No More Health Tips: What You Need to Know to Improve Your Health
There are enough articles, in blogs AND in the medical research, to prove how important it is to exercise and eat more vegetables. It’s like smoking. When the research first started coming out that smoking leads to cancer, people were still smoking while pregnant, smoking in the house, and just smoking in general. They knew the research was there, but they either 1) didn’t believe it was true, 2) didn’t think anything bad would happen to them, or 3) didn’t believe there a good enough reason to make them give up that kind of immediate pleasure.
For those of us with chronic illness, it’s even easier to dismiss the benefits of healthy habits, because no matter what we do, we are still going to have a diagnosis. We will still be affected by bouts of fatigue, pain, and disabilities. Because these habits don’t offer a cure, we often push them to the side as one more “should” in our low-priority to-do list that never gets done.
What’s ironic about this line of thought is that we actually need these habits more than anyone. Our bodies can’t handle the stress of unhealthy habits as well as someone without an illness can.
If you keep trying to get back on track, here are some thoughts to consider:
1) It’s not about learning more.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that knowledge is power. When you learn new facts, you understand more, and it can help you do better. But what about when you have the facts but still can’t seem to make a permanent change?
That’s when it’s useful to know yourself more and become very aware of what’s going on inside you. There are reasons why you aren’t eating better, moving more, and living with a positive mindset, and it’s not because you’re broken, incapable, or lazy. It’s also not because “life is sh*t.” Sometimes we’re able to see the reasons, and other times we’re metaphorically blind.
When the reasons are clear:
Sometimes you know exactly what you need, how you need to do it, and you have a strong reason why you want to do it. Somehow, though, you just aren’t doing it. During these times, be brutally honest with yourself. Ask yourself,
“Is now the right time to change my health?”
“What’s happening in my life that’s preventing me from changing?”
“What’s in my control, and what’s out of my control”
This last one is tricky… for example, if you’ve tried to change your thoughts a thousand times before, then your thoughts are NOT in your control, and you would benefit from finding mentors, counselors, friends, coaches, teachers, doctors, or anyone else that can help you create healthy thoughts. Find someone that you resonate with and trust. This is the single most important factor to a successful relationship of any kind.
When the reasons are subtle:
You know you “should” make certain changes, because it’s all you ever hear from others, but you don’t really know if it’s going to make a big enough impact on your life, and this stops you from trying. A very quiet voice inside you (our subconscious) is saying “that’s a lot of effort and discomfort for something that’s not even going to work.” Or worse, “since healthy habits won’t “cure” me, there’s definitely no point in trying.” During these times, we have to change our definition of “what works” and what’s a “cure.”
For me, something is “working” when it alleviates a symptom. It’s not when I’m cured or when I never feel a symptom again. It’s when a symptom is reduced (in frequency or severity). I go to the chiropractor because it makes me feel better, not because it cures me. For me, that’s called “it’s working.”
When there’s no cure, our objectives shouldn’t be “do what cures you.” A healthier, alternative thought would be “do what helps you.” Pro tip: If you’re having trouble figuring out what would help you, ask yourself how you would take care of a child if they were going through what you are going through, and then do that for yourself. Would you distract them with games? Hug them? Take them to a new doctor? Let them sleep more? Whatever answer you gravitate toward is what your body needs. Don’t ignore it.
2) It’s about going with the flow instead of resisting what’s happening.
Remember, nothing is permanent. Ocean waves go up, come down, twist and turn, and eventually become calm and flat. Then the cycle happens all over again, differently. Become willing to ride each wave the whole time, rather than jumping off before it gets too high. When you accept the emotions that you’re trying to avoid, even the highest, scariest tides become manageable.
When you’re energy is low, use that time for low-impact tasks and self-care.
Take a walk.
Soak in Epsom salt baths.
Sweep the house.
Eat an apple.
Do what you can that will provide you with relief and productivity, so you’re not completely overwhelmed later.
When your energy is high, do all the things you want to do.
Have a killer gym session.
Deep clean the kitchen.
Have that difficult conversation you’ve been putting off.
Make a challenging healthy dish.
Push yourself, but don’t completely overdo it. Do as much as you can without hurting or burdening yourself.
The calm doesn’t last, and neither does the storm. So flow with them, and see what you can learn in every situation.
3) It’s about planting the seeds, rather than looking for the trees.
I’m no gardener, but I do know that when you plant a seed, you don’t just stick it in the ground and walk away. You carefully place it the correct distance into the ground, you water it, and if something’s going wrong, you replant it with different soil or in a different position to the sun.
Treat your thoughts and behaviors like seeds. When your thoughts aren’t working, you can change them by changing your perception, your habits, and your environment. Let your frustrations be your guide. Maybe you’re tired of feeling muscle stiffness, tired of low-quality sleep, or tired of arguing with your partner. Start with whatever small thing is most aggravating to you on a daily basis. Ask yourself:
“What can I change about the situation to make this less frustrating?”
If it’s an unchangeable situation, then ask, “What can I do or change about what I think about this situation?”
“Who can help me in changing this situation?”
This can be someone you know, but it can also be a book, a blogger, or a YouTube personality. There are thousands of ways to find help in this day and age.
You won’t decide to stop having negative thoughts, and then automatically be successful. Instead, you have to plant and water new, positive thoughts. You have to crowd-out the old thoughts. It helps to have more positive experiences with the thing you’re trying to change, which means stepping outside your comfort zones and trying new things. Be willing to be uncomfortable.
Maybe you can’t take action right this moment, but you can start the process through being curious. This type of curiosity is how you plant new seeds and eventually find answers.
So stop trying to change your habits with simple thoughts (ex: I’m going to do better from now on) - you have to use your whole mind, not part of your mind. You are smart, creative, and capable. Ask questions, try new things, and observe new people who already do what you want to do.
We are always working toward or away from health. Nothing ever remains the same. This means, if you’re not actively working on habits, then you’re falling backward. No matter how hard we try, we never stay in the same place. So it doesn’t matter if you’re moving as slow as a turtle or as fast as cheetah, it just matters that you’re moving. Work on habits that you actually want and need, because those habits are the ones that bring you peace and project you forward. Forget the rest. They’re not serving you or anyone else anyway.