In health as in many things we are moving in one of two directions. Either toward better health or away from it. There’s no middle ground here. If you want to live a good life you need to put yourself on autopilot towards optimal.
Each day we make a series of decisions. Each of these decisions moves us toward an outcome or away from it. One decision may not have a huge impact on your life but the sum of your decisions each day, week, month, year, decade, etc. has a huge impact.
What are your habits? Are they helping your or hurting you? And why are the right habits more important than big goals?
Let’s say you’re feeling a little chunky and you have a goal to lose 20 lbs. How long will this take? How will you lose 20 pounds? Most people will go on a diet or start working out or do both. Sadly, less than 5% of people who go on diets manage to lose and keep the weight off. Exercise is a little better at about a 20% success rate.
The problem with setting a goal like this is that it is short term. Most people who hit their goal celebrate and stop doing what they were doing. And guess what? The weight comes back and often times you end up even heavier than when you started. The other problem is if you don’t lose your 20 pounds you feel like a failure.
So, consider forming a new habit. Everyone drinks something every day more out of necessity than habit. But you can make a habit of what you actually drink. Soda and sugary drinks are responsible for 30% of sugar consumption in America. So make it a habit to drink water and you can reduce your sugar consumption by 30%.
For example, one can of soda/day = 150 calories. Multiply this by 365 days in a year and you get nearly 55,000 calories! At 3,500 calories per pound you can eliminate 15.6 pounds a year! This is just one can of soda a day. How many of us have more than a can of soda, or vitamin water, or Gatorade a day? And once you make the switch from said sugary drink to water a habit you will be consistently losing and keeping this weight off.
Do the same thing with exercise. Tons of people join gyms in January as part of a New Year’s Resolution and many more join to achieve a goal of losing weight. But only 18% of people with gym memberships actually use them. Instead of joining a gym find a way to get exercise doing something you actually enjoy. Start with walking. This is something nearly anyone can do just about anywhere.
And remember. Doing something new is only hard until it becomes a habit. Then it’s automatic. Just like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Can you imagine going to work not having showered and brushed your teeth? Exactly. Because these actions are habits and are automatic.
So how can we build forgiveness into our health? We do this with our habits. And we can use heuristics to help us move in the direction we want to each day. A heuristic is just an approach to learning that can lead us towards our goals. Think of it as a rule of thumb or mental shortcut.
For example, do I drink water or drink soda, do I snack on carrots and hummus or eat chips, do I workout or watch tv? These are decisions that we make each day. Program a default into your mind so you don’t even have to think about it. Create a habit so you don’t have to think about it. You sit down to eat and you drink water automatically.
And don’t give yourself an opportunity for temptation. Get all the crap out of your house. Is it wise for an alcoholic to spend time in a bar? Then don’t keep soda, candy, chips, or any crap in your house. You may be able to avoid temptation today but how about tomorrow when your boss yells at you and someone cuts you off in traffic on your drive home?
Poor health rarely happens overnight. It is usually in the making over the course of many years. Remember the works of Lao Tzu, who said, Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small.
It is difficult to workout when you are sick and fatigued. It is difficult to take the extra time to cook or prepare yourself healthy food when you are sick. So workout now while you have your health and energy. Take the extra time to prepare healthy food while you actually have the energy to do it.
When you make these decisions become your daily habits you are building forgiveness into your health. You can splurge during the holidays and not feel bad about it. You can skip working out when you have family in town and not feel bad about it.
The average American eats out 2 meals a day. Take some time to teach yourself how to cook and instead go out to eat 2 days a week. And then you can splurge when you do and not feel guilty about it. The average American watches 5 hours of TV a day. Cut this in half and spend your new found time going for a walk, going to the gym, or doing yoga.
Your well-being emanates from the thoughts you have. What thoughts do you have if you are watching 5 hours of tv a day? What can you do to build forgiveness into your health?