan in place for getting back on track, a commitment to start exercising again on Monday morning for example or returning to a home stocked with healthy food.
What tools do you use to stay on track during the holiday season?