Top 5 Healthy Habits to Change How You FEEL in 2018
Before we dive into some healthy habits to kick-start 2018, I think it’s important to talk a little bit about the ways in which many of us go about setting goals.
According to Danielle LaPorte in her book The Desire Map, we tend to set our goals in a backwards fashion by reversing the order of the approach. To achieve the best results we need to first focus on how we want to feel and then set goals around those feeling states, because whether we are conscious of it or not, everything we do in life is motivated by wanting to feel a certain way. Most of us fail to consider that our basic human desires are at the core of why we choose the goals we set for ourselves – whether it is our physical appearance, our relationships, or our career paths.
Let’s not forget that the underlying triggers for all of our actions were at one time survival driven, and strong primal urges still motivate us. Our hardwiring to “lay down context-dependent memories” produced behavior that was repeated to ensure our survival and thus, habits were formed.
Although in primitive times those habits were focused on finding food and remembering the source, or eliminating threats for survival and reproduction, we continue to create habit loops that are driven by our fundamental desire to thrive. Our feeling state has become the high-stakes barometer in this equation and for that reason we will always need to understand the emotional component of what drives us forward in life.
As we know, not all of the habits that we create are healthy ones but the good news in all of this is that science has proven that they can be replaced with healthier options with a bit of work on our part. Research shows that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit. How long it takes depends both on the level of difficulty of your desired activity, and how committed you are to achieving it.
One powerful step in the right direction of cultivating healthy habits is to think about how you want to feel, not what you want to achieve! For example, upon further examination you might realize that you are motivated to lose weight for all the wrong reasons – maybe it’s wanting to impress that co-worker that you have a crush on, rather than wanting to eat healthier so that you have more energy (i.e. a feeling state) to run with your beloved dog.
I encourage you to keep this in mind when choosing to adopt any of the five healthy habits listed below. All of them can improve the quality of your health and enhance your life by incorporating them even in small ways, but your motivation for wanting change needs to be strong in order for any habit to stick. What’s a strong motivator? You guessed it – focusing on how these habits will make you FEEL!
Habit 1: Intuitive Eating
Learning to eat intuitively is, hands down, what has made the biggest difference for me. I have found that our relationship to food is more important than the foods we eat.
We all intuitively know how to fuel our bodies properly, but with all the diet dogma and processed foods out there, we have been desensitized to our own internal signals – or even worse, they have been turned off completely. According to Robb Wolf in his book Wired to Eat hyper-palatable foods (these are your processed, packaged, sugary garbage) are specifically engineered to keep us coming back for more! It’s no wonder we can’t listen to our bodies!
Furthermore, research has shown that the average person makes over 200 food decisions a day –that’s a lot! Environmental factors such as the time of day, who we are with, the ambient lighting, and even the size of the plate have all been shown to influence our eating behaviors. However, when we practice eating intuitively, we can begin to silence these external influencers and listen to what is going on internally to understand what our bodies really need. Identifying how we want to feel, and why, also plays an important role in the success of intuitive eating.
Because our food habits are so ingrained, the path to food freedom is definitely a journey, but there are 2 important steps I want to share that can move you in the right direction!
Step 1: The first thing you can do is eliminate the “good and bad foods” list you’ve created for yourself and start to release the deprivation mentality. When we can move away from the deprivation mentality, we can stop binging on food and stop feeling guilty after we eat.
Step 2: Prior to eating, pause and do a check-in. Are you eating because you’re actually hungry, or for another reason? Maybe it’s because its 12 PM and that’s always when you eat lunch, or maybe you’re stressed out and want to distract yourself with a snack. When you recognize these habits of “clock” or “emotional” eating, you can start to break them and be more aware of when you are actually hungry.
Habit 2: Engage in Meaningful Exercise
To engage in meaningful exercise, we need to first understand our reasons for exercising.
Are you exercising because you think: “When I lose “x” number of pounds everything will be better?” Is it out of punishment, or self-love? Is it because you dislike your body or because you want it to be strong? Is your desire purely for aesthetic reasons or because you want to be healthy?
If the former is true in any of these questions, then despite your efforts, chances are you won’t ultimately see the results you’re hoping to see. When it comes to sustainable changes, more than anything, the intention behind doing something is what fuels the outcome.
In all of these scenarios, we’re talking about the same action—exercising, but the reasons for doing so are entirely different. How do you want to feel when exercising? Is your intention pure and authentic? Be honest with yourself, do you enjoy it? Do you have an idea in your head of what you think exercise should look like?
Often, we engage in an exercise routine that we don’t even enjoy because we think that is the only road to achieving results. We have to go to the gym for 2 hours or we have to spend 45 minutes on the elliptical. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. We all intuitively know what is best for our body, and how our bodies want to move. Now, that’s not to say that exercise shouldn’t be challenging and push you, and it’s not an excuse to say “my body is telling me the only exercise I need is walking from the fridge to the couch.” But, what I am suggesting is that you pause, and focus on how you want to feel from exercising rather than focusing on the outcome – sound familiar? Then let the desired feeling dictate the type of exercise you choose to engage in.
Begin by asking yourself: “Is my current exercise routine making me feel the way I want to feel”? If not, it is time to do something about it!
Habit 3: Practice Mindfulness
I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is to incorporate mindfulness into our lives, and our perception is quite possibly the most important reason why. Our perception of events, and the world around us, determines our entire experience of life.
