You Can Change!

Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Fitness Tips | 0 comments

happinessAs a physician, I am in the business of promoting health. I believe my job is to create a partnership with my patients in order to help them improve their quality of life.

Although I am a gynecologist/reproductive endocrinologist, I don’t want to limit myself to only fixing problems relating to women’s reproductive health.

To truly maximize your health, I believe that the journey involves working on improving mental, physical, and spiritual fitness. These three areas are interrelated, as mind-body medicine teaches us daily.

I recently learned a great deal about the power of positive psychology and also about the psychology of habits. For many of us, improving our health means letting go of bad habits and replacing them with good habits.

This simple statement is not easy.

Study after study teaches us that the brain likes to follow the path of least resistance, so it is easy to revert to old and perhaps not-so-healthy habits, even if we are well intentioned.

This is the ultimate challenge of change. And although it can be difficult, it is possible to make a positive shift.

The first step in changing a habit is to be aware of it. Next, the goal is to interrupt the pattern of behavior. Finally,  you must choose to go in a new direction.

To help simplify the process of making a positive shift, it’s important to lower the activation energy required to start the desired new habit. Setting up rules is important in the first few days and weeks of any behavior-changing venture. By limiting choices, you can lower the barrier to positive change. Creating a situation with too many options may ultimately tap your reserves, and that could make it very difficult to continue with the new, positive habit.

Whether you are trying to change habits at work or at home, the key to reducing choice is to set rules in advance, and then allow yourself to follow them. This will then free you up from a counter-productive barrage of willpower-depleting choices, and allow in the space for you to make a real difference in your life.

For instance…

If you want to start limiting your intake of alcohol, then the rule can be that you won’t drive if you’ve had more than one alcoholic drink, and even then, you’ll wait at least one hour before you get behind the wheel. This means that whenever you go out, you’ll keep the amount of alcohol you imbibe to a minimum, and it also means that you’ll be a more responsible driver to boot!

If you want to be more focused and productive at work, then the rule can be to limit yourself to checking email three times a day; in the morning, when you first arrive, just before lunch, and then finally, shortly before you leave for the day.

If you want to get into a regular fitness routine, then the rule could be to plan your workouts for the week on Sunday evenings. You can then schedule when and what kind of exercise you will do each day. Once your weekly fitness routine is scheduled, then you can follow-up the night before by packing a gym bag or selecting a DVD to work out to, filling your water bottle, and/or putting together your iPod playlist. All of this proactive work will set the stage for your being able to easily follow through with your fitness plan.

If you are shifting what you eat, then commit to planning your meals. Pack your lunch and/or prep dinner the night before. This will decrease any indecision at mealtime and keep you from eating out too frequently, where you may have less control over ingredients, portion size, etc.

If you are wanting to be more happy and carefree, then the rule could be to think of one happy thought daily and share it with your family at dinner, or, if you live alone, write it in a journal or share your happy thought on social media, like Facebook. That way you are focused on finding positivity wherever you look… and sharing it then helps hold you accountable for finding that which brings you joy — each and every day.

These simple steps can help improve your outlook and become more upbeat as you begin to focus on positive thoughts, engage in better eating, and become more active. And while a positive outlook may not bring the baby you may desire, having a positive outlook will certainly help you move past challenges with ease. New, healthy habits are the keys to unlock greater satisfaction, more joy, and a much greater ability to embrace happiness.

As Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, says, “Happiness is not the belief that we don’t need to change; it’s the realization that we can.”

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