Many people can relate to the idea of starting a diet exercise routine or healthy commitment of some sort and then finding that their motivation seems to dry up after a week or so. When a good friend of mine asked me "How can I avoid falling back into bad habits and stay on track?" I thought it was a great question to answer on the blog, since I know that so many people struggle with it.
I don't think there is one right or wrong way to do this but when I look at what's driving my habits when everything works the way I want it to in my life, it comes down to this basic rule:
I Make it automatic.
Most of us know what to do to stay healthy, it's just that we make actually doing it problematic because our brain likes to get involved...and then we become indecisive, lazy or comfortable. When I think back to when any area of my life was really working well it was because I'd made the choices in that area automatic, rather than simply trusted that I would follow through on my commitments. Let's face it, we're human, and we are going to have days when we don't feel like doing what we said we would do. Procrastination, second guessing your decisions or having a day where you feel shattered is going to overshadow your best of intentions and divorce you from your commitment. I've found that within myself, the more I can make positive commitments automatic, the easier they become and the better (and more confident) I feel because I'm in integrity with my goals and experiencing progress.
Within my own life, I've noticed that:
What this all comes down to is really about finding a way to get leverage on yourself so that you do what you say you're going to do. It's about making the decision that will benefit the best version of yourself and then taking away the options that will have you derail that decision. So what's it going to take? How can you make the steps towards your goal automatic so you set yourself up to win?
Fears. We all have them, but what triggers us can be very unique. When we are in a state of fear, we don't make decisions that empower us. We settle for what we think we can get rather than what we really want. We sabotage what we really want because we are too uncomfortable to deal with it. Yep, when fear has us in a headlock, there's not much room for love, grace or ease.
Tony Robbins has said that "stressed is the successful person's word for fear" and I love this because although most of us have been known to utter the words "I'm stressed", not many of us would own up to saying "I'm afraid..," but really it's the same thing.
Fear over not having enough money. Fear that we won't get it right. Fear that we won't meet our dream partner. Fear that we made a mistake.
Like I said earlier, when you're in fear, it's hard to see a way out or to make an empowering decision. Your lens of the world is so skewed it can be hard to see a different perspective...kind of like the opposite of wearing rose tinted glasses. In order to start getting more positive vibes going, you need to get out of the lizard brain of fear so that you have access to the part of your brain that will help you make better decisions. Here's the process I use when fear gets me overwhelmed.
1. Realise that fear is not fact, it's just your brain's way of trying to keep you safe. Take a deep breath, say 'thank you' and then ask yourself, "What am I afraid will happen?" and "What's the worst case scenario?" When we play it out, most of the time we know how we could deal with the very worst, if it were to occur. Knowing that we could cope helps to lessen the anxiety so that we can start to move from feeling stuck to taking action.
2. Write a list of all the things you're grateful for. It might be that you're stressed about money, but how can you shift your perception so you start focusing on what you do have? Remember what you focus on grows, so unless you want your debt / or lack of money to keep getting bigger and scarier start focusing on what you do have. "I'm so grateful I can afford to get groceries this week, that I have this warm house to live in, that I have hot water for a shower, that I can pay my internet bill, that my friend is happy to cut my hair for free...." and just keep writing. This will help you shift your psychology and move into step 3....
3. Start bridging your thoughts in a positive direction. This one has got me out of many a pickle in times when affirmations have seemed like to much of a stretch. I know that many personal growth gurus will tell you that if you're feeling broke you should say to yourself "I'm a millionaire!" "I have all the money I've ever wanted - and more!" but if you don't even kind of believe that will be possible then this usually has a more damaging effect on our self esteem than a positive one. What you need to do is reach for a better thought - one that you can believe in.
You know how you have a tendency to spiral when you start thinking something negative? For example, "I knew this wouldn't work. I'm not smart enough to do it. In fact, I've never been good at this stuff. There's not much I am good at. Oh and great - now I've spilled coffee on myself. What a winner." And so forth. One bad thought can turn into a symphony on what's wrong with you and your life. The good news is, so can one good thought. Staying on the topic of money, let's say that your current thoughts are something like this: "I'm so broke. I can't afford those new shoes I want. I can't afford dinner out this weekend. I'm such a loser. I hate having no money." What you'd like to feel is rich, abundant...rolling in it. So a bridging thought might be, "but you know, money always seems to come in when I least expect it. I've always been taken care of in the end. I can pay my rent for another week, and actually I did get a free coffee bought for me yesterday." Think of it like an inverse spiral - you are spiralling upwards, with every thought taking you back to the superstar you really are.
