By Jackie Rainford Corcoran
EBS Health Columnist

With age often comes increased responsibility. Even in healthy communities like Gallatin Valley, many of us struggle to make time for self care. As we juggle careers and relationships, daily routines can feel overwhelming. Eating well and exercising regularly might seem like niceties for people without a care in the world.

But as we repeatedly put self care off, the scale starts creeping up, inflammation flares, energy flattens and stress mounts. So what do we do? Often, we resort to good old wishful thinking—hoping that big changes will happen on Jan. 1, or on our next decade birthday, or Monday.

While we all know that Monday always comes, we’re also painfully aware that lasting changes to habits rarely do.

On Aug. 21, 2017, I was pumped up to watch the total solar eclipse in Rigby, Idaho. I didn’t understand the magnitude of the visual splendor that was about to unfold, but I was excited about the big change that astrologers reported would come with it. I hoped that the closer I was, the greater my chances of basking in these effects.

I was ready for magical transformation with my wish list of new habits mentally rehearsed.

As I witnessed the blue bird day turn to night in minutes, I was reminded of how quickly time is passing, and then the reality sank in that there was no big magic change on the horizon.

Sure, the potential for change might be strengthened by this cosmic phenomenon, or the momentum that the New Year brings, or the inspiration of celebrating a new decade of life, but the only thing that makes lasting change is action. Not wishful thinking. Not reading a book. Not watching a video.

Lasting change starts with self-reflection. We can prompt this by answering questions like these: Why is this change important now? What are my roadblocks? What have I already tried? Why has or hasn’t it worked? How do I lie to myself around this habit—what excuses do I make to condone it? Where am I successful in life? Can I apply the strategies I use to be successful in one area to another where I’m trying to make change?

Second, create a simple plan. Start with the end in mind and work backward. Consider making small action steps and having an accountability partner. As you map out a plan, keep in mind the changes that come with each month and season. If you find yourself falling back on the same strategies you’ve tried in the past but haven’t been successful at, seek new ways to reach your goal.

Third, execute your plan. Action is key. Have a weekly check-in day. If you fall off the wagon, ask yourself why and course correct from there. Don’t give up. Revisit why this is important at this time. If you find that it’s not really that important after all, great, let it go and move on. No need to keep traveling down that road. If you feel terrible about giving up on the goal, reexamine your why—perhaps it needs strengthening.

And finally, find joy in the process. The emotional part of the brain, the pleasure seeker, needs to be fulfilled as well. Treat it like a puppy in training. We know they need discipline to be safe and have a stress-free life but we also know they need to play and express their unbridled joy.

Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach, culture consultant and public speaker. For a complimentary health consultation, reach her at rainfordcorcoran@gmail.com.