Looking for positive change in your life? You are not alone. Although our modern, fast-moving, "high tech" environment has created short-cuts and made life easier in many directions, living in the "fast lane" has placed excessive demands on us personally. Our time, our energy, our creativity, all being pulled in multiple directions at the same time.
This type of "external busyness" keeps us from reflecting on and being fully aware of how we live and the daily habits we entertain that together create and unfold the lives we currently live.
However, the "slow down" experienced worldwide as a result of the recent global pandemic made people all too aware of their daily habits and how they either contribute towards building a stronger, healthier foundation, one that can stand and weather the "storms" of life or they crack, damage and subtract from the foundation they currently rely on.
It was an eye opener for many who very quickly realised their current lifestyle habits were not creating the "armour of protection" required to sustain them both mentally and physically in the long term.
This was both a wake-up call and a blessing, causing many individuals, faced with these hard, stark facts, to act towards improving the quality of their lives by consciously changing their unhealthy "life stealing" habits to healthier "life extension" ones.
Changing destructive habits to healthier ones does not happen overnight, so, taking drastic steps and making sudden, dramatic changes is not the answer. This type of "impatient" mentality aligns with the modern societal need for immediate gratification, expecting immediate returns without putting quality "time in".
The only one that profits from these types of extreme measures are the ones selling the goods!
Dramatic or drastic actions never lead to permanent positive lifestyle changes/habits for anyone. At most, they provide a temporary boost, but these short-lived bursts of activity fizzle like a firework display when motivation and enthusiasm wane.
Trying to build life-changing habits with sudden bursts of action can never sustain the type of willpower required to see true, lasting, change.
According to director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford, BJ Fogg, it is the "tiny, specific habits that create big changes in behaviour".
Small steps consistently taken in the same direction, with the same goal in mind, together build permanent lifestyle habits/changes. And, opposite to unreasonable demands and extreme actions that most often overwhelm and disappoint, often leading to defeat, small steps are doable steps. Each step accomplished builds more resolve to reach the next. It is a self-motivating activity.
Like a bank account or financial investment, small action steps have a compounding effect and work together to impact enormous change. The same way our bank account grows through compounding interest, our habits increase and get stronger with each repetition.
According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits:
• Changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you're willing to stick with them for years.
• These small changes may not set our world on fire initially, but, over time, provide the ammo for long-lasting tangible lifestyle changes. Done consistently, they create new habits empowered to lift and upgrade our overall quality of life.
Here are a few popular suggestions that have proven their worth:
Rise early – Giving ourselves more time in each day to accomplish things is a great way to boost productivity and relieve stress. We feel better about ourselves and sleep better at night when our days are productive.
Along with being productive we also need to allow time for just hanging out and having fun, whatever the moment calls for. All work and no play achieve nothing but burn-out.
Schedule the day – It is hard to complete a day full of activities successfully without some sort of schedule and planning. Preplanning helps us determine our priorities and achieve our goals by making the best use of our time and accomplishing the hardest, most important, and likely the most beneficial tasks first.
Many people find that creating a schedule the night before is greatly beneficial. They wake knowing the exact steps to begin their day with. No wasted time trying to figure things out.
Enjoy Nature's bounty – As children of Mother Nature, we benefit greatly by connecting with her energy. Exposure to natural light improves mental clarity and calmness while decreasing depression.
And let us not forget the awesome antioxidants we enjoy via the "electrons" we receive when touching the ground directly. She is a generous parent who gives freely but it's up to us to take advantage of her gifts.
Invest in experiences – Too much of our time and energy gets invested in obtaining fleeting, disposable, objects. Cut down on material things and focus on experiencing life and the precious memories it provides.
Use daily affirmations – Affirmations are powerful statements about self-love that apply to our emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. Create loving personal, affirmations, place them about the house where you can see them and repeat often. These positive statements keep us grounded and in a healthy loving relationship with ourselves – the first step towards healing of any kind.
Try meditating - Using some sort of mindfulness tactic such as meditation (there are numerous ways of meditating) helps release us from the demands of the external world and puts us in touch with our "internal world".
Controlling our minds and thoughts is what meditation is all about. When our minds are silenced, we experience peace. This is where real power lies. Many people stress at the thought of meditating. It takes time to learn how to release thought and enter silence.
Do a few minutes daily. Practice makes perfect and before you know it, 5 minutes will turn into 15.
Creating new healthier habits is not easy and does not happen overnight. It takes will power, dedication, determination, laser focus (keeping our "eye on the ball") and lots of tenacity to patiently stick with things no matter the weather.
Assuming a healthy diet and challenging exercise are already in place (if not, that might be the first place to implement a change – mindful eating for example?) … why not try a few simple, behavioural, habit changes and see if they do not help add years to your life and life to your years.
• Carolyn Hansen is co-owner at Anytime Fitness.