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Happy New Year everyone!!
We are now nearly a week into the New Year and over this weekend the last of the Christmas trees and decorations will be taken down, reluctantly by some and with relish for others.
New Years resolutions that were so confidently and adamantly set earlier in the week are either propelling us forward with abundant positivity into 2018 or hanging over us judgingly as we tuck into the last of the selection boxes or skip the gym session to binge watch a whole series on Netflix.
After the overindulgence of Christmas and the irregularity to our routines, starting fresh on New Year’s Day with a list of positive resolutions as we detox from all the festive food, alcohol and cheer (or stress) can seem like the best plan. However more often than not, we set big tasks to achieve, without really thinking through what we want or how we will do it. Meaning by the 3rd of 4th week in January we are frustrated and irritated and call off the whole resolution thing as a load of B.S.
We are creatures of habit and we operate consciously and unconsciously from this primal place within our brains all day, every day. We think, act and behave like this for years and it becomes our ‘normal’. To override these habits, we cannot rely on will power or a New Year resolution alone to change these deeply ingrained behaviours. These habits and behaviours have their own neurological pathways, some of which were created many years ago and they cannot be simply flipped overnight.
Instead we need to create new pathways, new habits and rituals but it will take time. When we repeat the same behaviour over and over we are tapping into our unconscious mind where those neurological pathways reside. We create new roads for us to travel and retrain our thinking and behaviour. Just like any skill or muscle, it takes time and consistency to see the change. If you do one cooking lesson or gym session you won’t be a top chef or Popeye.
Think about it this way, all your habits and behaviours are so deeply ingrained that they look something like a motorway, with roads leading on and off. Well maintained roads, no bumps or potholes as they are in constant use. Alongside this motorway is a forest and on New Years Day you decide to take a new route through the forest to a new destination. For the first few days, it is hard, you have to cut down all the trees and bushes in your way, to create your new path. It takes time and effort but your energy and determination are strong and you persevere. On your return each morning you see that some of the branches and bushes have fallen back to where they were originally and as you make your way along this new path you continue to clear them, so you can reach your destination. This goes on for a couple of weeks and one morning, you wake up late and believe you don’t have the time to clear the path that day and instead take the motorway, the easier option. You go home on the motorway too because you are tired and what’s the harm, you already took the route this morning. For some this is the turning point in their new path, they either reset and get back to their new path with renewed motivation and enthusiasm or they call it a lost cause and get back onto the motorway where it is the same old story but at least it’s easy and immediate.
Our habits and behaviours all serve a purpose at some point and are not all negative or in drastic need of transformation. We just need to bring more awareness to the habits that we no longer need and override them to make room for new ones. When we take the time to see what is working for us and what is working against us, we can see more clearly what we need to work on, to move forward and grow.
Motivation is important too, but it has to be a REAL motivating factor that comes from deep within, at our core values and beliefs. Saying you want to get fit for the New Year because you have been sitting and relaxing for the last 2 weeks won’t serve as a motivator in a few weeks’ time. Sitting down to really think about why you want to get fit and realising you want to be able to run and play with your kids and not huff and puff as they run ahead of you, is a much stronger rooted reason that will give you that motivation you need on the day you are tired and don’t want to exercise.
Then we establish the way we can do it, the professionals we might need to call in and the support we will need along the way.
The key to starting new habits is to only take on one or two at a time. Trying to change your exercise, diet, personal development, relationship, world peace etc all on New Year’s Day is a little over ambitious. I have changed many habits and routines over the years but only by taking it 1 or 2 at a time, building up my good/new habits and behaviours until they become my ‘new normal’ and then I look for another new something to work on.
Here is how I suggest getting started…
- Properly think about what you want to change and WHY (Tip – keep asking why and why again to each response until you run out of answers, there is always another reason behind the surface reason and this will help you to get down to the core reason.) Your why will be the driving force on days when you are tired or unmotivated. For example if you are trying to get fitter to be able to run around with your children, remembering that reason ,that ‘why’, will get you out the door and to the gym.
- Write down what the overall goal is, be specific e.g. do you want to be able to run a 5/10 km race or lose X lbs?
- Write down the steps you will need to get there e.g. do you have to research an exercise class or find a professional to work with? These steps will be like the directions you need to reach the destination, start at the start and keep going until you get there. If you take a wrong turn, no worries, just use your map to get back on track again.
- Think about who is going to support you. This is a massive factor in your achievement of your goal(s). If you are cooking healthy meals every night and your family are turning their nose up at them it will get very disheartening and discouraging. Talk with your friends and family, ask them to give you the support and praise you need to keep going. Get them to join in or simply just ask (without judgement) how you are getting on.
