Whats the one mistake I see clients make over and over again? Trying to overhaul their life in a short space of time. The all or nothing mentality is guaranteed to foil your chances of long term success.
Meditation, oil-pulling, yoga, walking, time in the sun, essential oils, reading, foam rolling, green juices, dry brushing, 10,000 steps, long baths, candles, crystals, self-improvement, all of it.
The overwhelm of trying to do all the things that are good for us could be our undoing. Sometimes the stress and anxiety caused by trying to get it all perfectly right can be more detrimental than not even trying to do those things in the first place.
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself - Ralph Waldo Emerson
We hear about all the things we “should” be doing. Doing for us, for our health, for our family. But who has all that time? It’s a full-time job to get all of those things done. It’s no surprise that research has been published showing that we associate business with success. Many of us tend towards the perfectionist side and when we lapse on all of the things we want to get done, we tend to feel guilty and beat ourselves up.
Social media does not help here, it looks like everyone is getting it all done except for me!
I love this idea of listing out your weekly self-care non-negotiables here (be realistic!) and ticking them off as you do them. Next week start again. The Minimalists get it right in this blog post. I love their work and this is a great simple explanation on how to make sure you are devoting time to yourself each week.
But the key as always is balance let’s not be so hard on ourselves if we didn't get it done. Relax with the step counting, biohacking, measuring our self-improvement from time to time.
Every day do something that brings you one step close to your goals.
Personally what I’ve experienced to be the biggest roadblock for lasting lifestyle changes seems to be habits. We form them without realising it and now they control what drink we choose at the cafe, what groceries we put into our basket without even thinking, what restaurants we default to for a dinner out and even what we order.
Lasting Healthy Habits
Habits are when our behaviours become automatic. Our brains are constantly looking for shortcuts, and these automatic behaviours are a big way of cutting corners on having to think too much. This is how bad habits also form, our mind reverts to the easier default response no matter how bad it is for us. Breaking bad habits can be more successful if it is changed or replaced with something else.
One habit I was happy to make was flossing my teeth every night. It seems trivial but when I was younger I rarely flossed. While growing up, the health of my teeth was not the best. I made a personal decision to improve this. Driven by how expensive the dentist can be, how irreversible tooth damage is and how a bad set of teeth can actually impact on the overall health of the rest of my body. Now years later I rarely think about flossing each night, it gets done just the same as brushing.
Replace bad habits with new behaviours
Creating good new healthy habits can take a little effort but once it's set it won't require much thought. I made a habit out of drinking a powdered greens drink every morning before having coffee, breakfast or anything else and I stuck with it for years. I formed a habit of drinking black coffee and liking it. I formed habits of default go-to meals being salads or big one pan meat and vegetable dinners.
I figured the best way to form a new habit was to acknowledge exactly what I wanted my new behaviour to be. Then to do it every day or the specific days until it becomes the default. Trying to change more than one behaviour is hard for me, too many balls in the air. Another thing that helps is associating a particular behaviour with something else. Like waking up and taking a supplement every morning. Or flossing every night after brushing. Both I associated and included into existing routines I have going on.
One roadblock can be routine changes. When I quit my job I stopped drinking my green drink every morning. The organization of my mornings were askew and I no longer stuck to my old routine. Another time I ran out of a specific supplement and didn’t get more for a couple of months when it arrived it sat lonely and unopened as I was out of the habit of taking it every morning.
Build Good Habits
The joy with habits is that years later, I realised a majority of my daily positive lifestyle choices were not choices anymore, just habits. For example; it isn't hard to get back to my normal eating after a holiday because it’s become so routine. The key here is time, bad habits were not formed in a day, so adding positive habits won’t happen overnight either. But it is encouraging to know that good habits become part of my life, all I need is time.
I made this quick list of things to boost mood by stimulating serotonin production mainly as a reminder to myself. I’ve been plagued by persistent grey cloud moods throughout most of my life starting in my teens. When I saw a psychiatrist we talked about recognising mood patterns and trying to do something about them before it gets worse.
Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters naturally occurring in our brains, low amounts are associated with feelings of doom, gloom, anger, worry, low confidence and low self-esteem, negative thoughts you can’t seem to turn off and many more. There are other neurotransmitters that could be low like catecholamines, GABA, and endorphins. Being low in one of these would cause different low mood symptoms. The Mood Cure is a must read if you need nutritional and supplemental help for depression, apathy or just bad moods for no reason.
Has been shown to boost serotonin production and make us feel good, although the effects aren't as long lasting as I’d like. Get that heavy, deep breathing going; plenty of oxygen is necessary to form serotonin.
Being exposed to bright light, usually from the sun can boost production of serotonin and also help regulate sleep. Regular household light bulbs just don’t cut it, get outside even if it’s overcast for at least 30 minutes.
Protein and healthy fats
Serotonin is made from an amino acid called tryptophan so make sure to include plenty of protein so you have the building blocks required. The brain is made from fat so make sure to include plenty of butter from grass-fed animals, pastured eggs, nuts, coconut oil, etc.
Bad mood instigators
What to avoid to help those feel-good serotonin levels? Stimulants like energy drinks, caffeinated soda or coffee can leave us feeling depleted after the energy high has worn off. Aspartame is also best avoided, not only is it a man-made chemical sweetener, one of its main ingredients phenylalanine converts to stimulating substances in the body and compete with serotonin in the brain.
Limit sugar and junk food, bad moods may cause us to turn to food to comfort ourselves but this just drives cravings for more nutrient-poor food and pushes more nutrient dense food off of our plate.
Success and Failure
I have heard of this mindset shift exercise talked about in relation to small business but I think it can perfectly apply to health.
Write down your goals or priorities, where you want to be in 5 or 10 years with your health, fitness, meditation or yoga practise. Think how future you will spend their day.
Fake it till you make it
Now start acting and spending your time like you are there. You already lost the weight, you fit into your old jeans, you feel confident in your swimsuit. Most importantly you love yourself, now. You have achieved your goals, you are successful and proud. Your day today and every day is exactly how you want your day to be once you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.
You confidently head into that spin class and then throw together a dinner future you would be proud of. We want our brains to stop seeing those roadblocks and just see the end goal, and trust that the results will happen.
We all know that person who wants to make healthier habits, get more exercise, cook healthy meals but just can’t seem to get there. Is motivation lacking? Maybe they just don’t care. I don’t think anyone should offer unsolicited advice to someone in their life. I like the saying “when the student is ready, the master will appear”. We can’t talk someone into making changes in their lives, but if they decide to want to make changes and need help - be there for them.
What's stopping you?
If making lasting healthy changes in your life are important then what is the roadblock? Everyone has those days that we feel that we have failed too many times. Too slow, too big, not good enough. Take comfort in the fact that every person (yes, even that person who seems to lead an impossibly perfect life) has those same feelings from time to time. It’s just that some people let those feelings stop them from leading their best lives. Others acknowledge those thoughts and then push them aside and say not today.
So how to tackle big lifestyle changes? Just like eating an elephant, one bite at a time.
Commit to cooking more meals at home.
Bring your lunch to work.
Prep meal ingredients ahead for the week.
Read ingredient labels.
Add more fresh vegetables.
Be more consistent with exercise, walking counts!
Cultivate a morning routine.
In bed by 10 pm.
Focus on one thing at a time and make it measurable. What you measure you improve. So put a number on it. You will bring your own lunch 4 days a week to work. You will get active 3 days this week. Set reminders on your phone or calendar. Once you make it a habit and it doesn't take much effort, incorporate something new.
What new healthy habit do you want to incorporate into your life? One of mine is making my bed every morning.