July 23, 2012

Define Your Wellness Mission.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

By Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP 

More than 40% of American adults make a New Year’s resolution to live a better life each year, but a third of those resolutions are broken by the end of January. Old habits are hard to break, but it is possible to do so by changing your mind—in fact, by literally changing your brain. Your brain can build new neural pathways to reinforce what you learn, a power termed neuroplasticity. You can learn how to use your strengths and motivation to help you remain committed to a more healthful way of life.

Visualization is courtesy of TheVisualMD.com


Step 1: Set Goals by Baselining Your Health

The first step in taking control of your well-being is to set goals, and the best way to do this is to baseline your health. That means gathering some basic facts: your weight, height, family history, exercise habits. Other key measures should be taken by a medical professional: a full analysis of your blood composition, bone density, blood pressure, kidney and liver health, and much more.

Once serious ailments are ruled out, you and your doctor can identify areas where you are at risk for future health fallout. For instance, your family may have a high rate of any type of disorder; you may be genetically predisposed to develop certain conditions; or you may be at risk due to unmanaged, chronic stress.

Start thinking about the big picture. Changing habits can be difficult, especially if they comfort you—as smoking or overeating do for many people. You need a strong vision of what you want to achieve in order to succeed.

Step 2: Set Priorities

Making lists of your hot spots and your sweet spots will help you to prioritize.

First, list the times you feel unhappy or most agitated—fighting a futile battle to get a good night's sleep, perhaps. Identifying your biggest challenges will help your mission take shape and direction.

Second, list the things that give you joy, for instance, spending time with your family or enjoying a favorite hobby. Appreciating the sweet spots in your life can be a source of strength as you embark on your habit-changing mission.

Step 3: Identify Harmful Patterns

To change your negative habits, first you have to know what they are. Some bad habits, like smoking and drinking excessively, are obvious, but others may be less so. Sitting all day is dangerous to your health, even if you get half an hour of exercise or more before or after work. Even a few cigarettes are damaging to your health.

If you are going through a particularly stressful period in your life, this probably isn’t the best time to try and change your health habits. Forming a new habit takes repetition and focus, and if your attention is elsewhere you may have a harder time adjusting to new behaviors.

Visualization your desired outcome is a powerful tool in your journey. “Seeing” yourself as you wish to be has helped smokers quit, obese people lose weight, and sports champions achieve their goals. In order to change the printout of the body, we must learn to rewrite the software of the mind.

Step 4: Make Gradual Changes

Grand plans can be overwhelming: a series of small changes can make your goals much easier to accomplish. Start by doing just one thing. Add more vegetables to your soup. Take the stairs, not the elevator. If you’re very out of shape, walk 10 minutes every day and gradually build up your time. Put down your fork halfway through your meal, take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself if you’re still hungry. If you work at a desk, make it a rule to always stand or pace when you’re on the phone. Over time, baby steps can take you on a long journey.

If you tend to procrastinate (as so many of us do), be aware of the reasons you do it. We get comfortable in our warm, fuzzy old routines, and making changes, even small ones, is a risk. Predict when you will procrastinate and strategize to outmaneuver your future self. For example, if you know you’ll be tempted to hit the snooze button instead of getting up for an early morning run, put your exercise clothes across the room from your bed—with your alarm clock on top.

Step 5: Learn to Make Good Decisions

You’ll probably be faced with the decision whether to stay the course or abandon the mission many times. How does your brain make choices?

Executive control—choosing a thought or action to meet an internal goal—is managed by the brain’s prefrontal cortex. The orbitofrontal cortex and amygdala, play roles in regulating decision-making based on the memory of feelings. Regions of the midbrain in which the neurotransmitter dopamine is predominant also influence decision-making. Some of the choices that trigger dopamine's release: eating sweet foods, taking drugs, having sex.

We may overindulge in chocolate cake because we tend to value the short-term outcome we know (deliciousness) over the long-term outcome we have never experienced (weight loss and increased energy from better nutrition). One way to break that cycle is to reward ourselves in a different way. Instead of eating cake, we can go play a game or listen to music.

