Making changes to your lifestyle can seem downright impossible in the beginning. Whether you’ve made the decision on your own or with a healthcare professional, in order to win and see the affects you’re hoping for, you have to follow through—maybe even longer than a week or two.
Let’s look at a few strategies for winning at lifestyle changes.
First things first, make sure you’re getting good sleep. It always starts with sleep, doesn’t it? When we sleep well, it is so much easier to make good choices throughout the day. No longer are you looking for that quick energy source like caffeine or sugar. Instead, your energy level will be more stable throughout the day, your brain is happier, and you’ll reach for a handful of nuts or berries when you need a little something in between meals.
There are different kinds of poor sleep. Some people fall asleep easily but wake up in the night. Others toss and turn indefinitely before slumber sets in. Still others are plagued with nightmares more nights than not. None of these are ideal, and they may be trying to tell you something. Dr. Lowell Keppel discusses how issues like mineral deficiencies and adrenal fatigue affect your sleep in, “It’s Never Too Late To Sleep Like a Baby.” See which scenario sounds most like you at bedtime and try his suggestions.
Next, realize what your big motivating factor is. This is an idea I learned in my health coach training, and it can be super powerful. You’ll start with what your surface reasoning is for making lifestyle changes. Let’s say it is the ever more common goal of losing weight. Then you drill down by asking what losing weight would do for you. Maybe this makes you think that your clothes will fit better. Well, how would having your clothes fit better make you feel? You keep drilling down in this way until you finally have the “aha” moment of realizing the true reason you want to lose weight is to feel more confident in your daily life. BAM! You have your big motivating factor.
From here, it’s beneficial to decide on some anchors—or reminders—that you’ll automatically come across each day. Maybe you search the internet for an image you can set as the background picture on your phone—‘cause you know how many times you look at your phone each day. You can come up with a song that gets you emotionally charged to stick with the changes you’ve committed to and play it every morning as you get ready for the day. Write a note to yourself—just a sentence or two—that you stick on the bathroom mirror or on your laptop monitor.
You know what motivates you (quotes, music, infographics, etc.). Pick a few anchors, see if they give you that surge of motivation when you see them, and adjust as needed. Working with an unbiased person can make discovering your big motivating factor and selecting anchors easier; however, you can dig into it yourself, as well.
Shift the way you think about it from restriction to opportunity. Reflect on some version of the question, What would be possible if I made only smart choices today? Now, I specify “today,” because when you’re just starting to make lifestyle changes, it’s important to take it one day at a time and recognize that one less-than-desirable choice does not mean you need to drop the whole thing. If you sit with your answer to this and picture yourself feeling, looking, “being” the way you wish, it opens up the opportunity mindset.
Which brings us to: Small shifts are a great way to set yourself up to win at lifestyle changes. A recent webinar on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and nutrition with Dr. Marlene Merritt reaffirmed this suggestion for me. During her talk, Dr. Merritt admitted that she never tells her clients to stop eating sugar, because it’s simply too hard. Instead, she encourages them to start with one day a week of purposely not eating sugar and build on it from there. Doesn’t it seem easier to give up sugar on Tuesdays than stopping it entirely, starting right now?! Here are some more strategies:
- Want to start drinking more healthy water? Begin with drinking a pint size glass before each meal. With three meals per day, you’ve suddenly downed 48 ounces like a boss. Bonus – it will make you feel full faster when you sit down to your meal.
- Looking to exercise more? Pick two days a week that you make it a priority. Put it on your calendar for whatever part of the day you’re most likely to get it done—in the morning before the rest of the day takes over, over your lunch hour, or right after work. Increase your success by recruiting a buddy and keeping each other accountable.
- Need more fun in your life? Turn Sunday afternoon into movie time. Plan a date night with your significant other on the third Friday of every month. Pick up a joke of the day calendar and giggle each day you rip off a page.
Approach every aspect of your desired lifestyle changes in this way and you’re sure to be a winner, finishing what you set out to do with ease.
Images from iStock/master1305 (main), SIphotography (woman superhero shadow).