DEAR CAROLYN: Can you give me some direction on how to better keep my resolve? I'm single, 40-ish and, I swear, daily I wake up saying, "I'm going to read for an hour tonight," or "I'm going to make a healthy lunch for tomorrow," or "I'm going to do those stretches tonight." And I get home and end up having a glass of wine with the dog in front of the TV and that's that. I'm in a rut carved out over years — so how do I change it? How do I follow through on my promise to read or cook or stretch? I'd like to eventually expand to engaging in broader social activities, but I need to start with just being more active in a positive way in my own home first. Doing these things before work is a non-starter. I am a night person through and through.
RESOLVED: There's resolve, and there's what you actually want to do. The latter is so much more effective.
If what you actually want to do is sit on the couch with wine, dog and TV, then you will find ways to do that and resolve doesn't stand a chance.
If your health (physical, mental, emotional) indicates a departure from the couch, or if you just want more balance, then make the couch time your reward for ... let's say 10 minutes of X, with X being stretches or reading or food prep, pick one and focus on it. That's it. Ten minutes, then couch.
Or five minutes even. Every day. With couch bliss as your reward.
When it becomes habit, hike the time by five minutes. Just five.
Try for a few weeks and write back.
I see the dog as a shiraz kind of guy. Good guess?
RE: RESOLVED: I had this same problem, which also often included falling asleep on the couch with the TV on for most or all of the night; I had a rough transition to living alone again after a breakup. I decided to change my environment to break the habit and moved my TV into the bedroom. It was initially going to be for a short time, but I liked it so much I've kept it there so far. I may not always do all the things I planned, but I do have more space to think about how I want to spend my time without having to engage in massive willpower to avoid just crashing on the couch with TV to numb out. And if I do want to watch TV it's a more conscious decision, and if I fall asleep to it at least I'm already in bed!
ANONYMOUS: It's a great point, and one worth expanding on: I think we tend to underestimate how much place affects life choices. Or at least the physical space of home or work or neighborhood. What we see is what we tend to do. How much we exercise, eat, read, socialize, etc., all can be significantly affected by a seemingly low-significance change — like rearranging furniture. Cool stuff. Thanks.