How long does it take to form a new habit? An average of 66 days, according to a 2009 study[Link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejsp.674/full] from University College London. Repetition and giving yourself time to adjust are the main factors in forming a new behavior pattern.

Step 6: Plan for Setbacks

No one walks a straight line on the journey back to fitness. Most studies of lapses in fitness, nutrition and recovery programs show that you can get back on track more easily if you have scripted the way you will recover.

The Mayo Clinic recommends taking these steps:

• Take charge. Accept responsibility for your own behavior.
• Buy time. If you're tempted to keep indulging, wait a few minutes and see if the desire passes. Try distracting yourself—call a friend or take the dog for a walk.
• Be gentle with yourself. Practice self-forgiveness. Try not to think of your slip-up as a catastrophe.
• Ask for and accept help. Asking for help is a sign of good judgment, not weakness.
• Work out your guilt and frustration with exercise. Use it to elevate your mood and recommit to your goals—never use it as punishment for a lapse.
• Problem-solve as you go. Identify the problem and create a list of possible solutions. If it doesn't, try the next solution.
• Recommit to your goals. Review your goals and make certain they're still realistic.

Step 7: Reach Your Goal

Reaching a wellness goal is a very big deal. Make sure you mark it accordingly! If you have given up smoking for a long period of time, treat yourself to some new running shoes or a great book. If you’ve lost weight, buy yourself some new clothes. You deserve to be rewarded!

Remember, though, that life will go on nearly as usual once you achieve your goal or goals. Even though you realize the positive results you have gained, including improved health and greater satisfaction with your life, reaching your goal won’t resolve every problem in your life.

If you haven’t yet reached your goal and find that your progress is slowing down as you approach it, you may want to revisit whether your ultimate “magic number” goal is realistic. Goals can be measured by a quantifiable means for the sake of marking progress. But your ultimate goal is really to be healthy, feel better, and enjoy your life more. If you find yourself falling short, give this some thought: maybe you’ve already arrived.

Step 8: A Successful Future

You can't be on autopilot to maintain your healthful lifestyle. Every day, you’ll be making conscious decisions that will determine the staying power of those new good habits.

If you’ve lost weight, it’s worth having a look at the National Weight Control Registry[Link: http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/default.htm]. It studies the habits of thousands of people who have lost at least 30 lbs and have kept it off for at least one year. They are a diverse bunch, but have a few things in common:

• 78% eat breakfast every day.
• 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
• 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
• 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.

Recovery from addiction to nicotine, alcohol, or illicit drugs is tough, and backsliding is common. One study[Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1852519/] looked at recovering addicts who had been abstinent for an extended time (median 12 years). They described the most significant experience(s) that helped them start and maintain their recovery.

• 46% said the escalating consequences of substance use.
• 30% mentioned support of peers/family/friends.
• 26% joined 12-step fellowships (Alcoholics Anonymous/NarcAnon).
• 22% had a substance-related accident, arrest, or other legal trouble.
• 22% said treatment or professionals.
• 16% surrendered, wanted to move forward, recover.
• 10% experienced the birth of child, wanted to be responsible parent.
• 10% cited spirituality, a higher power.

No matter what your starting point and your goal, keep these simple, but effective, keys to success in mind:

• Know WHAT your current health status is.
• Know WHY you want to change your life.
• Know WHICH aspects of your life you want to change first.
• Know WHAT might go wrong along the way.
• Make small, gradual changes.
• Write things down.
• Find a supportive community.
• Celebrate your successes.
• Remain committed through setbacks.
• Be prepared to maintain your new lifestyle for the long haul.

Write Your Comment

  1. A very good article

    Can you please write an article on "Claustrophobia" and suggest the ways to come out of this phobia with the help of spirituality or with medicines?

  2. Services On Map

    This quotation reminds me of the movie Yes Man. I think it offers an example of how we can turn our life oround if we don't limit ourself for fear or boredom. Of course one has to choose wisely. It also show how to ruin your life!

  3. Wendy Mcallister

    if you just let it happen

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