Winter is arguably the most challenging season to hit your health goals. It’s darker, colder, and harder to get off the couch in inclement conditions. The fix is easier said than done, but it’s important to show up for yourself—even when you’re not exactly feeling motivated. Make smart goals you won’t want to break, plan ahead to anticipate obstacles, and stay on track during the toughest season of the year; here, behavioral health advisor Kelley Hoag, M.S., Founder of Root to Rise, shares five ways to do it.
Follow the ROSE goal-setting method. Hoag is a fan of smart, intuitive goal-setting. She came up with the acronym “ROSE” for making sure your goals are realistic and meetable.
- R is for Reason, she says, which means “identifying why this goal matters to you and making sure it’s authentic.” Make sure motivation is internal, not societal.
- O is for Obstacle, or thinking about “what has gotten in your way in the past, so you can get ahead of it in the future.” Maybe that’s a lack of structure or too much structure.
- S is for Steps, Hoag says. “Break each goal down into actionable steps,” she explains. “How can you set yourself up this week for success three months from now?” Crash diets and strict fitness schedules may not do it.
- E is for Emotions. “Visualize yourself achieving this goal, and write about the feelings this evokes in the present tense, connecting your present and future self emotionally,” Hoag says.
This should help set you on the path toward meeting your goals.
Change your routine, and meet yourself where you’re at. You may run miles every week during the spring, summer, and fall, but perhaps winter isn’t the time to force that goal on yourself. “It can be difficult to find motivation when it’s cold and dark, so we have to meet ourselves where we’re at,” says Hoag. “How can you still incorporate movement, eating healthy, etc., in a way that feels good?”
As humans, Hoag says it’s normal and natural to adapt seasonally. “It’s okay and encouraged to change up your routine from fall to winter,” she explains. “Maybe that means shifting from running to yoga, from a morning workout to an evening one, or from eating cold salads to warm bowls.” Don’t get so glued to a single idea of health that you can’t see it’s detracting from healthy habits.
Warm up with healthy comfort foods. Comfort foods can still be healthy, and they can also be simple. Plan healthy meal-prep ideas into your lifestyle that also nourish your chilled, wintertime soul. “Personally, I keep meal prep pretty simple,” Hoag says. “I’ll roast a big batch of veggies and mix them with beans, other proteins, and eggs throughout the week. Root vegetables are especially nurturing right now. Oatmeal is my go-to breakfast at the moment; your body knows what it wants and needs, so the best thing to do is tune in and ask it.”
Assist your goals where motivation might be lacking, too. You don’t need to make dinner every night to keep a nutritious diet. “If cooking is draining your energy, let it go. If you feel yourself being bogged down by ‘shoulds’—I should cook more meals at home, I should work out more, I should go to sleep earlier—see how you can replace those with something that feels more aligned,” Hoag says. Takeout and delivery services aren’t inherently bad choices, she insists. “If it makes you happy while freeing up your time and energy and keeping you on track with your goals, that sounds like a win to me.”
Define what makes you feel successful and fulfilled. Yes, set your goals. But also “find fun and flexibility within the structure” of what makes you successful at meeting them, says Hoag. “I know what nourishes me,” she explains, “like yoga, meditation, coffee, music, reading, being warm, and community, so I fill my day with as much of that as possible.”
When you feel knocked off track, Hoag says it can be “helpful to make a list of what you’re in control of that makes you feel grounded,” so you can seek those things out whenever you feel unbalanced.
Don’t overdo it on promises, even to yourself. It’s easy to set unrealistic goals, especially when you’re used to achieving a lot during the warmer, more-zen months of the year. This season, “meet yourself where you’re at,” Hoag says again. “Create small, measurable promises to build self-trust, and unsubscribe, unfollow and cut out anything you can that’s depleting your energy,” she says, whether that’s a toxic diet or life-sucking workout. “This is how we connect to ourselves, make our routines authentic to us, and therefore, sustainable.”
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.