Photos: Creative Commons
“Adopting healthy lifestyle habits can affect a person at a genetic level. For instance, when you live healthier, eat better, exercise and love more, your brain cells actually increase,” says physician and founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, Dean Ornish, in a TED talk about healthy lifestyle habits.
Every now and then, I feel motivated to adopt a set of lifestyle changes that I keep telling myself that I want to make—or by dropping some unhealthy habits. The motivation to reflect on my lifestyle and its choices is a direct result of my life coaching sessions as well as my personal development research.
Over the past two years, I have been benefiting from life coaching sessions that foster personal growth and consciousness so that I can live the best life while adapting to a huge transition in my life; relocating to a new country. These sessions and accompanying research helped me to build my life tool box to deal with vices and personal challenges. My biggest vices are smoking and drinking so much coffee. I also tend to overthink situations and being stressed often. I want to make changes to my life that allow me to be healthier physically, mentally and emotionally. Therefore, I am aiming at eating healthier, drinking less caffeine, practicing mindfulness, being less stressed and exercising more.
I am not an expert nor certified life coach, but I wanted to share what I have learned over the past two years from these sessions and the active research I have been doing in areas of personal development and lifestyle changes. The active process of changing one’s lifestyle or adopting healthier habits gives us much pleasure, coupled with a sense of challenge to transform our lives and to say no to ourselves when tempted to fall off track.
It is no secret that I always find it difficult to make the lifestyle change I desire; and it is even harder to maintain these changes; no matter how concrete my resolutions are. So, my life coach helped me to stop and to ask myself: Why do we do what we do? And what motivates our choices and guides our decision-making process? And why do some people succeed in maintaining the change they aspire while others do not?
Digging deeper in this topic, the most logical answer I reached was that successful people do not only make resolutions, but rather they think of changes as an evolution. They deal with each change they wish to see in their life as a project with a specific goal, objectives and indicators to measure their achievements as they transform their lives.
My coach also helped me to realize that the way we navigate life is informed by a set of beliefs about ourselves and the world that are developed during the early childhood phases. Those beliefs are subjective and are usually deeply embedded in our memories, operating as an equivalent to an auto-pilot mode. What we believe, think and perceive are entirely unconscious. Furthermore, our auto-pilot mode represents the connection between the mind and body, and is responsible for the factors that promote behavioral change because the unconscious way of perceiving things shapes our choices.
Many of our choices may limit and undermine us. Isolating and questioning these unhealthy thoughts and choices that hold us back is key to shift to better ones – but this can only be done if we dig into our unconscious to recognize the pattern of negative thoughts and to trigger positive changes. Once you have the knowledge and motivation, this is the time to commit, embrace the change, and start the action.
So, my life coach encourages me to start by making your adventure’s road map and prepare a slow and methodical plan of small milestones for your goal. This approach will set you for success by taking things one step at a time. Being able to achieve just a couple of key behavioral changes can have a domino effect on your other habits, leading to a healthier lifestyle.
According to a Special Health Report from the Harvard Medical School “Simple Changes, Big Rewards,” “People can achieve remarkable changes in their lives by taking one small step at a time. The day-to-day choices you make influence whether you maintain vitality as you age or develop life-shortening illnesses and disabling conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke.”
If you, like me, have tried to change your lifestyle before but without feeling much success, do not give up; get in touch with your motivation and remind yourself of what is holding you back from living your greatest potential in life. Change is a process and is always challenging, especially if you want to transform many things at once – so challenge your auto-pilot.
Switching tracks requires some sort of extra effort, extra awareness and extra attention.
What I learned in my personal change, is that during your change journey, never hesitate to seek help as lifestyle changes consume time and require support to strengthen your resilience and commitment. Establish your own support system by reaching out to a friend, co-worker, family member, or a psychologist; or even consider joining a support group to keep yourself motivated and accountable without judgment. Share your struggles and talk about what you are doing – this can make your work easier and the process less intimidating.
A few examples of lifestyle changes that I made and can be easily personalized: I used to ignore my needs and try to earn the approval of others; until my life coaching journey opened my eyes and I decided that I will speak up and believe that they will still like me while I grow and I get to know myself better. I am a workaholic and I associate self-worth with major wins, which badly affected my personal life, so I learned to focus on the small steps in the way to those wins and try to celebrate the successes of others. I also learned to invest in my relationship and enjoy watching it nourish.
Overthinking about the future, is another issue that I worked hard with my life coach to change, I stopped being consumed with what happened in the past; and I learned to let go and have faith that I can handle any chaos that comes especially through practicing meditation and gratitude.
From a personal experience, I would also recommend trying to explore new meaningful and pleasurable things. This might be traveling to new locations and enjoying a totally different experience, or maybe doing some volunteer work, changing something in your daily routine and trying to do things in a more spontaneous way, get more active, cut your cell phone and internet use–or maybe get a new image and an overall makeover.
In a nutshell, what I learned in these sessions is to always remind yourself that you can make the changes necessary for a healthier you and a more rewarding life for yourself–these changes would create a permanent evolution in your life and will lead to a new you that you wish to see.