By Carol Phillips
How much time do you spend trying to improve your health, only to become overwhelmed when your actions don’t measure up to the changes you keep imagining in your mind? Too often, we make grandiose plans in our heads and then struggle to make those changes happen. This easily becomes a pattern of wanting to improve our health, followed by unrealistic dreams, then inaction, and, finally, disappointment. We then repeat this self-critical pattern over and over.
Don’t despair: You can change this unhealthy thought cycle to thoughts and actions that are vital in implementing realistic and sustainable healthy behaviors, one at a time.
Here are some suggestions on how you can break the cycle by implementing simple and easy changes you can start enjoying today:
- Notice when you start the unhealthy thought pattern. Immediately remind yourself that you are no longer buying into this losing strategy and change your thoughts to the positive.
- Spend time paying attention to the small things in life that make you smile inside. For example, if there are certain colors you love to wear, wear them more often. If there are flowers you love (real or fake), place them around your house or office.
- Discover scents you love and incorporate them into your life. You can use essential oils, a bowl of fruit, whatever scents make you happy.
- Spend more time communicating with people who warm your heart, even if it’s simply a monthly text with a friend who lives far away.
- Make a large batch of a healthy recipe and freeze leftovers in individual-size containers, so you’ll have several meals without all the work. Great for when you’re short on time or not feeling well enough to cook.
- When you have an extra-wonderful day, think about why it was so special and incorporate the healthy components into your life more often.
- Become increasingly aware of anything that helps you reduce stress. During stressful times, consciously use them to bring your stress level down.
- Most people suffer from some level of dehydration. However, people often feel overwhelmed with being told they need to drink eight glasses of water each day. To avoid dehydration, create a reminder to add at least one extra glass of water each day. You’re better off drinking one glass of water than being overwhelmed with the thought of drinking eight and then drinking none.
- Prescribe yourself some laughter. Watch a comedy, attend a comedy show, or simply spend more time with friends who make you laugh. A genuine laugh automatically helps to reduce stress and creates a happier mindset.
- Learn to embrace peaceful moments. Our “too busy” society creates an environment in which we start looking for something to do the second we have a quiet moment. Instead of immediately scrambling to move onto the next task, view these moments as rare gems of time in which you can take a deep breath and let your mind relax for a moment or two . . . or three. Over time, these breaks in your day will feel more natural and welcome!
- Begin and end each day with a positive thought. It’s easy to wake up and become immediately stressed with all we must accomplish in the upcoming hours. The same holds true when we crawl into bed and begin to mentally plan the next day. In both cases, the resulting stress is unhealthy. Instead, start each day with at least one positive thought and end each day choosing one area of life in which to be grateful. This simple act, over time, creates a healthier mindset.
Living a happy and healthy life can be as simple as we allow it to be. Make a conscious decision to purge unrealistic goals and start anew with small, common sense changes that you can sustain for a lifetime.
Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at www.HealthDesignNH.com.