2017 is YOUR year of less pain. These 25 ideas for New Year’s resolutions will show you how to get started on a journey towards less pain and more living. Pick as many or as few as you want. And make sure to share which ones you’re going to tackle this year in the comments below.
How to create SMART New Year’s resolutions
On January 1st, millions of people vow to start all over again. New year, new start, new possibilities. By January 31st, many of those same people have fallen into the same habits and are discouraged by what they see as a colossal failure to follow through with their New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps the problem isn’t with the people; perhaps it is with the resolutions themselves.
But we’re here to say that it is possible to create smart and achievable resolutions towards your goal of less pain.
Proper goal setting goes well beyond saying you want to become healthier or drink more water. Proper goal setting that actually gives you a chance to succeed utilizes SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that helps you to set goals or make resolutions that are actually achievable. SMART stands for goals that are:
- S: Specific
- M: Measurable
- A: Achievable
- R: Realistic
- T: Time-based
Remember that ANY step forward is a positive step. You needn’t make huge, sweeping change to have positive results. “Getting healthier,” although an admirable goal, does not meet any of the above criteria. Here are 25 goals for chronic pain patients this New Year’s that do.
1. Sweat every day
It doesn’t matter how you do it, but break a sweat daily. Walk, garden, run up flights of stairs, stretch: whatever it takes, get your heart pumping until beads of sweat form.
2. Drink a glass of water before every meal
Thirty minutes before you eat, drink an eight-ounce glass of room temperature water. If you are working to lose weight, this can help you to eat less for meals and snacks. Even if weight loss is not in your pain management plan, nearly everyone in the U.S. is chronically dehydrated. This is an easy, no-fuss way to up your water intake.
3. Go to bed at the same time every night
Sleep is imperative for everyone, but no one more so than chronic pain patients. Figure out how many hours your body needs, and go to sleep at the same time every night so that you can get it.
4. Wake up at the same time every morning
Waking at the same time every morning is an important part of sleep hygiene as well. With chronic pain, some days it may be difficult to get out of bed. This is understandable. As long as you start moving at the same time every day, opening your eyes to the natural light, this counts.
5. Write down three things you are grateful for at the end of each day
Gratitude is a powerful practice for chronic pain patients. People who experience and express their gratitude feel more of a connection to the world and may actually experience their pain differently.
6. Eat one anti-inflammatory food at every meal or snack
Many pain patients believe that to reap the benefit of dietary changes they need to eliminate everything and become dietary monastics. This is not sustainable for most people, but aiming to include more anti-inflammatory foods in every meal or snack is.
7. Stop smoking (especially pain patients)
This is a big one. Stopping smoking today is the single best thing you can do for your health, with measurable changes within 20 minutes of your last cigarette.
8. Sit in meditation for ten minutes a day
That’s it. Ten minutes. Take a comfortable seat, breathe easily, then follow your breath through each inhale and exhale for ten minutes. Meditation is scientifically proven to lessen the perception of pain with zero side effects and zero financial outlay. That’s certainly worth ten minutes a day!
Meditation was a big topic in the pain community, with mainstream coverage of mindfulness meditation making its way to a report by Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes and even the Costco member monthly magazine (with one of largest circulation numbers in the magazine industry). Go further in 2017 and explore how you can use mindfulness practices to help control your experience of chronic pain.
9. Go to one yoga class a week, or month
Yoga is gentle, accessible to everyone at any age or level of fitness/flexibility, and offers benefits to the body and the mind. Start with one class a month if you are not sure, then move to one class a week. Ask the instructor to give you some poses to work on at home that are especially beneficial for pain patients.
Can’t get in a full class? If you suffer from neck pain (or you just stare at a computer all day!), try these four stretches a few times a week.
10. Walk your dog (or your kids!) for 20 minutes a day
Taking a daily family walk with a pet or with kids or a partner is a great way to easily incorporate exercise, turn off screens, and keep the body going. You can certainly walk longer, but aim for a full daily 20 minutes right after school or work.
11. Go meatless on Mondays
There are many health benefits to going vegetarian all the way, but if that seems daunting, start with one day a week. Meat-free meals give your wallet, your body, and the environment a break.
12. Dive in stretch goals: Become a weekday vegetarian
If Meatless Monday was easy, stretch yourself to becoming a vegetarian, Monday through Friday. If that’s a bit of a leap, try eliminating meat for one meal a day, seven days a week.
13. Try one complementary medical approach to pain every month
If you are already regularly receiving acupuncture, chiropractic, or massage, this may not apply to you. If you are not, give these approaches (and more) a monthly try.
14. Don’t sacrifice style for comfort
Remember the old adage, “It’s better to look good than to feel good”? We believe you can do both. Our post on style for the chronic pain patient suggested some easy, stylish, and affordable chronic pain hacks to pump up your style while still staying comfortable on your most painful days. Focus on building a capsule wardrobe one piece a month to make stylish dressing simple, easy, and fast.