- Think about what problems or setbacks might arise in your master plan (because they will). Do you have a heavy workload in work approaching or a holiday away? Think about ways you can get around these setbacks or acknowledge that for that week you might be very busy in work, but you will still commit to at least 20-minute walk to clear your head and be active.
- Most importantly be gentle on yourself. You will have days that are not as good as others but the important thing is that you don’t dwell in self judgement or criticism. If you revert back to the motorway for a few days just wake up fresh the next morning and get back onto your own path (Don’t wait until Monday).
Instead of changing everything on New Year’s Day or in the first week of January, why not give yourself a couple of weeks to get going. I feel we are still in hibernation mode as the evenings are short and dark and January always seems a little low and flat after the high of Christmas without sprinkling self-judgement and criticism all over it too.
Why not give yourself a few weeks to really think about what you want to change and what the destination will be. Create the map and the directions to get there, then set the wheels in motion and enjoy the journey and be proud of your growth.
Best of luck,
Wellness, the hashtag or tagline for many an online post from the knowledgeable to the influential. It is often thrown around with reckless abandonment with others such as organic, natural, superfood and the newest member, mindfulness to engage you in a product or health promotion of some sort. However, the word wellness has been around since the 60’s and 70’s, long before social media was even born. Wellness, a word coined by the leading psychologists, behavioural change therapists, counsellors and life coaches at the time who pioneered the way for the whole person approach we know today.
As this is a wellness blog, I thought it was necessary to dig a little deeper…
What does wellness mean?
And more importantly what does wellness mean to you?
I have often posed this question to individuals and groups as a Health & Wellness Coach and the answers are always similar;
– Wellness is the opposite of illness.
– Wellness is being fit and healthy.
– Wellness is having a healthy diet.
– Wellness is being healthy.
All the above are true and important aspects of wellness, but not the whole picture. To bring awareness to your wellness is to bring awareness to all areas of your life, looking at you as a whole –in mind, body, soul and environment.
Wellness isn’t just the absence of disease, you can be disease free and in a neutral position between wellness and illness and still feel unsatisfied or unfulfilled. Almost like wearing blinkers or driving on auto pilot. Not really tuning into what is going on in your body, mind or heart but getting by because you haven’t started to show the signs or symptoms of illness yet.
How often have you been totally satisfied in some areas of your life such as career only to realise that your relationships or health are in total disarray? Feeling so satisfied in some areas only to feel empty and wanting in others?
Don’t worry you are not alone in feeling this way. How else can we truly know what we want without having the contrast of what we don’t want. So always embrace and be grateful for this contrast as it is there to show you what you do want.
For me, wellness is an inside job and it starts with our awareness. After all, awareness can be curative. When we bring awareness to all areas of our lives and ask ourselves a few honest questions as to how we are truly feeling about them we may be surprised at how deeply we connect with the answers.
So where and how do we start? Let’s get this wheel turning!
As I said when we look at our wellness we don’t just look at one area like diet or fitness, we need to look at all areas of meaning within our lives. These may vary but for the majority they can be focused around these main areas.
- Personal growth
- Significant other/ Romance
- Physical environment
- Fun and recreation
- Diet & fitness
Take 5 or 10 minutes and think honestly about these areas within your life. You can add in or take out areas if you wish.
If you were to rate your satisfaction in each area out of 10, what would that look like? Shade in your wheel to correspond with your rating.
Think about each area from both sides. For example, I might rate my diet & fitness a 6/10 because although I eat very healthy 80% of the time, my fitness levels have dropped as I have prioritised other areas of my life.
Look at your wheel, the inner shaded wheel you have created and ask yourself, how confident would I feel using this wheel on my car? If the answer is not very confident maybe you can make some changes to those certain areas of your life to ensure a smoother ride.
It is not about having the perfectly rounded wheel, it is about bringing your awareness to your wellness as a whole and improving it by looking at specific areas.
It is about changing the direction of your wellness, a direction of which you are steering and not being led.
As wellness is an ever-evolving journey for everyone you could do this exercise 100 times over and have different insights each time. I have often done this and thought, I am not satisfied with that area of my life, I am going to make a conscious effort to see that person more or do this less. In bringing our attention and awareness to an area you could bump a 5/10 to an 8/10 and make a huge change to our overall wellness in a matter of minutes.
Other times the change might be a bigger lifestyle change that we may need to seek help with and or set goals accordingly.
As I said, it starts with awareness. So, bring your attention to all of the important parts of your life, give it some honest, non-judgemental thought. The wheel should not be a tool you use to beat yourself up that you haven’t got your life perfectly balanced (Let’s be honest, who does?). It is a tool that acts as a starting point from which you can consciously improve your health and well-being.
We are the only ones who can take control of our wellness and change it for the better, we just need to make that choice.
Are you ready to take control of your health and wellness and change it for the better?
Where will you start?