Refresh Your LifeStyle: Knowing what you want your health to look like and why you want to make changes are really the first steps to success. Simply stating that I want to be thinner or healthier is rarely concrete enough to keep you going when motivation wanes or strong enough to keep you focused when you’re extra tired, busy, or irritated. You can boost your chances of meeting your goals by having a clear picture of what success means. Focusing on skills, strategies, and habits, instead of willpower, is an important component of long-term success.
How to Refresh Your LifeStyle | Smart Living (Mind from Stress)
But I have known so many very motivated, very smart people neglect to make long-term changes. They insisted on relying on willpower instead of creating a care plan based on their individual lives, thought processes, and motivators. Healthful living and weight management are not about character. Mastering these areas requires having the right strategies, a positive attitude, solid skills, and a flexible plan.
Imagine Your Healthiest Self
Imagine yourself at your ideal level of well-being. How do you feel? Look? Act? What are you doing that brings you joy and a sense of good health? It’s this vision that will help you set goals—both long term and short term—and stay focused on them.
Without putting in the time to create this picture of your healthiest self, you risk setting weak goals with weak motivators based on a vague sense of wellness. A clear personal wellness vision and the goals that are born from it show you your path to better health and allow you to act with intention. Here are two examples of a personal health vision.
After reviewing the examples and the tips to creating a vision statement, grab some pencil and a paper or sit at your computer to get started on yours. It can be a work in advancement. Because we make lots of changes, I always use pencil when creating vision statements with clients. Then I ask them to rewrite it in their own words and their own handwriting or to type it up neatly. This helps the client to think about, fine-tune, and edit the statement.
Two Examples of Wellness Visions
Laurie’s Personal Wellness Vision
Brian’s Personal Wellness Vision
Tips for Creating a Personal Wellness Vision
Some people resist creating a personal wellness vision because it feels awkward or silly. And some people have a hard time putting their vision into words. Don’t let these things prevent you from turning your vague ideas of what you want into a clear picture of what you’re working toward. The following tips will help you create a compelling vision of your future healthy self
1 Write your statement in the present tense to make it more real and meaningful.
2 Keep it positive, which is more powerful than a list of don’ts. Instead of writing about what you don’t want, write about what you do want. For example, turn “I’m not winded when I walk or uncomfortable when I cross my legs,” into “I walk with ease and am comfortable when I sit with my legs Crossed.”
3 How do I look then? What am I wearing then?
4 What about these things makes me happy and energized?
5 What worries have I tossed aside?
6 What are 5–10 benefits I’ll get by improving my lifestyle?
7 What are at least three things that I highly value? How is my health linked to these values? For example, if you value spending time with your children or volunteering in your community, you’ll need good health to be physically active and to feel energized.
8 What would my life be like if I achieved my ideal level of wellness? What would it be like if I stayed the same?
9 Don’t hesitate to talk to a friend or family member about this to help you see the bigger picture. Often other people know just the questions to ask. In fact, consider inviting someone close to you to also create a personal wellness vision.
10 Revisit your wellness vision often. Look to it for motivation and a reminder of what you are working so hard to achieve. And feel free to tweak or change it as you learn more about yourself and your goals.
Your personal wellness vision is a picture of where you’re going. Your long- and short-term behavioral goals are the blueprint to get there. I suggest that you create at least 3-month behavioral goals and weekly or other immediate goals. Three months (or even four, if you prefer) is a good amount of time to establish new routines, but not so far in the future that you can easily dismiss any sense of urgency or commitment.
3-Month Behavioral Goals
Ask yourself what habits or routines you’d like to have in place approximately 3 months from now. These behaviors should be the ones that direct you to fulfill your personal wellness vision. To help Laurie reach her ideal level of health, she might have the following 3-month goals. Take notice of how they support her wellness vision described above. Write your own in your journal, or use the My 3-Month Behavioral Goals sheet.
