It’s not your lifestyle that’s the problem!
“I need to change my lifestyle. It’s not working for me. I need to be healthier.” I hear this, or a version of this, many times a day as clients reach out for support in their well-being. Suddenly, it occurs to me how ridiculous it is – this thought of “lifestyle”.
Style is something that is fleeting. The “style of the season” is layers and suede; blue is the new black; punk revival and airbrush surrealism.
Style is something that is easily changed. Bored with your hair – get it cut; tired of the usual wardrobe – go shopping; need a change of pace – take up running.
But when it comes to health, fleeting and easy-to-change doesn’t quite fit. If it were easy, over 40% of society wouldn’t be struggling with obesity and mental health would be improving. The problem with changing your health is that you don’t have a lifestyle…you have a life habit. And habits can be quite challenging to change.
A habit is a “settled or regular tendency or practice”; it is something that is repeated until it sticks. Habits can be helpful like brushing your teeth twice a day. Habits can be hurtful, like eating donuts before brushing those teeth.
Habits make life easier and quicker as it’s an ingrained behavior which requires very little energy to make it happen. The brain likes a good habit because it doesn’t have to think about one more thing!
So when you’re considering your health, you’re really looking at your habits. If you don’t like what you see, there’s good news – habits can change!
But it does take effort. Now you have to make your brain think. Now you have to act with discipline. Now you have to be mindful of your actions and behaviors.
If you’re thinking “Boo – this sounds like work. No thank you. Give me a magic pill,” that’s Ok. Habits only change when you are ready to do the work. But keep in mind – there is no magic pill, and certainly nothing that will last without changing your habits. Bummer I know, but there’s good news. A few simple changes can make it easier to create better Life Habits.
First, consider your mindset. Approach the effort as a new opportunity or challenge rather than work. If you decide to climb a 14er, that’s a new challenge (not work). If you decide to learn how to cook, that’s a new challenge (not work). Words matter to our brain and our emotions. Reframing your mindset into a positive outlook by using positive words, like opportunity, keeps your perspective geared toward positive change.
Second, treat your health as a new hobby. We spend countless hours on our hobbies – from gaming to dancing to crafting to skiing. Imagine the impact if we adopted eating well, moving our bodies and practicing gratitude as our hobby! (Best of all, hobbies aren’t work.)
Also, aim to improve incrementally – by 1% every day as Author James Clear states in his book, Atomic Habits. “Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change.” This means crawl before you walk (or run). Start small with your new self-hobby – add a fruit to a meal twice a day or walk for 10 minutes. If you eat out 7 days a week try going down to 5, then 3, then 1. Pick an action that is doable right now, however small, and do it. Then do it again, and again, and again. Remember Habits are made through repeated action!
Lastly, get help. This is where a Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach (hello, that’s me!) can be your best ally. James Clear says to get an “accountability partner”. Think of a health coach as an accountability partner on steroids (the healthy version)! Not only will I help to keep you accountable, but I will guide you into a deeper understanding of YOU so you make the choices that will have the greatest impact on reaching your health goals. Good health starts with good choices…and that means good choices in every aspect of living from your relationships with people and food to your environment and stress levels. I’ve found the best method for habit change is to start with being Mindful – simply paying attention – but with intention!
If you’re ready to create a new Life Habit. Let’s talk. The conversation is free but the potential benefit is priceless. Final thought – any change you want to make, you can totally do it! You are always creating – create something amazing for you!