Making a lifestyle change is a challenge no matter how much we want it. At first we might start with enthusiasm, wanting to make big changes in our diet or fitness routine. But after a few weeks, or a few days, we find ourselves back to our old habits. Sound familiar?
Early on in my adult life I learned an important lesson about making lifestyle changes. In my 20s, I confronted my biggest challenge: to heal myself from anorexia. I did, listening to my body and my authentic desires, making small changes at a time, receiving help, and loving myself at each moment of the process. Years later, I enjoy a healthy life, free of eating disorders. But every time I want to improve an aspect of my health—to live with less stress or to have more energy, for example—I use the same principles.
If you want to make a change for a healthier life without punishing yourself, try these principles:
Listen to your authentic desires. Take time to reflect about your true desires. This is your starting point to find out what aspect of your health needs more attention. What does your body need? Are you yearning for more rest? Do you want to feel more vitality and joy? Focus on what you want, not on what you “should” or “must” do. Once you listen to your desires, chose a specific aspect of your health to make your lifestyle change. This aspect could be diet, stress management or fitness.
Name your intention. Express what you want in an affirmation. Avoid using phrases such as “I want,” “I would like to,” or I’m going to.” You want to send a clear message to your brain.
If you want to start a fitness program, your intention can be: “I enjoy each minute of my exercise routine. My body receives its benefits in harmony.” Say your intention with conviction every morning in front of the mirror. You can also write your intention and post it where you can read it every day.
Choose an emotion to fuel your intention. Your emotions play a vital role in your capacity to make changes in your life. An uplifting emotion, such as joy or love, will literally magnetize the desired changes. Feel as if you already have the healthy life that you want. You are already eating healthy. You are already taking care of yourself. How does it feel? That’s the emotion you want to activate as often as possible. Fuel your affirmation, your thoughts and actions with that loving emotion.
Do your research. What are the health tests you must have this year? You should know the state of your physical health before implementing any action plan. Then find out information about different ways to make the lifestyle changes you want. Ask people who have been successful in the past. Find out from the experts.
Design your action plan. How are you going to manifest your intention? When and where? A concrete plan to make your lifestyle change is essential. Divide your action plan into phases and small steps. What are you going to do the first month or every week during the first month? Be specific and reasonable, and have short and long-term goals.
Create a support system. Get expert help for guidance and coaching. Share your intention with your loved ones and ask them to support you in specific ways. If you know that you will need encouragement, ask your spouse or best friend to do that for you. If you know that you will need more time for yourself, get help in order to free some time in your schedule.
Celebrate every small success. Lifestyle changes take a long time. Avoid punishing yourself when you have a setback. Instead, keep your motivation up by celebrating your accomplishments. Reward yourself with pleasurable activities that support your healthy lifestyle.
MISTAKES YOU SHOULD AVOID
If you make unreasonable demands on yourself, you will set yourself up for failure. Here are some mistakes you should avoid and how to fix them:
- Quick Solutions for Weight Loss. Quick solutions or “magical pills” that do not require some effort from your part will not help you. Avoid skipping meals or fasting. If you focus your attention on the numbers on the scale, you are setting yourself up for discouragement. Solution: Have reasonable expectations as to the speed of the results. Make small changes in your lifestyle that you will keep for the rest of your life. Focus on reaching a healthy weight gradually.
- Fitness Programs That You Hate. Avoid pushing to the extremes. If you set a high target and then don’t see immediate results, you may lose your motivation. Solution: Choose physical activities that you feel passionate about, such as dance. Start at the basic level. Be consistent and patient. Pamper your body with hot tubs or massages to release muscular pains.
- Quit Smoking without Expert Help. Making this lifestyle change will be more difficult for you if you try to quit on your own without expert help. Don’t give up if you fail at your first attempt. Most people try to quit smoking three or four times before they are successful. Solution: Address the addiction with the proper help. Discover your triggers. Is your smoking related to certain stressful situations or habits? What needs are you filling by smoking? What will you do to fill that void?
- Punish Yourself with Diets. Be careful with absolutes. If you categorize food as “bad” or “good,” sooner or later you might rebel against your own regimen. Solution: Educate yourself about nutrition. Make small changes in your diet that will have a significant impact in your health. If you have emotional issues with food, address them with expert help.
May your lifestyle changes be successful!