- I exercise at the gym or otherwise participate in purposeful exercise at least four times each week and for a total of at least 200 minutes weekly.
- Instead of visiting the office kitchen for a snack, I choose my afternoon snack from nourishing foods that I bring with me.
- I pack my lunch every workday.
- I cook dinner most nights from a selection of healthful recipes.
- I have a regular bedtime.
Every 3 months create a new set of 3-month behavioral goals.
Effective Goals Are SMART
S: Specific (or Stranger Test): Be very clear about what you will do, how you will do it, and where you will do it. Give your goal the stranger test: If your goal is specific enough, even a stranger who reads it will know what you plan to do.
M: Measurable: Can you measure your success? You should be able to recognize if you were 100% successful or 80% successful. “Eating better” and “snacking less” are not fully measurable. Rewrite your goal if it can’t be objectively measured.
A: Action-Oriented: Make sure that your goal is written as a behavior. What action will you take? Remember that you have control over your actions, but your body can be a bit stubborn.
R: Realistic: Ask yourself if your goal is attainable with reasonable effort. Can you achieve this with the resources you have? You should have to work at achieving your goal, but not struggle so much that you are doomed to fail.
T: Timely: Know when you will do this and when you will assess the outcomes.
Assess Your Readiness to Work on Your Goal
You have a carefully crafted SMART goal and a plan, but are you really ready to move forward? Are you confident that you can be reasonably successful? Be sure to choose goals that are important to you, not goals that someone else told you were important. Likewise, it’s good to be motivated to work on your goal and to be confident that you can be successful. Use the rulers below to answer each of the three questions.
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is this goal to me?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how motivated am I to work on this goal?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident am I that with the resources I have available, I can be reasonably successful with this goal?
If you have identified at least a 7 on these rulers for each of the three questions, you have a good chance of being able to brag about your success.
However, if you give your goal a low level of importance, say a 5 or less, you may want to hold this goal for now and work on something more relevant to you. If your motivation is high (7 or higher) but your confidence is low, ask yourself if the goal is too big or if you can do something or get some help to make success more likely.
Here’s an example. Consider a goal to pack your lunch for work all 5 days next week. You’ve ranked it a 10 for importance, 9 for motivation, but only 5 for confidence. Carefully think about this ranking. What made you score it a 5 and not much lower, like a 2? What gives you at least a moderate level of confidence?
Then explore why your confidence isn’t higher and how you can boost it. Does changing your goal to pack your lunch four times next week boost your confidence? Does planning to grocery shop on the weekends lift it high enough? What about packing meals for 2 days at a time?
Keep offering up new ideas to yourself until you can answer all three questions with a 7 or higher. Success brings about more success, so start wherever you are. Show yourself that you are successful.
Tracking Your Goals and Progress
Monitoring your progress is one more step to success. It’s a good idea to track both your behavioral goals and their outcomes. So if weight is important to you, step on the scale regularly. If your blood glucose concerns you, ask your health care provider to share your A1C or fasting blood glucose results every 6 months or so.
Or ask if you should monitor your blood glucose at home. Keep track of your behavior-change progress with a simple Goal-Tracker like this one. Use the template or create one in your journal or on your computer. Another option is to use a smartphone app.
The final step in goal-setting is to assess your success. Ask yourself what you liked about working on each goal. What didn’t you like? Was something surprising? What do you want to keep, toss out, or modify? How can you make your success greater and the process more fun or rewarding? These are the types of questions that will help you develop your next set of 1- or 2-week goals.
Nine Steps in the Goal-Setting Process
This summary should help you get and stay organized with this process.
- Set a SMART goal.
- Plan how you will implement your goal. List all the steps it will take to be successful.
- Use the Importance Ruler to be certain this goal is truly important to you (>7).
- Use the Motivation Ruler to assess your motivation to carry out this goal (>7).
- Use the Confidence Ruler to assess your confidence of success with this goal (>7).
- Rewrite your goal if necessary based on any of the above.
