What does “healthy” mean to you?
You and everyone you know may be looking, or working, to be and stay healthy. Is it about following the latest trends and purchasing products that are labeled keto friendly or plant-based? Maybe there is more to being healthy than you think.
Healthy means something different for everyone. A basic dictionary definition of healthy is having good health, not displaying clinical signs of disease or infection. It is easy to think of healthy as eating right and staying physically active. These aspects have historically been referenced in all forms of social media. However, there is more to living a healthy lifestyle than eating your greens and sweating a few times a week. Mental health is a big part of a leading a healthy lifestyle and is often overlooked due to negative associations including pain and shame. Mental health encompasses emotional, psychological and social well-being. It influences how you manage stress, relate to others and make decisions.
You may think that your mental health is fine because you do not have a family history and have not experienced trauma or abuse. However, that is not necessarily true. Your experiences from a young child to present time influence your mental health. Sometimes those past experiences are forgotten because you have suppressed them. It is important to recognize that they still are present on a sub-conscious level and direct your behavior. The information you consume each day from other people and social media also influences your thoughts and mood. Your thoughts and experiences shape your thinking. Take a moment to think about how you talk to yourself and how you approach things, do bring negativity or positivity to the situation? Your outlook and the way in which handle things are associated with the way you think.
If you are considering leading a healthy lifestyle, start with your mindset. Mindset is not about setting a goal for yourself. It is about going deeper to find out why you want to lead a healthy lifestyle. The answer is not to lose weight for example. It is getting to acknowledge why that is important to you. Think about how many times you have set your goal for the new year to exercise or eat better. Maybe you did it for a week or so, but then found a reason to stop. You convinced yourself it was too hard or you did not have the time. (See where the negativity shows up?) You reverted back to your old ways because your goal was not specific enough, it was not your true underlying motivator. When your motivator to change your pattern of behavior is to be happier, have more self-confidence or have more patience with your loved ones; you are likely to be more committed because you have identified and associated the change with a positive emotion.
Once you have established your motivation take time to recognize your self-talk, how you talk to yourself and about yourself. If you notice that you do a lot of negative self-talk, for example- “That was stupid of me.” or “I hate myself for doing that.”, then it is time to replace that destructive negative voice with a loving, reassuring and positive voice. The negative messages keep you stuck in your present pattern of behavior and creates increased stress. When you replace them with a positive message you reduce stress and are more likely to continue moving forward on your path. A positive message would be “I made mistake, it’s ok.” “I can do this.” Remember to be gentle and kind to yourself. This practice will take time to build, but it is necessary to creating new healthy habits.
Now it is time to think about how you handle stress. The demands of everyday life are high between work, family, relationships, finances, etc. Do you bury your head and forge onward? If so, you are not managing your stress you are just accepting and dealing with it. What is the problem with that you are asking? When stress is not managed it creates other problems. This can include physical symptoms such as aches and pains, indigestion and hypertension. It can also impact your emotional state causing you to be moody or irritable particularly to those who matter most to you. Managing your stress can include prioritizing tasks, delegating tasks, or asking for help. Delegating and asking for help are not signs of weakness. They show strength in your ability to recognize that you cannot do it all and that you value the efforts of others. If you are going to make changes to your lifestyle you will need to manage your stress and make time for yourself. Making time for yourself can sound stressful especially if you look at it as another thing to do.
Making time for yourself may be hard to do to at first. Being a woman, you are hard wired to help others and be the foundational support for your family and loved ones. As a result, you are likely to spend little time or attention on yourself. In doing so, you neglect your own well-being while caring and doing for others. This leads to poor habits in maintain and supporting your own health. Taking time for yourself is important in order to recharge. If you are exhausted, burnt out and have little patience you are not acting with love and you are not being your best self. You are actually working against your well-meant intentions. Schedule time with yourself and plan something you look forward to helps to ease the stress of the day.
Lastly, as you begin working to improve your lifestyle, create realistic steps while focusing on your motivating factor. When you dive in too fast and make too many changes you set yourself up for disappointment. Think about the resolutions you broke because you were overwhelmed and found it hard to maintain. Leading a healthy lifestyle is not about how fast you get there, it is about the journey and learning more about yourself than you ever have before. Start slow and make small changes that are manageable and achievable. When you experience success and positive outcomes from small changes it builds your motivation and desire to continue.