November 19, 2019
For guys that strive to live healthy, the holidays represent a real test of our commitment. Seasonal parties, family dinners, and gifts of food and drink create a minefield of temptation.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are like a one-two punch to our most disciplined practices. Worse, there’s the social pressure to accept a behavioral “pass” that classifies overindulgence as acceptable because a recommitment to one’s health is forthcoming at New Years. We know how that turns out.
Whether you’re deep into a diet and exercise regimen, just starting a healthier lifestyle, or seriously looking to kick-off the new you in 2020, the social motivation playbook for healthy behavior can help you navigate the period, and, perhaps more importantly, build a platform for long-term success.
Here’s what I mean:
Being aware of the season’s challenges is important, but even more essential is recognizing the heightened motivational opportunities present in the same rituals that foster the challenges. A man’s most cherished and loving relationships form the core of his motivation. It’s the “why” behind the men who are able to sustain positive lifestyles.
So, while the dinners and parties are obvious temptations, they also represent a reinforcement of these valued relationships. Spending extra time with family and friends, reconnecting with those you may not see regularly, and generally soaking-in the affection in the air can boost your awareness and serve as a loud reminder as to why you should practice a healthy lifestyle.
For me, the holidays mean spending time with my adult children, getting quality time with our grandson, catching up with friends, and getting away to someplace warm with my wife for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The season has a way of compressing life’s most meaningful experiences and presenting them front and center.
The trick is to step back from the madness and appreciate what’s right in front of you. It’s this cognitive connection that drives the healthy guys. This year, engage in a little behavioral jujitsu. Envision the time as an opportunity to strengthen your bonds with the ones that count most in your life and reflect on your future with each and every one of them. Use this refreshed perspective to invoke the discipline your need to say on course and avoid the over indulgence. Flip the moment from negative to positive wellbeing with the power of your interactions.
Healthy behavior is a team sport. It’s a central tenant of the playbook. A man should not go it alone when it comes to building a robust social calendar that triggers motivation and purpose. This is particularly important when building strategies that combine social and behavioral activities in which diet and exercise become a shared experience. Holiday connections are a great time to poll your loving constituency for an updated assessment of the activities you may enjoy together.
Do you know what your grandchild is currently into? What’s the hot attraction that he or she might love to enjoy with their grandfather? Might the time be right to start staying overnight at granddad’s house? Is there a new restaurant that your adult kids would like to try? Perhaps a family vacation with the grandkids? A new volunteer opportunity or civic cause that spurs your interest?
On integrating healthy behaviors, is there an adult child who’d like to try a 5K with Dad? How about a buddy who’s flirted with a gym membership and could be persuaded to finally sign-up if he had a colleague with the same interest? You get it.
Whether your goal is to sustain a healthy lifestyle or get a head start on next year, there are three basic steps to maximize the opportunity and really seize the moment.
Now, I don’t expect you to spend days studying party guest lists, but a little homework on who you may run into can go a long way. Consider if you’ll encounter any candidates for growing a deeper or perhaps a new social or behavioral relationship. Include colleagues at work and community relationships. Mentally inventorying your prospects and their potential to boost your social and emotional aspirations can make a big difference.
Ditch the Small Talk, Get Details
Superficial small talk is an art in high use during the holidays. However, when it comes to your prospects, dive deeper. Get the details. Don’t be afraid to probe. They’ll appreciate your interest and it’s a great way to mine for some ideas. Whether you are talking to a four-year old, 40-year old or beyond, show interest and find some fun and, possibly healthy ways, to enjoy each other’s company. Shoot for at least one or two specific activities to pursue from each of your top prospects.
Planning and evaluating opportunities are great foundations, but the key is to act on your research. Jot down the activities as soon as possible after your talk and then assemble a master list for follow-up in January.
Now, I’m not naïve. The holidays are a time for fun and I don’t mean to make a party into a strategy session. However, talking about common interests, asking grandchildren how they like to have fun and generally being social can be both fun and informative. The tactics are mutually aligned.
There’s power in the proximity of your emotional motivators and a man’s loving constituency doesn’t get any closer than at the holidays. Why not flip this annual concession to unhealthy behavior on its head this year? Recognize that you’re surrounded by your “why” for a healthy lifestyle and leverage the hell out of the experience. It’s a gamechanger that offers a whole new definition of a memorable holiday.
Louis Bezich, senior vice president of strategic alliances at Cooper University Health Care, is author of "Crack The Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50."