Saturday, January 28, 2012

Are You Going Somewhere?

Ever get stuck in a rut? Old routines are hard to change and present a constant source of discouragement.

Or do they?

We develop routines to keep ourselves comfortable and to reduce stress.  Stress is uncomfortable and can be dangerous.

But if our bodies are not confronted with some stress and resistance, they atrophy. 

Likewise, if we remain stagnant with our routines, our lifestyle will atrophy.

But very often when we try to change, we give up before we even take the first step because we feel discouraged by the task.

We tell ourselves "I can't." Sometimes you just have to take that single first step to discover that you can. Once you get that first step behind you, it becomes easier to take another and another and another.

Step by step, even baby steps, can help us find ourselves across the room,
down the road, and eventually reaching our goal.

While change is hard, it’s not impossible. All we need to do is make up our mind and have and implement a sound plan.

Before making a drastic change in your lifestyle, consider this: don't.  Drastic changes are disruptive and make sticking to your goals very difficult.

Here's a simple, three step process for successful change:

1) Make a decision. Figure out how you would like to live.  What habits do you want to ditch?  How active do you want to be?  How do you want to eat?  For example: "I want exercise regularly and eat a whole-foods diet." 

Try to avoid set-in-stone number goals (like "I want to lose 20 pounds", or "I want to work out six days a week") but instead focus more on habits and lifestyle ("I want to eat right") since developing good habits will make it easier to get to your numbers goals.

2) Give yourself some time to get there. Your bad habits didn't develop overnight and neither will your good habits. 

Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to adapt to the gradual changes you will be introducing.  The length of time is up to you, but it should be long enough that the changes are not drastic and short enough that the deadline is meaningful. 

Two weeks is probably not enough time, but 2 years is likely too long.

3) Make a plan and stick to it.  Divide up the time you have into manageable lengths and introduce a gradual change with each new segment.  For example, if your goal is to exercise regularly and you give yourself two months to get there, divide it up into eight one-week segments.  Each week, add a little bit of exercise to your routine. 

The first week should be gradual and manageable.  If you can only do 10 minutes twice a week, then start there. 

The next week, see if you can do 15 minutes, and try to add a third day.  Before you know it, you will be working out an hour a day, five days a week.

It's also crucial to develop a network of support around you to help you stay the course is also a benefit in helping you stick to your plan.

If you are trying to quit smoking, limit the time you spend hanging around people who will be smoking.  If you have a friend who is also trying to quit, that is even better. Encouraging and helping to support others to get healthy can reinforce your goal of keeping healthy too.