How often have we started the New Year with a resolution to make some lifestyle change? Be it the will to do more exercise, stop smoking or spending less valuable life-time watching meaningless TV shows, most New Year resolutions seldom last through the first month of the year.
Very few of us seem to have the strength and the willpower to change habits that we know from a rational point are doing us harm. We then end up being frustrated and angry at ourselves for not making the change we feel is really necessary.
In principle most of us find it pretty safe to stay in a “comfort zone” because making a change requires effort and energy. Sometimes we are even afraid that the changes we implement might rock the boat too much, requiring even more energy and input. We fail to realise that such a “comfort zone” has actually become pretty uncomfortable or even painful for a long, long time.
Experts at the Harvard Medical School believe that the chances of making lifestyle changes succeed are much greater if they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based. I would add that the factor loving self-care is just as important. The more we care for ourselves, the more this will manifest itself in our habits and dealings with our immediate surroundings.
So lets take the idea of getting more exercise because we know from all the information out there that it improves our health on all mental and physical levels. First of all I would choose a physical activity which appeals to me and sounds like fun. If it is running, then start choosing a place where you would have fun going for a run. It should be measurable, achievable and realistic. Find a realistic time commitment which you know will have a realistic chance of working . So why not start off by going for a short run of say ten or 15 minutes with a slow walk included so that you don’t over-exert. You can always extend your routine a little as you go along.
Better still: Find a friend or partner who shares your commitment or resolution. You could motivate each other and discuss a reward you would give each other for keeping at it for say two weeks, like spending a day at a spa. Keeping up a regular exercise or diet routine over 40 days has a much more lasting effect. If you have managed to keep at it for 40 days you will definitely feel a lot healthier physically and mentally. Friends or colleagues may start commenting positively on the visible change they see in you which is an additional motivation to keep up with your training programme.
More importantly: You will notice yourself how much the quality of your life has improved. You would not want to go back to the situation most people in the industrialized world currently find themselves – an uncomfortable “inbetween-state” of not really being healthy nor really ill.
Falling into positive health habits impacts our lives more than we realize. It is enormously liberating to know that we have the freedom of choice in order to live a healthy life by looking closely at such factors as exercise, sleep, food, emotional stress factors, addictions and time management. Genes are only a small part of our destiny. Making necessary lifestyle changes has a major impact on obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and many of our modern-age scourges, according to many recent studies:
Genes are not destiny – Harvard School of Public Health
Lifestyle and cancer incidence in men