If the title of this article makes you role your eyes, then you’re in the right place. Lets face it, the Internet is filled with lists and articles all saying pretty much the same thing about living a healthier life: eat more vegetables, cut back on sugar and processed foods, drink more water, get enough sleep, exercise more, etc. These are excellent tips and important health habits for us to adopt. But with access to so much information, why are we so unhealthy? Why are the leading diseases in the world ones of diet and lifestyle?
When I give health related homework in my practice, if I don’t explain why it’s important to do a certain thing or take a specific supplement, chances are that the rate of compliance is going to be pretty low. In the end, everyone loses – the individual seeking guidance to improve their health doesn’t feel motivated or encouraged, and I’ve let that person down, not providing the support they were looking for.
Here are the top 5 things I have found to be the most important when working on improving health:
Trying to improve your health without setting goals is like going on a trip without a destination. Although we enjoy the ride and create wonderful memories, we don’t know when we’ve arrived. Improving your health inevitably means making some changes. To help you identify what changes are required, you need to set some goals.
Improving health is a bit like peeling an onion. Often, there are several layers to peel off, each one representing a cause for our dis-ease or sub-optimal health. With goals, we can identify what needs to be done and in what order.
When setting yourself some goals, it’s good to have an end goal in mind, but setting smaller more attainable goals is often helpful as you’ll be closer to success, which in turn will motivate you to continue.
With some goals set out, you can now create an action plan to reach them. This means the different steps you’ll need to reach your goals, actions you’ll need to take and a timeline.
Goals are great, but without a plan of action, they will remain as goals that are out of reach.
Now that you have some health goals and a plan, committing to yourself is important. Just like any other goals, in order to reach them, we need to commit 100%. When it comes to health, the most important person to commit to is yourself.
In order to commit to yourself, identifying a “why” is helpful. Identifying “why” you are about to embark on this health journey can help you take committed action to reach your goals. Saying you want to lose 15 lbs is one thing, but wanting to lose 15 lbs to be able to play with your kids more gives you a why that goes a little deeper and will give you the motivation you need to keep going when all you want to do is eat a pizza and some ice cream. There is no right or wrong why, only the one that resonates the most with you.
Once a “why” has been identified, not only is it easier to commit, but it’s easier to take committed action daily. There is no turning back, your goals are set, you have a plan and you’ve committed. You’re going for your goal.
We all need a support system and encouragement from a person or several people we trust to give us the kick in the butt we need when we are about to give up on ourselves. It’s part of being human. Very few people have the self-motivation to stick to their goals when things get hard.
On a good day, we’re motivated and things are easy. But on a bad day, the things we did without even blinking on the previous day can seem like the most daunting tasks and reaching our goals starts to seem impossible.
Your support system may be a friend, your partner, a coach, a group, or all of these. Create the team that’s going to cheer you on and help you through the tough times while you’re on your way to reaching your goals.
Every day, do your best and know that your best is going to be different every day. It may mean being right on track to achieving your goals or it may mean using every ounce of willpower you have just to get out of bed in the morning.
Let go of the illusion of being perfect; it doesn’t exist. As Brené Brown writes in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, “perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth…, at its core, (it’s) about trying to earn approval and acceptance.” Going back to your “why”, you’ll remember that the goals you set out weren’t about impressing other people, they were about you and your health journey. So doing your best and meeting yourself where you’re at every single day is what will get you to reaching your goals and improving your health.
Dr Renée Purdy is a naturopathic doctor in Moncton, New Brunswick. In her practice, she values making health achievable and long lasting. She likes to explore the mind, body, spirit connection in health, and her approach includes using food as medicine, herbal medicine, acupuncture and lifestyle counselling. Her focus is on digestive health, hormone balance, thyroid health and adrenal fatigue.