Lifestyle changes begin with setting Intention. If you don’t have an intention, it easy to lose commitment to action. Intention is not a goal but an overarching frame for the “why” of doing something. For example, someone might have a goal of losing weight, but an overarching intention of feeling well, with more vitality for life and relationship, to live a fuller life.
Next is making a “do-able” commitment for at least a period of 21 days or more. It helps to name this as your 21 Day Challenge. If you know you have a challenge with a time limit, you can hang in day by day knowing that you are running an experiment to see what outcomes you might have at the end of the 21 days. Having said that, if you fall off your commitment, you do not need to ditch the entire remaining days; all you need to do is just “begin again,” right here and right now. Be sure to specifically name your commitment to action that you will do each day.
Write the intention and the commitment down. Not just once, but every day. It really is the way to stay focused on what you are wanting in your life. It doesn’t take long to jot down. For example: my intention is to feel more positive, my commitment is to go to sleep by 10pm each night and prior to sleep, name with specificity and sincerity what I am grateful for.
Lifestyle changes come about/ are made over time, with a steady turn of habits. This is crucial to remember because the trends, fads, diets, and gusto and excitement of the latest new idea fade quickly and are not user friendly. We have spent many years if not decades “cultivating” habits, behaviors, ways of thinking, that require a steady action to recalibrate. We need to “cultivate” new habits; like a new language or learning how to play a musical instrument–we don’t just do it, we cultivate it. Using the analogy of cultivating a garden, we plant the seed in soil we have prepared to receive it, our job then is to water, provide light, fertilizer, and keep the weeds from overtaking. We don’t then pull at the seedling and force it to grow; we create an environment that is conducive for it to thrive.
Intention, commitment, cultivation
And then you must practice:
On a daily basis choose what you are ready to implement and practice, practice, practice. It is not supposed to feel good right away. In fact, as you make healthier changes in your life, often you might initially feel worse. Some of this is related to becoming more aware and less sedated by negative behaviors, some has to do with physical toxicity, some to do with the aches and pains of newness, etc. This is why commitment is crucial and to stay focused on the “why” of what you are doing to stay the course.
Some options for living your best healthy lifestyle include:
- * Begin and end each day with contemplative practice: Mindful breath, mediation, prayer, focusing and connecting to whatever you sense as the essence of you, you can call it spirit if comfortable. Bookend your days with this stillness. This can really help you stay connected to what is essential to your wholeness. (health and healing really means a return to wholeness)
- * Movement everyday (notice I use the word movement vs. exercise). Movement can be of body, of bowels, of breath, of feelings, of expression……”illness comes from stagnation and healing from movement”
- * Aerobic movement for at least 30 minutes daily. Move and stretch throughout the day for better heart health and serotonin levels
- * Practice gratitude: become acutely aware of the simple pleasures and abundance of your life
- * Smile (sounds easy, but try it when you least feel like it, it has positive change in the nervous system and reinforms negativity bias)
- * Practice Loving Kindness (try to wish yourself good things instead of the negative self-talk, then extend to others)
- * Eat colorful natural foods and begin with good breakfast, essential for brain health and good metabolism (if you are skipping breakfast to lose weight it will have the opposite effect). Eat throughout the day with conscious awareness, 3 meals, 2 snacks, stop eating 2 hours prior to sleep to aide in better sleep.
- * Take breathing breaks throughout the day: begin with an exhale when feeling stress, it allows you to release and makes room for nice deep natural inhale. You can try the famous 4,7,8 breath I learned for Dr Andrew Weil, but has been a practice for over 2000 years. Tip of tongue placed behind two front teeth as fleshy bump, blow out and you will feel the wosh around your tongue, breathe in to count of 4, hold count of 7, exhale count of 8 for 4 rounds—serves to reduce urges and relieve anxiety and balance the nervous system.
- * Take time outside with nature. Nature is resilient and in rhythm. We lose ourselves with late nights, non-nutritious foods, lack of movement, excessive anxiety, etc. When we spend time in nature we can attune to its rhythms because they are our own.
- * Everyday be sure you are making contact with someone in a positive way. We are social creatures and thrive with good contact. Often food cravings and binges are really related to the need for love. When we give and receive kindness and contact we thrive, our oxytocin and serotonin levels go up bringing feelings of well- being and desire for attachment.
- * Find what is FUN. Simple moments of fun like doing a puzzle, kicking a ball around, dancing to your favorite tune. It does not have to be a big activity but is essential for overall health and balance to play each day.
- * Focus on your work, whatever is before you, whether it is a major business meeting, or a pile of laundry, give it your full attention and focus. Be present to the task, and then you can clearly define when you are working and when you are playing. (Multi-tasking truly does not work, our brains do not function at optimal level and nothing gets done well, focusing on one task is good for the health of your brain). Finding the balance of work and play is essential daily practice.
- * Be sure to sleep at least 7-9 hours per night and that you sleep before midnight for your biorhythm health. It is fun to experiment with earlier bedtime and waking with the light, letting your body find its way back to what is natural. (lost sleep can lead to weight gain do to less leptin in the brain that indicates fullness)
- * More on sleep, limit computer technology and stop 2 hours prior to sleep. The electromagnetic field and light diminishes your melatonin levels (neurotransmitter inducing sleep state) and throws your nervous system into an active state.
Eat well, Sleep well, Move well, Breathe well, Be still, Play, Smile, Focus love and gratitude, Connect to others
So here you have a few ideas to start with. Make it simple, choose three things you can commit to daily for the next 21 days and see what you cultivate. There is no reason to give up because you always have the next new moment to begin again.
Copyright 2011 Diane Renz, L.P.C., Your Gateway to Healing, Inc.