4. Get clear and take action. Get clear on how you'd like to feel: rich, healthy, confident....whatever is the opposite of the way you're currently feeling. Then ask yourself, "what action steps could I take now to start feeling the way I want to feel?"
Most importantly remember that your fear is not your truth. (False Evidence Appearing Real, remember?) Your fears definitely need to be listened to, but then you call the shots on how you respond to that fear. When you can shift from a state of fear and into one of empowerment and love, your physical and mental health will love you for it!
It's been said many a time, but prevention is sooo much better than cure. When it comes to avoiding winter colds then you need to set yourself up to win now rather than trying to drink your bodyweight in lemon and honey drinks once it's kicked in. If you want to avoid shuffling into bed feeling like you've been hit by a truck and spending your hard earned coffee money on Kleenex tissues then try out the tips below.
I don't know who first said it's the best medicine, but I'm pretty sure they knew their shit. Physiologically, laughter relaxes you, decreases stress, releases endorphins and even burns a few calories. Take this as permission to spend your lunchbox youtube-ing Ricky Gervais videos or whatever cracks you up - it's all for your health and wellbeing.
Lean into lazy.
Not all the way, obviously. But I guarantee there's something on your plate that you can get rid of, some task that's sucking up valuable energy or something you can delegate to someone else. The bottom line is that rushing = stress = a really sad immune system that can't put up a fight when your coworker coughs on your face as they're reaching over and grabbing a cup from the communal sink. The most important thing you could probably do to avoid getting sick is eliminating as much stress as possible. But how to start? Look at your schedule and pick one thing you could eliminate which would give you time for something more beneficial - like a sauna, a rejuvenating yoga class or just some extra sleep. Don't freak out - remember if you miss it you can always add it back in next week, but I'm guessing your body will thank you for the extra downtime.
Feed your body.
Your body is performing a ridiculous number of jobs in any given moment to keep everything functioning in tip top shape. In order to do that, you need to give it the good stuff so that it can actually perform all those chemical reactions that help your heart beat, your digestion work and your hair look shiny. When we talk about colds most people know that Vitamin C is the ultimate warrior, but most people don't know that we need to get a daily intake of this because our bodies don't store it. That means loading up on lots of capsicums, citrus fruit and dark leafy greens. However, if the vitamins and minerals aren't in the soil then they aren't in your veges either, so it's worth springing for organic, loving up your local farmer and finding out if they're supplementing their soils. Zinc, another crusader that builds our immune system and is responsible for over 300 different bodily reactions integral to digestion, is now lacking in most soils worldwide (according to Dr. Libby). For this reason, supplementation can give you a lot of extra support even if, at best, you're going organic or at the very worst...not eating vegetables at all.
(You can check out the supplements I take for immune support here and here)
Align with the seasons.
Winter is a time for slowing down and rejuvenating. As much as we often like to pretend otherwise, we are connected to nature and its rhythms and seasons as much as anything else on earth. To quote The Byrds "To everything there is a season", and our bodies need a bit more rest in winter. It's also important to realise that your body will also probably operate better on food that is in season - grounding root vegetables and less cooling fruit, for example. You might feel better subbing out your green juice or smoothie in the morning for a porridge or eggs or miso soup. Making a bone broth soup can be another way to support your body to stay warm and get lots of nutrients at this time of year. I use Sarah Wilson's (of 'I Quit Sugar') and it's amazing (here's a link if you're keen to try it). The food that supports you best should be easy to find - it's seasonal, local and therefore should be cheaper - which is always a bonus.
So there you have it. Have fun, do less, up your vitamin and mineral intake and eat what's on show at your local farmer's market.
Every day I see beautiful, talented, smart women who are stressed out of their minds. They are suffering from panic attacks because they feel they're not good enough. They are developing irritable bowel syndrome because their bodies don't feel safe enough to relax (and therefore, digest their food). They are having more and more fights with loved ones because they are constantly on edge. Let's face it, operating from a state of stress has kind of become the norm in our culture. It's become acceptable because we put all of our focus on the external world and what we want to achieve, rather than building a strong foundation in our inner world of how we want to feel.