- Track your progress.
- Assess your success.
- Plan your next goal based on this experience.
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Nine Tips to Nixing a Bad Habit
It’s hard to break into the mind when it’s operating on autopilot. Thus, extinguishing a bad habit usually takes considerable effort. Sometimes it’s much harder to stop a bad habit than to create a good one. Willpower is not the answer. Willpower is magical thinking. After identifying an unhelpful habit to stamp out, try these nine tips.
1. Identify the benefit. Even bad habits offer some benefit. Maybe spending time on social media gives you a needed break from household chores, paying bills, or working. Dinner from the drive-thru saves you time. Snacking on your commute home lessens the boredom. Try to identify each possible benefit of the bad habit. There may be many.
2. Pick another way to achieve the same benefit. Certainly, you can take a more productive break from work or chores such as writing in a journal or even socializing with a friend for a few minutes. There are other ways to save time in your day than to skip a wholesome meal. And listening to a podcast or recorded book makes an afternoon commute zip by. The point is to brainstorm ways to maintain a reward.
3. Identify your cues. What things in your environment or what thoughts trigger the undesired behavior? For some people, seeing a “Hot Now” sign triggers a craving for donuts. Seeing chocolate in the pantry might spark a taste for it. Feeling lonely or worried might summon up the desire for a favorite comfort food. Putting the kids to bed may signal it’s time for dessert.
4. Remove cues. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had a handful of donut lovers avoid the urge simply by driving a route that didn’t pass a donut shop.
Other people have removed trigger foods from sight. And I keep chocolate in a cabinet I rarely open for any reason other than to treat myself.
5. Feel the urge. Some triggers can’t be removed, but we can relearn how to respond to them. Mindfulness experts teach us to explore and fully experience the urge to engage in the unwanted behavior. Some call it surfing the urge.
You can minimize the power a craving or urge has over you by observing it without judgment. You will likely see that cravings don’t simply get stronger, even though they sometimes feel like they will never end. Rather, they build, peak, and drop off similar to an ocean’s wave. Try it. When an urge comes over you, sit quietly and watch it without battling it.
Where do you feel it in your b Jody? What do you feel? Focus on your breath. Don’t argue with the urge, and don’t try to beat it. just observe it. Most likely, the urge will crash and wash away in only a few minutes. Like other new behaviors, this takes practice to perfect.
6. Substitute a new routine. One of my patients nixed nighttime snacking by picking up needlework. Another person gargles with a strong mouthwash after dinner. If you’ve accurately identified your cues or triggers, you might find success with a replacement behavior.
7. Visualize success. Learn to ignore your triggers by imagining yourself being successful. If you want to stop unhealthful snacking in the car, imagine getting into the driver’s seat, take note that there are no snacks nearby, take satisfaction in that, and visualize yourself driving your usual route being perfectly comfortable without eating. Finally, praise your success.
This step also is a strategy that takes practice, so don’t get discouraged if it feels awkward at first or if you need many visualization sessions before a craving loses its power over you. Some people visualize the desired behavior daily until they are secure in their new routine.
8. Assess it. Again, set aside some time to focus on your progress. Remember to view your experience with a scientist’s eye. You’re collecting data to help you appropriately change your plan.
9. Join forces. If you need more help, seek out a friend, family member, or professional.
Create your own habit loop
Do you check social media (routine) whenever you stand in line at the supermarket (cue)? Do you make a pit stop to eat sweets in the office lunchroom (routine) when you walk by (cue)? Do you routinely take a walk (routine) after you clear the dinner dishes (cue)? Use knowledge of this habit loop to form new habits.
