When we think of New Year's resolutions, we're usually conditioned to think that whatever we choose has to be some ~be all, end all~ affair that will drastically change our behavior and change our lives forever and ever — which is exactly why we all crash and burn in approximately .3 seconds. (Props if you've outlasted my record, though.) In the interest of making actually productive, manageable changes, I have turned my human body into an experiment over the course of the next month, and am trying out one helpful addition to my morning routine each week, so I can see if I'm feeling myself and test drive these resolutions like a fancy car before I commit to taking them off the lot.
Full disclosure: some of these are a little bizarre. Over the next month, I will spend one week waking up and immediately writing down three positive things (precious!), eating dinner for breakfast (less precious!), taking cold showers (please send help!!!!), and attempting yoga and meditation, a feat that has proved so arduous to me in the past that you might just hear my brain-thoughts weeping from thousands of miles away. Some of this is borne out of curiosity, but all of it is backed in some way behind supportive research that little changes like these might actually improve your human existence. The question is, can someone actually commit to any of them full-time, and enjoy it while they do?
You can track my progress on Bustle's Instagram story "2017 IRL: Morning Mixup With Emma" the first four Mondays in January, and check in here week-to-week to learn more about the reasoning behind each of the four morning switch-ups. WISH ME LUCK, FELLOW HUMANS.
Psst! Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App for daily tips on how to have an empowering 2017 starting Jan. 1. Right now, tweet @bustle about how you plan to make 2017 the best year yet. Use the hashtag #2017IRL, and your tweet could be featured on our app.
I'm gonna be real with everyone here: I was on a solo trip to London and Edinburgh during this part of the experiment, which miiiiiight have just skewed it a tad, for I was one very happy tea-guzzling, scone-inhaling, America-defecting human being.
So yes, the Bustle Instagram chronicle of that week involves lots of gross pictures of me being happy and a legitimate, actual rainbow. But! Even if I were already happy, I do feel that writing down what I felt grateful for truly heightened the experience, and gave a visual element to things I was grateful for that I can't necessarily see or imagine as a static image in my head. (Like, love, and stuff.)
This was actually inspired by Action For Happiness, which recommends people write three things they're grateful for daily. And it turns out, those good feelings we have about writing down our happy unicorn feels aren't imaginary. A study at UC Davis that had participants keep gratitude journals found that the test group experienced an increase in optimism, better quality of sleep, and were more likely to make progress toward their goals.
And honestly, as far as resolutions go, this is pretty low commitment for what could reap some awesome potential rewards.
Of all the things I'm trying for this experiment, this is probably the one I was most wary of. My obsession with breakfast foods puts Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson to shame. If I could, I would eat breakfast every meal of the day — when McDonald's announced all day breakfast I genuinely considered living in one.
While some have heralded dinner for breakfast as a means to keep themselves focused and not be hella hangry by lunch time, the trick behind this method isn't so much that it's dinner; it's just that dinners are typically more protein-based, and protein is responsible for those handy biological effects. But because "eat protein for breakfast" isn't nearly as exciting as "EAT DINNER FOR BREAKFAST THEREBY DESTROYING THE FRAGILE ORDER OF THE TIME-MEAL CONTINUUM," that's how this trend came to pass.
And there is merit to it — a recent study showed that people who got 35 grams of protein for breakfast were less hungry throughout the day and able to focus more on their tasks (and, I presume, save themselves ten dollars when they ravenously sprint to Pret in a hangry rage, too hungry to consider making their own food in the office). While I definitely noticed during the course of the experiment that I was generally more focused on alert on the days I had more protein-based breakfasts for dinners (a quinoa almond salad and leftover beef fried rice, for instance), the days when I had more accurate depictions of my dinners (pizza, cheesy bread, literally just cheese and crackers, don't look at me), I was RAVENOUS by noon.
So is this dinner for breakfast effective? Yes, and no. Really, it only works so long as your meal is pretty protein-heavy, however you wish to make that happen. But is it worth the psychological damage of denying yourself your favorite breakfast foods? Hard no from me. Tune into Bustle's Instagram story to see more of my 9 a.m salad adventures!
Gather round the fire, ye olde readers of Bustle, as I tell you the story of what might just be the least hygienic week of my life!
Before I dive into my existential crisis re: only showering three times this past week, I'll explain the hype of the idea of taking cold showers in the morning. The first advantage is, of course, that by taking colder showers, you're helping the environment (assuming that you are a warm-blooded mammal who responds to cold water by getting the heck out of it as fast as you can). The other supposed benefits of cold showers are decidedly more selfish — cold or lukewarm water is supposed to help stop acne by preventing the stripping of natural oils, and also helps curb breakage in your hair.
To be fair, is certainly not my first cold shower rodeo. I run outside in the summers, and cold showers are a legitimate necessity, because otherwise I will continue to sweat after I get out of the shower because my body hasn't cooled down yet from working out like a gremlin yet. (Sexy, I know.) This was, however, my first rodeo with taking cold showers in the winter, and it was predictably not the best.
I will say, my hair definitely seemed softer throughout the week. This might have been because I was ducking out before the conditioner was all washed out, or it could be because I ended up washing my hair a little less this week, for mortal fear of the Cold Shower Of Doom.
As for my skin, though? Apparently it took a week off in 2017 and drove the bus down to Adult Acne Town. I ended up with more zits this week than I usually get in a month or two. Perhaps the stress of dreading my freezing cold 6 a.m. showers just before ducking out into 19 degree chill?
Anyway, my final verdict on this: Life is short. Even if cold showers in winter gave me unicorn hair and flawless velvet skin, I would probably still pick the scorchers. Until next summer, cold showers.
The fourth and final morning mixup was one that I had mixed previous experience with — meditating directly after waking up. In the past, when I have done this, one of two things has happened: I have either accidentally fallen back asleep and woken up in a fit of panic a half hour later, or I have felt the crushing anxiety of being "unproductive" like an actual boulder on my brain.
Incidentally, meditation is supposed to help with a lot of things, including anxiety. Previous study in meditation have found that it not only reduces stress, but that over time, it even changes parts of the brain associated with learning, decision making, stress, and empathy. Participants frequently report feeling more open-minded and compassionate, with a clearer sense of their goals.
While I don't doubt these experiences or the science behind them, I, for one, did not experience any of that in my week of meditation. In fact, the anxiety I felt doing it the first day only seemed to get worse throughout the week. I'm aggressively a morning person, and by virtue of that I like to be productive the minute I get up — I'll usually go for a run or open my computer and start writing, which are my own forms of "meditation," I suppose. Since meditating first thing in the morning conflicted with that instant satisfaction of being productive that I usually feel each day, it just left me more stressed than ever.
Of course, I doubt this would be the case if I did this in the long term, or tried to opt for some other time of day to meditate. But as for this particular round of "morning mixup," I'm gonna have to give it a hard pass.
Check out the "You IRL" stream in the Bustle App starting on January 1 for daily tips on how to have an empowering 2017.