Our perception is the filter between outward reality, and our inner experience – it defines what is true for us individually. How we perceive and interpret a particular event determines how we feel about a situation – are we resilient and optimistic, or discouraged and pessimistic? While most of us know this, what we aren’t fully aware of is that we have complete control over how we perceive a situation, and therefore we have complete control over how we feel about it. How can we take control of how we view things?
With mindfulness – mindfulness helps us to change our perception of the daily events in our lives that may cause us stress. But let’s back up for a second…what exactly is mindfulness? Mindfulness is when you pay attention to what is actually happening in the present moment in a nonjudgmental way – not how an emotionally charged thought might lead you to believe things are.
How you see things, or don’t see them, will determine how you respond. It is not the events themselves, but rather how you handle them that influences the effect that situations have on your body and mind. As an example, let’s say you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on your way to work. Do you get completely stressed out, and start imagining all the bad things that may happen if you show up to the office late? Or, do you take the situation for what it is, and just calmly accept that it is something out of your control? The situation is the same, yet how you perceive it, and subsequently respond, will determine how you feel the rest of the day.
Is the glass half full, or is it half empty? The same set of circumstances can be viewed very differently. “The optimist sees a challenge in every difficulty and the pessimist sees difficulty in every challenge” (Winston Churchill).
Next time you are sitting in traffic, pause and take a breath before you interpret the situation. You will find that by taking this moment to be mindful, your perception of the situation will change, and you can calmly respond instead of impulsively reacting. All it takes is one moment to alter your perception and, in effect, positively change the course of your day – I encourage you to try it!
There are many ways that we can incorporate mindfulness practices into our day but one of the most powerful ways to begin is to simply pause and take a breath, instead of automatically reacting, and evaluate the circumstances from a more objective stance. We can try bringing some curiosity to our perception of events, and investigate some of our habitual tendencies. Do we automatically assume the worst or assess the situation as negative? Are our thoughts in the moment the “truth”? Does the evidence support our assessment? One simple breath can make a huge difference!
Bringing our presence to each moment not only eases our stress, but it can also add joy to the simplest of experiences.
Habit 4: Cultivate a Morning Ritual
The difference between a ritual and a routine is that rituals are deliberate and intentional, whereas routines are something we have to do, or we do on autopilot. Rituals are our way of making a conscious decision to take care of ourselves, to carve out time, even if it’s only five minutes. Morning rituals can be especially beneficial because they can help set the tone for the rest of our day.
For example, my morning ritual is to wake up, meditate, and enjoy a nice cup of bone broth. Having this ritual allows me to start the morning with some “me-time” that I look forward to each day.
Think of your normal morning routine. Are you on autopilot or constantly rushing? Or, do you do something enjoyable and deliberate that is just for you to help set the tone for the rest of the day?
Ask yourself – are there any daily routines you can turn into daily rituals?
Something as simple as enjoying your morning coffee, or washing your face can become a ritual by slowing down and paying attention. By being fully present while performing an ordinary, daily task we can begin to find joy in the most unexpected places! Finding pleasure in simple things enriches the only life we have – the one that is unfolding now. And if you don’t believe me, even some of the most successful people swear by their morning rituals.
Habit 5: Practice Gratitude
How often do you stop and think about what you are grateful for? Gratitude can enhance our psychological and physical health, improve self-esteem, increase empathy, reduce anger, and strengthen our relationships. Research shows that while experiencing gratitude our brain-state cannot support negative emotions. (You can learn more about this in Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book The How of Happiness).
Every night my boyfriend and I have a ritual where we say the high of our day, the low of our day, and one thing we are grateful for.
I have found that typically when we say something we’re grateful for it’s very broad and we tend to say the same thing over and over again—I’m grateful for my family, which is great, but our practice can be enhanced if we try to get really specific, like I am grateful that my mom called me today and we had a meaningful conversation. Or, I’m grateful that I walked slowly from the parking lot to the store, this gave me time to reconnect with my breath.
I have found that if we simply try to recall something we’re grateful for at the end of each day, it will most likely be broad and general, but if we consciously pay attention to moments of gratitude as they occur it makes for a much richer experience and we recognize how much each of us truly has to be grateful for each and every day.
This approach of shifting our mindset, not just in setting goals but in life in general, can have the most extraordinary results in changing how we feel. Bringing heartfelt intention to how we make food choices, how we choose to exercise, how we perceive events, how we engage in ordinary tasks, and how we experience gratitude can actually be life changing.
Determining the motivation behind our goal setting by identifying how we want to feel instead of focusing on what we want to achieve may be the single most important factor in our quest for a more fulfilling life.
About The Author: Simone Krame
Simone Krame is a lifestyle coach and founder of Conscious Living & Lifestyle, a lifestyle coaching business that helps people achieve their fitness, nutrition, and spiritual/emotional goals by creating a synergistic relationship between mind, body, and soul. Simone graduated Cum Laude from the University of Florida with a Bachelors degree in Finance and concentration in Spirituality and Health. Currently, she is getting her Masters in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on the mind, body, spirit connection. Simone is a Certified Primal Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, Balanced Bites Master Class Certified Practitioner, and has participated in a variety of mind, body, spirit courses, workshops, and webinars that, coupled with her life experience, allow her to be confident in her knowledge and approach to coaching clients.
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