Photo Credit: Zerbor / iStockPhoto.com
How to Set Healthy, Happy and Attainable Goals for the Year Ahead
Each New Year brings a rich mix of ambition and opportunity. You get a chance to look ahead to a better life, resolving to be healthier and happier, and leave the problems behind.
The thing is, when you live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), problems tend to stick around. A chronic disease can leave you feeling helpless, and you might be tempted to ignore New Year’s resolutions altogether.
However, this could be the perfect opportunity to help your body heal, and boost your quality of life. Small steps, reasonable expectations, and a healthy mindset are the keys to making resolutions that you can stick with.
Take the Time to Assess and Reorganize
Before you decide on any concrete goals or major life changes for the year ahead, take a moment to truly reflect on where you are right now. How has this last year treated you? How do feel, both physically and mentally? Has there been a major change or challenge recently that’s affecting your positivity and disease management? It’s difficult to know where to go without really understanding where you are.
Compliance, Compassion and Connection
Everyone is different, and your best way forward in health and happiness may not work for someone else. However, there are some key areas that everyone with COPD should consider for a more fulfilling life in the New Year.
When it comes to how you interact with people around you, try to strike a balance between giving and receiving. Be receptive to your doctor and support network, but don’t be passive. You have things to contribute, too, and that can make a big difference in your quality of life.
Resolution: Comply With Your Doctor's Orders
Most people are stubborn when it comes to certain things, especially their health. This is just human nature, and if you figure that you know best, you’re certainly not alone. However, if you can take a step back, swallow your pride, and let an expert guide you, you’ll find that progress and success comes more quickly.
Listen to your doctor, and stick to the treatment plan they’ve assigned you. It may not always be comfortable, and you will have to commit some time and effort, but pulmonary rehab and targeted medication aren’t simply arbitrary suggestions — they will improve your health and extend your life. Consistency is key, so stay focused and determined.
Resolution: Keep up Social Connections
COPD is isolating. When you have bad days, it’s natural to want to stay inside, especially considering barometric pressure and breathing are so closely linked.
However, isolation can lead to depression, and falling into depression will make your COPD symptoms a lot worse: studies have shown that depression in COPD is associated with more hospitalizations and poorer survival.
A healthy social life is an important weapon in the fight against depression, so make it a point to stay more connected to family and friends this year. Don’t let yourself go more than a few days without enjoying a visit or conversation with someone, and attend more social events. You can even start to plan a spring or summer holiday with some friends or family, which will give you something to look forward to.
Resolution: Apply Yourself to Other Projects
It can be so easy to dwell on your COPD pains and challenges, leaving little room for optimism and growth. Distraction is always helpful; distraction with a noble, compassionate purpose is even better.
Let your condition motivate you to forge new connections with people who understand what you’re going through, and also those who are simply in need of compassionate support. Look for volunteering opportunities in your community, or see how you can get involved in a local COPD or lung health organization. Offering your strength, perspective and energy to others will not only make a huge difference in their lives, but it will remind you of your own capabilities, rather than your limitations.
Learning to Relax and Recharge
Relaxing your body and mind can ease the tension that’s hampering your breathing. However, relaxation is more than sitting on the sofa for a few hours. To really release the strain and stress that’s building in your lungs and in your mind, you have to get proactive in your relaxation routine.
Resolution: Help Your Body Heal
The damage to your lungs may not be entirely reversible, but there are ways to set the staging for healing to occur. Healthy habits can help your body stay energized, ward off injury, and regenerate your cells:
- A positive attitude. Positivity can have more of an impact on your symptoms than you might realize. Take some time to cultivate a positive attitude now, so you’ll be better able to help yourself through tough times.
- A healthier diet. Eating well keeps you feeling alert, strong and energized. The more strength and energy you have, the better your muscles can heal, and the easier it is to keep good posture and stay mobile.
- Good muscle tone. Exercise is crucial for COPD patients. Simply walking more often can help you lose weight, reduce stress, and protect against depression and osteoporosis. However, some resistance training will keep your muscles toned, and that will help support your ribs, lungs and airways.
Take the tie to meet with a nutritionist and pulmonary rehab specialist to get started, so you know you’re on the right track. It’s important to build up gradually, so don’t expect too much out of yourself right away.
Resolution: Practice Your Breathing
Breathing exercises can have immediate and long-term results, and should take a central role in your relaxation routine. Studies show that deep breathing can fight off anxiety, lift your mood, and boost your lung power. Start setting aside some time each day (preferably, a few times each day) to practice your deep and controlled breathing, especially when you start to feel short of breath.
Meditation and yoga are two practices that make use of conscious breathing for a more positive and calm state of mind. Why not try one of these mindful practices this year?
Resolution: Make More Time for Yourself
This year put yourself ahead of your other obligations. You need to make time to give your body more attention, and take a break from all the stress that falls on your shoulders. Reward yourself for your progress, and forgive your mistakes. A better self-image will make a huge difference in how to meet challenges and take control of your condition.
Use your “me” time not only to relax, unwind and strengthen, but also to gain more knowledge. The more you learn and understand about your COPD, the better you’ll be able to work with your doctor to manage your disease, and adapt when you need to.