With the holidays here, I have to confess that I’ve let my diet slide- eating too many carbs and too much refined sugar, too much alcohol and not getting enough exercise. It’s not a big deal- I don’t like to be too rigid with anything in my life. But I’ve noticed that I’m starting to get more lethargic and moody, so I know it’s time to get back on track.
It seems that the times in my life when I feel the most centered and emotionally well-balanced, I tend to eat healthier, exercise, meditate, and generally live a more balanced lifestyle. If I’m feeling down, I tend to drink a little more, sit around a bit more, consume “mental junk food” in the form of entertainment and too much time on social media.
So which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Is it that it’s easier to live a healthier lifestyle when my head is in the right space, or is it the act of doing see things that promotes healthier actions? The answer is, both! Life is constantly moving, and whatever we’re thinking or doing we tends to gain momentum.
Staying in that positive, creative, focused, energized flow can sometimes be like chasing a cat- the harder you pursue it, the farther it seems to run. So what can you do to get yourself out of a funk and create lasting, positive change for yourself?
1. Show yourself compassion
Sometimes the most loving thing is to crawl under your blankets with a drink and a good movie, maybe even feel sorry for yourself. Just don’t stay there!
Love is a verb. It’s not always just a feeling, sometimes it demands action even if the feelings aren’t there. It’s the same with self- love. We may not always feel like loving ourselves by eating right, meditating, going out for a walk or to the gym, but we do these things because we know that our body and mind need them. your future self with thank you!
So let’s say you’ve been in a funk for awhile, or maybe you know you aren’t living a healthy lifestyle and want to turn it around. Where do you start?
2. Make changes from a positive place
I’ve seen many people start a new diet, exercise regime, support group- you name it, and be almost high on their motivation for the first month or so. After that, their enthusiasm starts to taper and life slowly reverts back to how they were living it before. I’ve been guilty of this myself (looking back on all those New Year’s resolutions!). So how do we create lasting change in our lives?
First of all, I find it best to look within before trying to embark on any new fad diet or workout or meditation routine. What beliefs brought you to where you are now? What benefits are you getting from your current lifestyle? Are you holding onto old hurts, grudges, or fears?
For example, maybe you want to start getting up earlier, and take time to relax and centre yourself before starting your day, whatever that may look like to you. If you have a strong belief that you aren’t a morning person, you may want to try and reframe that belief, otherwise you’ll continually be waking up miserable or late or both. Perhaps in the past you’ve believed that “morning people” are annoying and arrogant. Even with the best intentions, if you are carrying these beliefs around with you, they will inevitably drag you back to your former lifestyle in no time.
Or, if you’re just pushing yourself to work out and eat well because you hate how your body looks now, believe me, you won’t ever get to a place where you’re pleased with your appearance. Even if you achieve your fitness goals, if you’ve done it from a place of self-loathing, you will just find more reasons to criticise yourself.
3. Make S.M.A.R.T goals
Whether you’re trying to get yourself back on track, or turn over a new leaf entirely- lasting change won’t come from making unrealistic goals, or trying to change too much too soon. I like to use the SMART acronym when goal-setting: S= specific M=measurable A=achievable R=realistic T= time-based.
If you’ve been in a funk for a while, it can be hard to know where to start. This is where the S.M.A.R.T goals come in. Set a goal for yourself- something small to start, such as setting up a daily meditation practise, for example. This is a specific goal, not something vague such as “be more cheerful” or “live a healthier lifestyle” (nothing wrong with having those as goals, but for the purpose of this example, we’re looking for something specific). This is also measurable and time-based, as you can set a timeframe for how long you will meditate for each day, when you will begin this practice, and how long you will maintain it for. It must be achievable and realistic as well, so you wouldn’t want to start out meditating for an hour each day. Whatever you feel is realistic and achievable for you- be it 3 minutes a day, or 15, is what you would want to aim for. You can always build on it, but the first step is to set a S.M.A.R.T goal, such as “I will meditate for 3 minutes every morning, for the next 20 days, starting tomorrow.” Following through with such a goal will set the stage for more healthy habits, and will give you a boost of confidence once you achieve it!
4. Appreciate where you’re at
As always, it’s easy to make improvements in your lifestyle if you’re coming from a positive perspective rather than a place of trying to correct. What is working for you now? Do a bit more of that. Are you going to yoga once a month? Great, maybe you could aim for twice next month. Did you eat fresh fruit and vegetables at least once today? If so, great, if not, try to tomorrow. Recognize each little thing you’re doing right now that is a stepping stone towards something better. Did you take a moment to count your blessings? You probably did! We all have little moments of appreciation during the day, even if we don’t stop to think about it. You’re probably reading this blog on a phone, tablet, or computer. Why not stop right now and take a moment to think of the marvel of modern technology? We hold these devices in our hands that were unimaginable even 100 years ago. Gratitude and positive thinking don’t have to be these long arduous processes. You don’t need to recite endless affirmations or prayers to get yourself on a positive wavelength. Sometimes a simple “thank you” said quietly in your heart is enough.
You may not be where you would like to be right now. But the truth is, few of us are! The very process of living life causes us to grow, expand and birth new desires within us. Whatever journey life has taken you on, it has helped shaped the dreams that are in your heart now. That is something to appreciate in itself!
Just because you want to change or improve your life doesn’t mean that it’s all bad now. An affirmation by Louise Hay that I like goes like this: “I am in the process of making positive changes in all areas of my life.” It reminds me that my life is an ever-evolving process- I don’t need to stress about getting from where I’m at now to some final destination. So be gentle with yourself and give yourself credit for how far you’ve come as you make your positive changes!