Perhaps the easiest place to start is to pick your cue. Start with a current habit and link another to it. One of my clients is currently working on forming the habit of exercising before work. We talked about her current morning routine and decided that she would lace up her shoes and head outside for a walk or into the living room to dance to music as soon as she put her morning coffee cup into the dishwasher, a habit already ingrained. She is attempting to link a morning walk or dance (routine) to her current behavior of putting her coffee cup away (cue).
sometimes the exercise was a drag, and we have to force ourselves to keep going. That’s where we need to insert an obvious reward. I encourage my clients to give themselves the pat on the back they deserve. Take several seconds after you accomplish a task to fully appreciate your effort.
I don’t mean a 1-second, “Yay, I did it.” Fully embrace the feelings of accomplishment and the effort you gave it. Feel the pride for 10 or 20 or 30 seconds. Without reward, change is hard.
HURDLE Method to Overcoming Obstacles
Part of forming new habits and successfully ticking behaviors on your goal sheet is anticipating obstacles and planning to overcome them. For example, how will you manage your alcohol intake at an upcoming wedding or fit in your daily exercise when you have houseguests. Eventually, looking for impediments to your success will also become second nature. For now, use this HURDLE method. This worksheet will guide you through each step.
Obstacles are always lurking. To be successful with your lifestyle reset, get into the habit of looking for and anticipating those obstacles. This worksheet will help you overcome them.
H: How is your upcoming schedule different? Think about your day and look at your calendar for appointments and activities. Is there something unusual or at an unusual time?
U: Understand how these events, appointments, or obligations could derail you from your healthy lifestyle goals. Will something prevents you from eating a meal, getting to exercise class on time, or getting to bed at the usual hour? Will someone else is in charge of your meals or your schedule?
R: Record your options. Brainstorm and write down every possible solution, even the silly ones.
D: Decide on a solution. Pick one or more realistic options from your list of possible solutions.
L: List the steps. Record everything that you must do to make this solution work. Include if you need to buy things, wake up early, change your schedule, ask for help, etc.
E: Exercise your choice and Evaluate it. Carry out your selected option. Make notes about how it went, what you learned, and what you will do differently next time.
Here’s an example of how to use the HURDLE method:
H: How: Beth’s parents will be visiting for a week.
U: Understand: Over the last 8 months, Beth has changed her cooking and food choices to provide more wholesome food for her family. Beth and her family attempt to follow a Mediterranean-style eating pattern, rich in plant proteins, fish, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Beth grew up eating Southern fried chicken, biscuits, sweet tea, and other foods she now finds greasy and unhealthful. Her parents continue to eat like this, and Beth is expected to prepare meals and shop for groceries while her parents are in town. Beth worries that she’ll lose health gains if she prepares the food her parents expect.
R: Record: Beth jots down these options.
- Ask her parents not to come.
- Prepare two sets of meals.
- Prepare the foods she usually prepares.
- Prepare the foods she usually prepares with some modification.
- Prepare Southern-style food in more healthful ways.
- Ask her parents to prepare their own food if they don’t like what she’s cooking.
- Eat out most nights, so everyone can order what they like.
D: Decide: Beth decides to stick with her family’s usual diet and make a few changes to please her parents.
L: List: Beth lists these steps to her action plan.
- Call her mom to inform her parents about the family’s current diet.
- Send her mom a list of foods Beth likes to cook now and ask her mom which foods are most likely to be accepted.
- Plan her menus for the week to include mostly the foods her parents have given a favorable nod to. Add a few family favorites from her childhood that Beth can modify to make more wholesome.
- Make a shopping list based on her planned menus. Add ready-to-bake biscuits and a few other foods that her parents love. Beth can add them to her otherwise Mediterranean-style meals.
- Purchase the food.
- Each night, prepare a wholesome meal. Two or three times out of the week, add a favorite of her parents, such as biscuits or a trimmed-down version of macaroni and cheese.
E: Exercise and Evaluate: Beth executed her plan as expected, and she is so pleased with the outcome. Her parents accepted the food happily, even though they have little interest in adopting this way of eating. Beth spent time cooking with her mom, which they both enjoyed. When her parents visit next time, Beth and her mom are going to pick out and try new recipes together.