Small steps can make a big impact. And while each day, week, month or year may seem like a long road to recovery when you are trying to improve multiple facets of your life, focusing on small improvements for specific time periods can help to make big impacts more manageable.
Why Select a Word of the Month?
A day is too short and a year is too long! They say it takes 6 weeks to get in shape and 2 weeks to get out of shape. You could imagine that it may also take 4-6 weeks to break a bad habit or make a good one. It's all about repetition!
How this came about...
Earlier this year I met a fellow entrepreneur, named Samantha, through a mutual friend. Samantha was visiting my friend for a few days, so we went out to breakfast one morning. We had a wonderful breakfast talking about the industry we work within (hemp but also the broader cannabis industry), our goals for 2020 and life in general.
After breakfast I noticed on her social media that she decided for 2020 that she was not going to create a New Year’s Resolution but instead focus on a single word for the entire year and improve that aspect of her life.
The word Samantha chose was “connection.”
Not only did I love the thought of this because she had just lived by it, but it also made me think about doing something similar to improve my lifestyle. As I thought about it more, I considered how it may relate to my life and my battle with overcoming Lyme Disease. I then realized that I wanted to practice a word of the month – where each month I would choose a word and focus on that area of my life to create better habits for myself.
The words would need to be attainable each month and something I could focus on. I figured if I could develop good habits around that word for a full month, then I could develop those habits into the long term, allowing me to improve my quality of life – mentally, physically and emotionally.
So I thought on what I needed to improve or thought would motivate me to carry on. Words like “challenge,” “strengthen,” “flexibility,” “sun,” “cardio,” “vegetables,” “meditate” and “sleep” all came to mind. And so with this, I have started to practice a "word of the month" and I think you should too!
Selecting your Word of the Month
The idea is to select your word of the month before the month starts so you can practice that word all month. Then at the end of the month, you should reflect on how well you attained your goal.
Think - Do you have measurable outcomes? How did the word and your actions from the word advance your mental, physical and/or emotional health?
My word of the month for February was: CHALLENGE.
In February I challenged myself in many ways.
For physical and emotional growth, I challenged myself to go outdoors more. This meant walking along the canal, trying new hikes across Arizona, including local hikes near Phoenix, as well as visiting the mountain terrain of Coconino National Forest and Prescott National Forest.
For further physical growth as well as mental growth, I tried to stay in a habit of swimming laps at least once a week to begin to build my cardio again. In addition, I challenged myself to switch up my morning breakfast, moving towards breakfast protein smoothies as often as possible.
For mental health, I thought brushing off an old skill may stimulate cognitive function, so I started practicing Spanish again, which I have not spoken in years. And took a semi-vacation from work, which I had not stepped away from in far too long.
Finally, on the last day of February completed my ultimate challenge for my time in Arizona – hiking Camelback Mountain. This mountain range is known for its difficult climb (a double black diamond) and will be the first “hard” climb (according to AllTrails) I will conquer in my journey back to peak health.
A long way to the top of Camelback Mountain.
Challenge Accepted! We made it to the top.
For March, I started out the month with the word “flexibility.”
My goal was to focus mainly on my physical flexibility by starting each morning with a stretch routine – nothing fancy, nothing too challenging. The stretch routine was a simple breathing and movement exercise flowing my arms above my head and back to center, falling into a downward fold, bringing my back to table-top then moving into downward dog, then cat/cow, then child’s pose. I then would move into pigeon pose and hold for a nice deep hip stretch (I hope I got the name of those poses right).
The poses were helpful and creating a designated space where I could keep my mat out and see it every day definitely made me remember to take the 15 minutes for myself. I took the photo below to assess my flexibility (or lack thereof) at the beginning of March. My goal was to be able to improve the bend angle even the slightest bit through daily stretching. The second photo was one month later. The changes were incremental, but noticeable!
An indicator to flexibility - how tight are my hamstrings?
Still not straight legged, but it is an improvement! That's what we are after. Improvement!
What I didn’t realize is that the mental and emotional side of me would also practice flexibility, but more out of necessity, given the dramatic impact that COVID-19 has had on everyone’s lives.
During the month of March, events got canceled, our moving plans got rearranged and our road trip during our move was completely altered, leaving us with an inability to adventure into the National and State Parks and ski resorts that we intended to visit on our move from Scottsdale to Denver. My emotional and mental flexibility was definitely being tested.
Also during the month of March, it almost seemed like my word to practice flexibility was quite fitting because with all of March’s turmoil, my word itself was morphing into a new new word. In fact, it was morphing into Samantha’s word of “connection.” Like most of the world, I seemed to be connecting with my community more than I expected, and started to connect with them on new, unexpected levels.
For the last several years, my connection with friends, family and acquaintances, outside of my hemp bubble, was quite minimal, both from my laser focus on achieving my goals, but also a loss of connection and empathy from the imbalances in my body caused by Lyme. I was living in a mental cloud and I was pushing people away without even realizing it.
But this new massive adjustment in my life, and everyone’s life, has allowed for more time, more appreciation and more connection.
Now that April is upon us, I will continue to carry the words of “challenge,” “flexibility,” and “connection” into April, but now, I am bringing a new word into the mix.
April’s word of the month is “strengthen.”
Over the last seven years I have lost a lot of muscle. In particular, my agility and coordination seemed to have diminished with that loss in muscle mass. In the past I tried going to a gym and lifting weights to gain my muscle back, but not under a professionally developed routine. I was shooting in the dark.
However, now that I live in Denver, I am actually living with a personal trainer with a gym in our garage. For the month of April, my goal is to work with him to develop a routine to get back in the game, physically. And through this physical routine's I believe my mental and emotional health will also strengthen. Hello endorphins!
How to participate!
Now it’s your turn – think of your year ahead.
What do you want to improve? How do you want to challenge yourself to move forward?
Write these down and determine when and how you can attain these goals and how they may help your mental, physical and emotional health. Your outcomes should be measurable to some extent (ie. number of hikes you went on, days you ate vegetarian, how your flexibility has improved, hours you spent mediating etc)
Each month move down your list of words and set your intentions on that word. Don’t worry, you don’t need to have a word for every month yet – but start with a few and the others will fall into place as you begin.
Consider sharing your word of the month with friends, family or partners – they may help you be accountable for staying the course.
The first step is to say you can!