“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle
In health and fitness, this is the end all be all. It does not get any simpler than this.
From this idea we can comfortably say, “Health, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Your habits determine your results.
And the first step to improving your habits is becoming aware of them.
Step 1: Building Awareness by Asking Yourself Questions
Having some joint discomfort or muscle stiffness?
- Ask yourself how often you move during the day, or how often you exercise throughout the week.
Are you a little heavier than you’d like to be?
- Ask yourself how often you’re eating foods that support your goals.
Feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the time Friday rolls around?
- Ask yourself how many times that week you took time out of your day to actively de-stress and do something that you love and that brings you joy.
It’s also really important to do this step without judgement or negativity.
This can be challenging at first, but with practice, being able to review your actions with neutral feelings, or even while enjoying the process makes it much easier to learn from your past.
Step 2: Adding in Positive Actions
Once you’ve looked at your goals, and looked at your habits, it’s time to think about what are the good things that you either want to start doing or need to do more.
To combat joint and muscle discomfort, this might be taking movement breaks throughout the day at regular intervals.
Or it could be scheduling your workouts for the following week on Sunday, so that you don’t have to think about it during the craziness of the work-week.
If your goal is losing weight, maybe you want to put together a shopping list of foods that you know support your goals and stock up on the weekend so that you have plenty of supportive options during the week.
It could also be cooking and storing food in pre-determined portions so that you have them handy during the week, and are less likely to go for the quick, easy, and potentially detrimental option of eating out.
If your goal is stress management, you could consider adding in a nice walk at a park near your house every day. Or maybe you want to start meditating so you decide on where, when, and for how long you are going to simply focus on your breathing.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Benjamin Franklin
It’s very important to plan out these positive actions ahead of time, and make them as convenient as possible to do.
For example, if you’re just starting an exercise routine, it’s probably best to start small, pick just a couple exercises that you can easily do in your house or backyard.
If you’re starting to meal prep, at first, just meal prep one meal a day and make sure that you can do that consistently first before trying to prepare for every meal every day.
If you want to start a meditation practice, start small with just a couple minutes of slow and controlled breathing in a quiet place.
It can feel good to go big and set a goal of meditating for 30 minutes a day right out of the gates, but often times that’s not sustainable, leading to burnout and increased frustration in the long term.
Put together a plan and start small.
Step 3: Remove the Negative Actions
Once you’ve gotten consistent with whatever positive actions you wanted to add into your routine, it’s time to look at some of the things you might do during the day that don’t support your goals and see how you can either minimize or completely remove them.
For the goal of eliminating joint pain and moving better, you might try to avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time during the day.
This could be accomplished by setting a timer for 20-40 minutes when you work, and every time that timer goes off you walk around your house, or walk around the office.
If you wanted to add movement breaks into your day, this could be a great time to do these as well.
If your goal is to lose some weight, you might think of removing foods that you tend to overeat from the house.
Another, less drastic measure could be to make those foods harder to access, so you’re less likely to eat them out of habit. An example of this might be that you absolutely love Oreos, but you know once you start eating them it’s hard to stop.
Without completely depriving yourself of Oreos, you could start putting them up high in the kitchen or garage, somewhere that you have you go and get a step-stool to get to.
This eliminates the easy decision to be able to thoughtlessly grab the Oreos but leaves you with the option that if you REALLY want them, you can still get them
For those of you looking to improve your stress-management, a relatively easy fix would be to stop watching the news in the evenings around dinner and bed.
Study after study has shown that consuming the news causes an increase in stress hormones, winding your body up.
This is the last thing you want to happen in the evenings for two reasons:
- The quality of your sleep is extremely sensitive to how much cortisol (stress-hormone) you are producing. Cortisol is supposed to be lowest in the evenings around bed to help you fall asleep and get a good night’s rest.
- The digestion of food is severely impaired when you are stressed. This is why you can feel queasy if you had too big of a meal before exercising. When cortisol is produced, your body redirects blood away from your internal organs primarily to your muscles, lungs, and brain. This is not what you want when you’re in the middle of digesting a great dinner.
I like to compare improving your health to improving your finances.
When you want to save money, you need to look at what you’re currently spending it on. You then work on reducing unwanted purchases in the future, while focusing on only spending money on the good and necessary stuff.
My process works the same way. Your time and energy are your money and your overall health is your finances. All we are doing is looking at our purchases, positive and negative habits, and working on reducing the negative and keeping/adding the positive.
Over time, with discipline and consistency, your health will improve relative to the quality of your habits.
Step 4: Go Easy on Yourself
Notice how I never mentioned perfection, only consistency.
This wasn’t an accident.
There is no one on the planet, no matter how healthy they appear to be, who is perfect.
They may act like it, and say they are to sell whatever it is they’re selling, but they aren’t.
The secret to success is to be okay with the occasional slip-up by keeping your focus on consistency.
It’s okay if you miss a work-out, as long as you get right back to your schedule for the next one.
It’s okay to have some Oreos when you’re trying to lose some weight, as long as you can get back to your food plan afterward.
Watching the news every once in a while doesn’t lead to chronic stress. Watching the news every night for a month can.
Perfection is utterly impossible, but consistency is completely within your reach.
Go easy on yourself and remember, life’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Have questions about any new or recurring pain?
Request an appointment with Dr. Brink!
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You don’t need to live in pain! Let us help you move well and pain-free.