We can't keep going this way and the world can't handle the stress we are putting on ourselves and each other. Our health, our happiness, our family dynamics, our concept of neighbourhood and humanity are circling the drain - all because we focus more on self and ego achievement than we do about learning to love ourselves or each other.
All stress comes from a place of fear - a fear that we aren't enough, that we won't have enough or that the world won't be enough for us. The only way to combat fear is to actively choose to exit the current reality that we've created where stress is the norm and decide to create our lives from a place of love. When we choose to love ourselves then our health, our happiness and the quality of our relationships will skyrocket. When we love each other, we will see that we're not so different.....and war, racism and terrorism will cease to exist.
It's not naive or idealistic to believe these things. Obviously, we've done a lot of damage to our bodies, our psyche and the world in term of the energy we choose to bring into the world every day and I'm not saying these problems will disappear overnight, but the first and biggest step is to just make that choice....do you want to keep living in this stressed out way that doesn't serve you or the world? Or do you want to be part of the revolution and experience life from a place of really high frequency love and connection?
Here are a few things you can do to start decreasing stress in your body, mind and spirit. Remember: it starts with you, then ripples to your friends, your community, then the world.
De-stressing the body
Your body is usually in one of two states: the sympathetic nervous system or the parasympathetic nervous system. The first is your 'fight or flight' system or your state of stress. This is where most of us are operating from. Whether it's fear of not living up to our boss' expectations, the fear of being single forever or just not feeling good enough in general, we are constantly prepared for an attack. This perception of fear leads to weight gain, stress, IBS, depression and a whole host of other things that destroy your health and happiness.
The way your body knows it is actually safe is all cued by your breath so the first thing you can do to help love your body is to take time out to do some deep breathing. Place your hand on your belly, right up under your ribs and make sure when you breathe in your hand rises and when you breathe out your stomach contracts. Focus on not moving your shoulders at all and instead imagine a balloon in your stomach being inflated and deflated. This will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and help you start to get back into a 'rest and digest' mode.
De-stressing the mind
As Eckhart Tolle said, "You have a mind but you are not your mind." This is the game-changer between people that are emotionally happy and people that aren't. We all have an inner critic that lives in our heads and feeds us thoughts about what's "true" or "real" or "how life is"...but this voice is just that - a voice. It's a voice that is based on fear and survival and trying to protect you which is great....but it's not concerned with how happy you feel or how much love you're experiencing. Whenever you think something that makes you feel like crap, ask yourself "What is the fear around this?" and "What would love do in this situation?" You'll be amazed by how empowering this is and how much happier you will feel.
De-stressing the spirit
Spirit, heart, soul...whatever you want to call it, it doesn't really matter. The point is, that this part of you that holds all your unique passions, desires, dreams, preferences and interests is a part of you. When was the last time you checked in with her? If you feel like life isn't working, that you're disconnected or out of alignment then I guarantee you, that's true. That is your spirit telling you that you aren't living from your values or in accordance with what's true and important to you, Chances are you are doing what you think you 'should' do.
Meditation is a powerful tool to access your inner truth, as well as coaching or counselling. So much of the pain we feel comes from a place that we don't even know exists because we've never given ourselves a moment to hear what's really going on in our heart and soul. Starting with a coach can be a great way to uncover these feelings in a supportive environment where they won't overwhelm you. If you feel strong enough, simply sitting in stillness and bringing your attention to your heart space can be another great way to de-stress your spirit. Once you feel connected to your heart space, ask yourself "What do I need to do right now to feel happy?" and just as importantly, "What do I need to let go of?"
These are not just nice ideas. Practicing de-stressing your body, mind and spirit will change the way you see everything in your life and in the world - I guarantee it. All you need to do is be willing to see the world a different way and to open to the tools that help you to shift your perception from stress to love.
I'm hosting a class in Christchurch on Wednesday 20 July in which we will cover all of these tools and many more. If you'd like to come along and learn how to "Relax and Re-Centre', check out the flyer on my Facebook page.