Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Living Well: Fighting February's Blues

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I've lost it.

"It" meaning those 15 pounds I aimed to shed when I wrote my weekly "Losing It" blog in 2011.  My new goal is to live well, and that's the name of my new mostly-monthly blog.  "Living Well" means I'm striving for healthy living and a life of quality.  So please send me feedback and tell me how YOU live well!

February is the cruelest month, with apologies to T.S. Eliot and April.  The skies can be endlessly gray with early morning fog here in Central Texas, inviting Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's called SAD, because the lack of sunshine and light can help foster low moods and depression.  

Freezing air and spitting ice can bring on cold weather onset asthma: you breathe in suddenly the cold, cold air and it triggers an asthma attack and you have trouble breathing. It's no fun, I know, because I get it.

If the generally dismal February weather isn't enough to derail your diet and outdoor exercise, along comes Feb. 14! More on that in a moment.

So here are five suggestions to help you survive February without gaining weight, clogging your arteries at Super Bowl and Valentine parties and wearing a month's long frown.

1.) Love yourself.
I'm not promoting narcissism.  But if you anticipate a gift on Valentine's Day and you base your emotions and wellbeing on whether or not you receive a heart-shaped box of chocolates and/or flowers from a loved one, you hand over control of your life to someone else. Or you go out possibly and buy yourself that box of chocolates, or two.

Don't do it!

And if you do eat chocolates, eat the dark variety, which is the healthy kind, and in moderation.  Like maybe one chocolate a day.  Ideally, you can pamper yourself in a more healthy way by giving yourself or getting a manicure, buying yourself a new bottle of perfume or body lotion, or getting a massage. Or try the ultimate pampering: take a nice long walk.

2.) Try something new just for fun! 
I got a jump on February by enrolling my dachshund Oscar Wilde in agility at The Zoom Room off Anderson Lane. We have had three lessons so far and I can't begin to tell you how much fun it is.
And Oscar, who has never done agility, is a natural. Last week he got impatient and raced over two obstacles without even being asked, hoping to please me and get a treat.

Now I said that just for fun, but I am getting some exercise benefits from racing around the arena as Oscar dashes through tunnels, leaps over small jumps and flies up the A-Frame and the Dog Walk.
At first I thought it was a bit frivolous. So what's wrong with frivolous?  Not every single thing you do has to be high-minded and aimed at saving the world.

3.) Be adventurous with your diet. 
Go vegetarian or vegan for the month. Or, if you are like me and can't imagine going a month without chicken and milk, try one diet for a week. Then go for the month. Or even just eat that way one week a month. I'm starting some reading on vegetarian and vegan eating styles. Will report back later.

4.) Challenge your mind with a new learning project. 
It can be taking a course in art. Or even just visiting once a week or month a different museum or art gallery in Austin. I never formally studied art, so I became a charter member of the Blanton Museum some years back. Although I'm still no art expert, I do enjoy the Blanton's fun programs, educational lectures and docent-led tours.

5.) Declare a "Do Nothing" Day!
Step outside of your daily life with its to-do lists and deadlines, and stimulate your mental health by removing stimuli. Take a long nap. Play Solitaire. Count the stars in the sky. The only rule is you can't do anything of any redeeming or practical value.

An advisory: be sure to warn your family first and we don't recommend this if you have young children.
But otherwise, do try it. You will wake up the next day feeling great: recharged, revitalized and renewed. And it's a great way to ward off burn-out.

When my mind is rested and happy, I'm more caring and protective of my body.  In other words, I'm more likely to turn down that ice cream drumstick that is tempting me.
Remember what you eat (or don't) and how much you exercise (or don't) in February will be evident on the scale and obvious in how your clothes fit in March.

By Lee Kelly

Kelly is an internationally award winning writer who consults with the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living.

Read Lee's previous column "Losing It"

Image Source: [Postpartum Progress]