Our health consists of habits formed over a lifetime. What we eat, how we move, the thoughts we think -- all of these contribute to the ways our bodies respond to our environment. We become more powerful as we consciously choose and create these habits. What better new year's gift to give yourself than creating one new healthy habit.
The following steps will take you through the process of choosing and integrating one habit that will enhance your life in a positive way and become part of the foundation for a healthy balanced life.
Create Your Activity
1. Choose Wisely
Choose something you want to do, rather than something you think you should do. Choose something that you want to do tomorrow and also three years from now. Choose an activity that you can do given the present circumstances and resources of your life. If, for example, you want to join a gym make sure there is one that you can easily get to and that is open at hours that are convenient for you. Make sure that you can afford the cost of membership. I believe that each of us already knows of at least one thing we can do to improve our lives. If you have a long list of things, choose the one that feels most meaningful to you.
2. Think Small, Stay Simple
Begin with a small, achievable task rather than elaborate, unattainable goal. Focus on the task itself. If you dream of writing a novel, you might want to begin by setting aside a certain amount of time each day to write. Focus on the activity, rather than the goal. Goals are admirable, but generally achievable only if we focus on the activities that are necessary for their fruition. Thoreau said, “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”
3. Be Creative
Sometimes we are in situations where we are unable to do the things we want to. Here’s where creativity comes into play. If your activity is to spend an hour each week at the ocean but you live in landlocked Iowa, you might get a video of ocean scenes, a CD with the sound of waves breaking on the sand, suntan lotion and some shells.
4. Commit to the Activity
Commit to spending at least one hour each week on this activity for the next three months. This can be 10 minutes everyday, 20 minutes three days a week or one hour once a week. If you cannot or do not want to commit to one hour a week, choose something else. If you are already committed to spending time each week that supports a balanced life, than commit to bringing more attention to that time. (See Step 10.)
5. Write It Down
There is something about the act of writing something down that solidifies it. It serves both to define the action and as a symbol of intent. There is a shift that happens when something goes from idea to tangible form. There are many ways of writing something down. You can do it very privately, on a folded up piece of paper or in a journal. You can write something and put it on your mirror or refrigerator. Just as the action itself comes from an inner, personal space so will the writing of it. Do what feels right to you.
If this activity is worth doing, it is worth doing now (or at least within this week.) This piece is often the most difficult. Waiting for the perfect moment may mean putting off something indefinitely. Just start now.
7. Begin Again
None of us are perfect. Our lives are complicated. Stuff unexpectedly happens. So if you are unable for whatever reason to do your chosen activity for a day, a week or even a month, begin again. Learn from your experience. Sometimes it takes a few false starts to develop a good habit. In the long run you are better off starting again then giving up on something important to you in your life. I once read that the people who succeed the most are also those who fail the most. Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
8. Get Help
Bring into your life people who support you in your journey towards health whether it’s a friend, a medical care provider or a significant other. Sometimes we need help. Intervention is often necessary to keep our bodies healthy.
9. Reward Yourself
Taking care of yourself is an accomplishment. Often our busy lives do not support choices that keep us healthy. Acknowledge the time and effort put into your new habit. Congratulate yourself. Tell your friends. Go wild!
10. Bring Intention to Your New Habit
Rather than going through the motions, use your time each week to connect more deeply with yourself. Good health is a sensory experience. If you are eating healthier take this opportunity to fully taste your food. If you are spending an hour each week listening to music or looking at art, fully see or fully hear. Whatever you have chosen to do be sure to notice your breath. We cannot live for more than a few minutes without breathing. The quality of our breath, the way we breathe, to a large extent determines the quality of our lives. Whatever you are doing you are also breathing. As you embrace your newly chosen activity, breathe deeply into your lower abdomen.
GO BACK TO STEP ONE
Whether you have successfully integrated a new, healthy habit into your life or have experienced three months of hell, or most likely, are somewhere in between, go back to step one. Learn from your accomplishments as well as your mistakes. You now have the advantage of experience in this process.
Bonnie Diamond, Licensed Acupuncturist