I know change is difficult – if it were easy all of us would be eating kale, drinking water and working out every day. Our habits are the definitions of our lives, because, quite frankly- each life is made up of what we actually do – not what we say we are going to do, what we think about doing or what we plan on doing. Tough – huh?
What is the big deal with change? – Why is it so difficult to do things we really want to do, things that we know will serve us well and lead to good health and real joy? Simple – habits! Habits are pre-programmed actions, that our brain automatically takes in certain situations. We have done these actions so many times that it has become a default setting and the brain goes ahead and does them without much input from us (this can become unconscious living).
Changing eating habits and adopting a healthy lifestyle sounds simple. It means we have to change our habits. Unfortunately, despite many books and programs on t the market with messages to the contrary, it takes work. We have to change our habits around good food choices and moving more, as well as our thoughts about .. our selves, success, certain foods… the list goes on. It takes mental work and strategy. Planning and implementation is the key to success. Remember the reason for good health, is to make changes that will bring your life into balance so you can do many things as a part of a great life.
Step 1 – Awareness. Basically becoming a Private Investigator on your self. The key is to understand why you have the habit in the first place. Are the actions you are taking – actually giving you the results you desire? Are there any negative side effects? In this step you study your habits, not only the ONE you want to change, but also the associated ones. For example, it is 3:00 pm you are at your desk and suddenly you stop what you are doing and walk over to get a snack or a cup of coffee – you may not realize that this happens just about every single day. The first step is to pay attention at about 2:30 – check in with yourself, what are you thinking, how are you feeling. Also think about what feeling you are trying to achieve by drinking the coffee or eating the snack. Once you have the coffee or snack – continue to notice how your body responds,notice your feelings and your thoughts as well. Are you actually getting the results you want or does this habit – no longer serve you?
Step 2 – Acceptance. This is the step that people usually try to skip. Once they identify what they want to change they just try to force a change using will power. Acceptance is an essential step if any changes implemented is going to be adopted for the long haul. Acceptance is recognizing where you are without judgment. It is a kind of truce with yourself – no more self-recriminating angry self talk, no more what ifs, and shoulda’s, no more judgments or shaming words. Things are as they are – unkind words/thoughts will not help you get to where you want to be. In fact, they actually act as hindrance, and create an internal resistance. It is at this step that we become our own allies, we begin to support ourselves, and love who we are despite where we are in relation to where we want to be. The “who” we are will not change. If we lose weight, eat more kale, or learn a second language we will still be the same person. That is where the love must be focused – inside. Acceptance brings peace and stops the war of words shooting through our heads. It also sets us up nicely for the next step.
Step 3 – Action. This is the step where the work starts. It is challenging to begin something new. To retrain our brain to get off of auto-pilot and make new choices. In Step 2, with acceptance of the truth of exactly where we are, we will know that we will not become experts on the first try. It follows, that with our own support – we will be able to stick with the small changes we start with and persevere, building the will-power muscle, and gaining courage and confidence to take on bigger and bigger challenges, building resilience for when we stumble. Because of Step 2 – Acceptance – we are not conning ourselves, we are implementing a strategy with back up plans and fail safe – and each time we make the new choice – the new habit is forming, no matter how many times we stumble – if we stick with it, the new habit will form.
It is important that we grow and change as we move through our lives. As a result we are going to have to constantly check-in on our habits, to see if they are still serving us.
With the 3-step process of Awareness, Acceptance and Action, we can to evolve into our best selves. The ultimate goal is creating happiness and contentment in our lives. Remember this is not a one-time deal.
As a Health Coach and Yoga Instructor, I get to assist people become self-aware, accepting of themselves, and truthful about where they are and what their personal journey really is. Each person is different, even siblings – so it goes to follow – your strategy and progress will differ from anyone else’s.
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You are a smart, successful woman. You have taken the world by the tail – you have traveled, won awards, led successful projects.
You used to have it all together, you were fit and beautiful. Now, you seem to have lost control – of your health and to some extent, your life. You are not bouncing back; you are not getting results like you did in your 20’s. You are not sure how to regain control. Everything you have tried has essentially failed.
What is the problem here? Why is it suddenly so difficult to get healthy?
It might be that your definition of “healthy” is skewed. Health is more than just calories and portion sizes; it is more than just eating less and moving more. Health is balance. Balance is not a static state of being. It is constantly shifting. We must be tuned in, constantly making adjustment to restore equilibrium.
Being healthy is not about being the perfect weight; it is emotional, mental and physical balance. Your body is an eco-system – several systems working together for the overall good of the whole. When one of the systems is “off” it throws the entire system out of balance.
Awareness is the first step. What does that mean?
It means, paying attention to yourself and your habits. Noticing how things (food, stress, emotions, friends, time of day) affect you. This is the key to developing a good plan to get you where you want to be, and keep you there for the long haul.
When you can identify precisely how you feel at different times of the day, what your stressors are, what causes you to “snack”, or when you are most energetic or sharp, then you can begin to strategically focus your attention and your actions. You can help yourself back to feeling good and regain control of your health and your life.
Taking action is the next step. Not big, sweeping changes, small changes, new habits, new ways of thinking about “old” patterns and what used to work.
Here are seven questions to ask yourself to determine where to start to take action to restore balance and regain control of your health:
As you can see, reclaiming your glow and vitality is about tuning in to yourself, all facets, not just what you are eating and how you are moving. Dr. Deepak Chopra, stresses that everything in the universe is connected, and the human body follows this model – so we have to pay attention to the whole and bring it into balance. It can seem overwhelming, figuring out where to focus and where to start. One suggestion is to keep a journal of what you eat, and how you feel at certain points of the day, eventually you will see the patterns. It may be worthwhile to seek support, a friend or a health coach can help you wade through the information. The seven questions will definitely help you begin your quest to regain control of hour health and life, and bring back that glow you are seeking. The idea is to institute small changes, shifting thoughts and creating new habits.
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Sharon MacGregor, is a Holistic Health Coach, Yoga Instructor, mother of 2 teenagers and a corporate refugee. She has re-claimed her health with food and yoga. She started the company Serene Serendipity Wellness to help women who have been side-tracked by life, rediscover their health, vitality and lust for life. She is an avid foodie, committed to the Farm to Fork movement, and supports local Farmers Market. www.sereneserendipity.com