By Dr. Mark Wiley
If you’ve lost your way on the path to good health, you need to find a way to get back on the road to wellness. Inconsistent efforts to stay healthy do you little good. The yo-yo effect of failed diets, gaining and losing weight over and over, suffering from pain that you never vanquish… all of these take a serious toll on your body and on psyche. But you probably fail to actualize your wellness aspiration for one simple reason: You don’t have a clear goal or a focused plan.
Creatures of Habit
We humans are creatures of habit. Once we get in a groove, we usually remain there unless something or someone shifts our focus and direction. A supportive partner or the sudden onset of a disease can change our habits for the better. But there is no need to require a major force to shift us out of complacency or poor health into a lifestyle of wellness.
The simplicity of realizing the body can keep itself at healthy homeostasis if you use healthy habits to sustain its well-being should reassure you that health changes can be made.
All you need to do is make up your mind to change your habits and switch grooves. That’s easier said than done, perhaps. But a few tips and support can make embracing a wellness lifestyle easier than you think. Once you’re in a new feedback loop, a new habitual way of being and doing, the rest can take care of itself.
Vision and Mission
A diet and exercise program fails when you’re not fully devoted to the regimen. Most people think they are committed at the onset, but over time they find it difficult to stay the course. This happens, often, because they do not have a clear vision of where they want to be or a mission to make it happen. In other words, goals are not set. When the going gets tough, they get discouraged because there seems to be no end in sight.
Take a few moments to write yourself a vision statement. This is just a sentence or two that states clearly what you envision for your health and your life once you achieve better health.
An example: “I envision myself sleeping soundly, awaking refreshed and free of pain, able to enjoy my days walking, exercising, riding my bike and still having energy for my loved ones.”
Another could be: “My mission is to fully embrace a wellness lifestyle, eat cleanly, exercise regularly, meditate every day and surround myself with loving sights, sounds and people in an effort to create a groove of wellness and an environment that supports my vision for me and my life.”
With a clear vision and mission written down, memorized and shared with others, you can refer back to it when in doubt and always have a clear goal in mind for why you are making an effort to be healthier and where you are headed with your program.
Set Goals and Track Your Metrics
Creating a plan to achieve your wellness goals is vital to the success of weight-loss or pain-reduction programs. Think about your wellness situation and make a scale that can record your progress.
For example, if you want to lose weight, use a calendar to track your changing weight over time.
For reducing pain, use a calendar that records your pain levels (from 1 to 10).
You can do similar things for measuring blood pressure improvements, pulse rate reductions, body mass index changes, caloric intake and other metrics.
Think about what you want to change and make a chart to keep track of those items and goals. Then input your totals daily, weekly and monthly.
These kinds of records are especially important for the times when your efforts reach obstacles and you feel like quitting. The charts and calendars let you examine your progress over time and see how you are improving despite recent setbacks. Having a goal helps you keep your eyes on the prize. Having a set of metrics gives you a concrete way to stay up to date on progress. It also helps you see when you need to change course or improve your efforts.
Your wellness plan consists of a large goal that incorporates smaller mini-stops along the way.
Compare your wellness plan to a vacation. You cannot set out on vacation with a mere notion of wanting “to visit someplace nice.” You need to set the destination, get things in place to help get you there, set a route and find places to rest along the way. If you want to go from New York to Tokyo in 24 hours, you need to book a flight, pack your bags, get to the airport, board a plane headed to Tokyo and embark on your journey. Once there, you need a plan for moving forward of ways to enjoy yourself at your destination.
Journeying to wellness requires just as much planning.
If you want to lose weight, increase your range of motion, reduce pain, raise or lower your blood pressure, or increase flexibility, you need to create a plan to reach one or more of those destinations. Often, the way to do that is to enlist the help of others. That can include personal trainers, dieticians, wellness practitioners, therapists or spiritual guides.
Without a specific destination in mind and people to help guide your route, your wellness goals will be elusive.
Stick To the Plan
Once you have a clear vision, mission, goals, metrics and a plan with supporters in place, you need to consider how you will deal with moments of self-doubt. You know, the times when you are on a diet and out with a friend and think it is OK to order the prime rib and loaded potato dinner with a roll and butter and a super-rich desert. Or when you wake up just a little too tired and you want to stay in bed and skip your daily walk, yoga session or gym workout. Or if you’d rather do something different during the time you have allocated for your daily meditation or stretching or journaling.
At times like these, as your mind circles itself, trying to decide or rationalize forgoing your healthy activity, you must stay the course.
Rationalizing and talking yourself into feeling you can veer off your wellness program are the recipe for disaster. It breaks the groove and starts a negative cycle of laziness and giving up. To help prevent this, ask yourself these simple questions:
Will my choice add value to my wellness vision, mission and plan?
Will making this choice keep leading me to my goals?
The answer to these questions needs to be “yes.” If it is not, then think back to your vision and mission and stay the course. A little effort now prevents a lot of loss (or quitting) later.
Setting specific goals, knowing the destination, making a plan, partnering with people to help guide your journey and setting realistic and measurable goals are the way to success in achieving wellness goals.
Relish in Gratitude
I’d like to conclude with a piece of information you perhaps may not have thought about: journaling. Did you know that keeping track of what you are grateful for each day is a powerful healing exercise? It’s true. By focusing on gratitude, we increase our vibration and innate healing powers taking us toward wellness. Being grateful also boosts serotonin and dopamine levels; those “feel good” chemicals in the body.
So while you begin implementing the steps above go ahead and start writing down what you are grateful for each day. It will surprise you how good it can make you feel and how soon you’ll have the spirit and energy to do more toward regaining your quality of life and a wellness lifestyle.