Four Steps To A Healthier, Happier You, Without Giving Anything Up!
It’s that time of year where we are all prone to overindulge in some of our less than healthy habits, only to spend January self-flagellating and purging ourselves. We seem to see excess as a reward and healthy habits as a punishment. When we talk about New Year’s resolutions, the focus is often on what we will be ‘giving up’ or ‘quitting’ which inevitably leaves us feeling penalised not positive.
When have you ever heard a smoker announce, on New Year’s eve, that they will be improving their lung and heart health, enhancing their sense of taste and smell, raising their life expectancy and saving nearly £5,000 in 2017. It’s certainly a far more appealing proposition than giving something up.
It’s important to recognise that all of our bad habits have a positive intention, no matter how misguided they may be and if you don’t address that then you leave a gaping hole for that habit to return.
So, this year why not focus on bringing positive habits into your life and allow those negative habits to just drift away naturally?
1. Take something up, don’t give something up
There are two types of motivation: ‘away from’ (something you don’t want) and ‘towards’ (something you do want.)
‘Away from’ motivation can provide a powerful kick start but it tends to peter out. An overweight person might look in the mirror and be so upset by what they see that they commit to losing weight, but as the pounds drop off, they look better and motivation wains. There is no focus on a clear goal.
If a big spider jumps out at you, which way will you jump? It doesn’t really matter, does it? You jump out of the way! You won’t be thinking about the direction you are moving in and, when the threat of the spider is no longer imminent, you stop moving. ‘Away from’ motivation is directionless. It’s also quite stressful because it only works when you focus on all the unpleasant stuff.
‘Towards’ motivation, in contrast, works by focussing on a clear and positive goal and, just like sat nav, no matter how many times you take a wrong turn (as you inevitably will), it will just recalibrate until you’re back on track. What’s more, as you get closer to your goal, you get more excited and more motivated to reach your compelling vision.
2. Take small steps
We are creatures of habit. For most of us, life is busy and we take solace in those little routines we have that allow us to operate on autopilot. Change is exciting because it forces us to really wake up and be present, but too much change in a busy life can make us feel overwhelmed and we will quickly revert to our old habits.
Introduce just one or two small, positive changes at a time; enjoy them and allow them to become part of your routine, before introducing more. You’ll be surprised how quickly these changes will snowball into the positive results you are looking for.
3. Be mindful
Our bodies communicate with us all the time - if only we would listen. Instead of denying yourself the chocolate that is tempting you, try eating it mindfully. Instead of shoving it in while you’re on the go (I’ve been there too), take the time to really savour the experience of eating the chocolate, notice the taste and texture and the way it makes you feel, ask yourself what the chocolate does for you, pay attention to your body as you eat it. You might find you don’t like it as much as you thought you did or you might notice that the first piece is the best (which is why it’s worth savouring) and, after two pieces, it’s not going down so well. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a third to check, but then you can put it away for another time when you can really enjoy it.
4. Be kind to yourself
The thing about quitting is that the minute you eat that packet of crisps / light that cigarette/ drink that glass of wine, you’ve failed and you will just have to wait another year for another doomed attempt.
Allow yourself not to be perfect. Embracing a healthier you should feel good. It should feel like a gift, like self-love. If you don’t make it to the gym, instead of beating yourself up, try asking yourself why. Talk to yourself like you would a friend. Be understanding. Sometimes we need a duvet day more than we need a six pack. Enjoy whatever you do instead, mindfully, recalibrate and get back on track when you’re ready.
In 2017 I am going to introduce more raw food to my diet. What are you going to take up in 2017?