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Make a habit of it
My last article started a series on barriers to successfully building a habit.
For most people looking to make a change, there are many challenges when there’s a desire to move a new behaviour to a habit, like brushing one’s teeth or taking a shower. Making a new behaviour, so it is part of what you do, who you are, and something you would never think of not doing is the goal, linked to your purpose. When someone starts an exercise regimen, downloads a meditating app or stops eating dessert, they are at the beginning phases of moving this new health behaviour to a habit.
Most people love their families and would do anything for them. Families can help us through a hard time and lift us up when we feel down; they are our rock in such a fluid dynamic world, amid a current moving so fast, it can suck you under quicker than ever before.
However, we must recognize that our families can also be a barrier. It can work in the opposite way, where you are the one always being leaned on to help or it can feel like family members are part of the fast-moving current you are struggling against by not providing a supportive environment for your new behaviour. Remember, they can also get frustrated, feeling they are always accommodating your habits and new behaviours and can feel it burdensome to support you.
I am in Germany working with some high-performance athletes and one of the coaches has been doing intermediate fasting for eight months now. I asked if he felt it has become a habit for him; he felt it had, as it has been over eight months. I asked him if he found his social groups, and family, are making accommodations without him asking. He was curious as to why I asked that question. This is when you know it is truly becoming a habit, becoming who you are. When family members or friends change the time of their meals, social gatherings or food purchases to accommodate your style of eating, you know it is becoming a solid habit and your likelihood of getting derailed is very low.
As you move through this change you need to remember, if you don't focus on your own health, you're putting your family's future at risk. As well, you may not be the best member of “the pack” if you aren't addressing your health.
Your health is your wealth and you need to continue to remind family members that this is important to you and should be important to them. Have these conversations regularly. Help them understand this is not being done for selfish reasons but to allow you to flourish more in life, a life that includes them.
Guilt can become a powerful issue. Taking time away from the family unit to address aspects of your health, can quickly lead to feelings of guilt. Expressing that you have guilt can also be a strategy to garner support in this change. When we let family and friends know of the struggle in our head, they will likely be more supportive. Letting people know of your guilt will remind them of the role they play in this process and how important it is. You are guilty because you care about them and how they feel. Downgrading this guilt by supportive comments from those you care about through this strategy will elevate your chances of success.
A friendly reminder, though, that sometimes it is not just in your head. You can experience resentment from children, spouses or your partner. Sunshine is still the best disinfectant. Talk it out, let them express themselves, and have an honest conversation. I bet you all feel better after.
Five strategies on specific health behaviours to drive success
1. Learn to meditate together
Take a class or download a podcast. It is being touted in schools, workplaces and all over. What a great way to connect and learn an outstanding coping skill.
2. Play together
This could be with your partner and/or kids. Leave the cup of coffee for later. When you go to the playground, join in; use the monkey bars, climb, jump, and join in the chase. Take advantage of the situation. If you do not have kids, grab the tennis rackets, badminton set or the beach volleyball. Think of Sunday as a Funday.
3. The family pet
A pet is a very large commitment. A pet can increase activity in a household threefold. Nothing gets people in a house active like having a dog. Going for walks and hikes that normally wouldn’t happen, or throwing the ball together is a way to be physically active. Yes, together, chase your dog for fun – he or she will love it.
4. Grocery store tour
Make it a family or couple’s experience. See who can come up with the healthiest cart and most cost effective, for example. Break it up: “You get two vegetables, green in colour… you have to find a healthy cereal with no sugar listed in the ingredients.” The kids will love it and learn as well.
5. Go to bed at the same time some nights
You probably need the extra sleep anyway. The kids will be more likely to want to go to bed if everyone is calling it a night. Why not create an incentive? Get 56 hours of sleep and you can have your allowance or go to the movie. Bribes are not always the best method with our children, but it might start to build the habit. You decide.
Set yourself up for success with some of these strategies and workarounds.
MORE FROM BARRIERS TO LIVING WELL:
- Use enjoyment as motivation to achieve your goals
- Muster support on your journey from behaviour to habit
Darren Steeves is the owner of VenduraWellness.com, a company dedicated to improving organizational health one step at a time.
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