One in 20 adults in the U.S. are misdiagnosed annually, and many with chronic pain are not surprised by that. Because a chronic pain diagnosis is often reached through the process of elimination, it’s easy to imagine how a piece of the puzzle might go missing. Take some simple steps in 2017 to prevent that from happening.
How can you break this into a SMART goal? Start by creating a place where all of your medical records organized so that you have a record of every visit to a doctor, specialist, or therapist, along with current medications and dietary restrictions. Also consider tracking your symptoms every day so you can show your findings to your doctor.
16. Help someone else who has a chronic disease
Chronic diseases can be difficult to deal with from both a mental and physical point of view. Find another person who suffers from a chronic disease and create a bridge of support. You’ll take the time to understand their condition and they’ll do the same for you. Make changes to your routine and look out for small ways for your person to supported and safe. Also make it a point to become a better listener when supporting someone with a chronic illness. If you are a pain patient, you can apply this resolution for the caretakers in your family. Everyone loves to feel heard!
17. Explore a new type of exercise
If you haven’t already, 2017 is a good time to give a new exercise a try. Try out yoga or Pilates or swimming or dancing or running. No matter what it is, trying out something new will keep you active and help you learn a new skill! Pick the type of exercise that works best for you–one that you’ve always wanted to try but were too scared to. With the right teacher, any exercise can be modified for your exercise and comfort level. Find the one that makes you feel good, and stick with that!
This may not seem like a chronic pain treatment, but social media has the power to connect us with information, support, and positive developments like never before. Pinterest has a wealth of information for pain patients.
New research, easy recipes, and breakthrough treatments can all be accessed easily on this electronic bulletin board. You can even use it to stay connected to your pain specialist! If you haven’t already, create your own Pinterest account and start pinning helpful resources. Make sure to follow your friends and family and share your new account with them!
19. Evaluate your need for different pain treatments
Make 2017 the year you talk to your pain doctor about different treatments that could help you. As we talk about in our post about Comprehensive Pain Management, pain management can use multiple modalities to help you tackle your pain. Incorporate:
- Complementary therapies like chiropractic care, exercise, and physical therapy
- Alternative treatments like acupuncture and biofeedback training
- Interventional treatments, like epidural steroid injections or radiofrequency ablation
- Surgical treatments for chronic conditions that don’t respond to any other treatment options
For example, some chronic pain patients find tremendous relief only with total hip or knee replacement surgery. Others find themselves back in the same painful boat, post-surgery. How do you know which one you’ll be? Talk to your doctor.
We may all know that breakfast is generally considered to be the most important meal of the day, but for diabetes especially, a good breakfast can help better control blood sugar throughout the day. This control minimizes blood sugar spikes that can cause the damage that leads to peripheral neuropathy pain. Surely you can make time for that!
And, don’t shy away from eggs or full-fat dairy products in breakfast. These two foods have been proven to help regulate blood sugar and are healthy options when eaten in moderation. Talk to your doctor about including these foods in your breakfast.
For all types of pain and inflammation and to monitor possible nerve damage or pain resulting from diabetes, take better care of your feet this year. They support our entire bodies in everything we do, and they deserve a little attention. Wash, dry, and inspect your feet daily, no matter your condition. Give them a little massage to keep the circulation flowing.
22. Write one monthly journal entry
Journaling daily is really the best way to track changes over time, but if you are not a writer or feel like it is too much, sit down on the last calendar day of the month and reflect on your month overall. This can be a list, a letter to yourself, or just notes about how you felt, what you did, any new treatments, or breakthroughs you may have had.
23. Get more hygge in your life
Hygge is the Danish concept of incorporating more coziness and little pleasures into your life. It’s also about finding contentment and indulging in stress relieving techniques which, as we know, is an incredibly important resolution when it comes to pain management.
Bring more candles, fuzzy blankets, foamy lattes, cozy slippers, and simple time with friends into your life to find the essence of hygge.
24. Be softer and kinder to yourself
It can take a long time to develop newer and healthier habits, especially if your old habits have been firmly entrenched. There will be days when your resolve will falter, and you will slip up. You will make mistakes. Finding a path towards less pain isn’t a straight track. It isn’t supposed to be.
Research shows that it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit. Large changes or small changes, the time frame doesn’t vary, and slipping up doesn’t affect that average. So if on the path to good health you stumble, that’s okay. Keep moving forward. And be kind to yourself when you do so.
25. Re-visit and revise your resolutions at the end of every week
Resolutions are not static things. As you change, they change. You may find that after walking for 20 minutes daily, you want to bump it up to 30. Or maybe you want to give that whole vegetarian thing a try. In a journal or a notebook (maybe the same one you use for your daily gratitude practice), evaluate your resolutions and how you are doing. Make whatever changes are necessary, note areas of success, and keep the entire process positive.
For more on SMART goals, including various interpretations and more information about how they have evolved over time, visit the SMART goals guide today.
What are your SMART New Year’s resolutions for this year? How are you going to make sure 2017 is your year with less pain?