Earlier this year I read a book that inspired me to make some much-needed changes for my health. The book, The Self-Care Solution, a Year of Becoming Happier, Healthier, and Fitter–One Month At a Time, described how Dr. Jennifer Ashton inadvertently improved her emotional and physical health over the course of a year. Her journey started in January and she picked a different challenge to work on each month. I didn’t start the book until several months into the year and still easily followed her format of one challenge per month. I also skipped around a bit and did my challenges in a different order that worked better for me, as well as customizing some of them to match my situation and preferences.
The layout of the book kept me engaged as I read what she decided to work on and how each week of the month went for her. She shared the science behind why she chose the challenges she did, and by her going over the benefits of sticking with each challenge I found it easier to stay the course myself because I wanted those benefits too! She also shared tips at the end of each challenge to increase my chances of succeeding, and I’d usually find several that made a difference between my continuing the challenge, or not.
Dr. Ashton shared her experiences working on health-related challenges that included: a dry month; more exercise; meditation; healthier eating; hydration; mindful technology; stretching; better sleep and she wrapped up the year with laughter. She picked things to work on that I personally could relate to needing to improve in my own life. I also appreciated that she offered different ways to approach each challenge which made it possible for me to start where I was at and make meaningful progress.
Dry Month Challenge
I started with a no alcohol month as Dr. Ashton did (for me, this was in March, when COVID-19 first made its appearance). Doing this particular challenge allowed me to better deal with the stress of that time. I found healthier ways to cope that didn’t include the glass of wine that wasn’t actually helping me. Learning about so many great reasons to remove alcohol from my life has kept me completely alcohol-free six months later. I definitely credit Dr. Ashton for starting me on that path. I also gained more life-altering insights about the effects of alcohol on my health from a second book I read. That book, Quit Like A Woman, written by Holly Whitaker, cemented my resolve to completely eliminate alcohol from my life. I probably wouldn’t have even read that second book if I wasn’t already doing the no-alcohol challenge.
Plank & Push-up Challenge
The next challenge I accepted while reading Dr. Ashton’s book was to strengthen my core and arm muscles with planks and push-ups. I already had the habit of stretching every morning, so it wasn’t hard to add these to my existing routine. I’m happy to report that I’m still doing them most mornings! And I’m now able to do push-ups from my toes, which I’ve never done before in my life!
I have continued to care for myself in one new way each month (and sometimes two months) and am seeing real improvement in my health. I’m at a healthier weight, more hydrated, stronger and have more energy. I’ve tried different methods over the years and by limiting what I’m working on to one thing a month, I’ve found success that I was missing those other times. I’ve also found that approaching these challenges as ways to care for myself and focusing on the benefits of doing each one has made it easier for me to succeed.
There aren’t that many times that reading a book has had such a positive impact on my health, or for such a long period of time. I usually stick with new routines a week or two at the most. Reading and implementing the ideas in this book has been a real confidence boost! I think this book hit the mark for me because Dr. Ashton wrote it in such an easy-to-relate-to manner, broke the challenges down into small chunks, and provided so many good reasons for me to stick with each of the challenges I decided to accept! If you decide to read this book and make changes to some of your health habits, I would love to hear about your experiences! Simply comment below, or send me a private message.