Your Health, Your Terms
When I discovered
that our June focus was on health, I struggled for a long time to gain some fresh perspective. What could I say about this topic that has not been covered ten times over, ad nauseam, in a variety of other forums? How could I begin to formulate some solid ideas about healthy living that would make sense for all of our readers? I realized that I had to place this issue within a broader context, one large enough to encompass people from a variety of backgrounds. Our priorities, even for health, shift depending on our age, life circumstance and personal experiences. What works for one person in terms of their physical, mental, emotional and relationship health may not work for another. So I hope this article gets you thinking about your own definition of health, and the impact of your choices today. What are you doing well? And what would you like to tweak to better support your definition of health?
First, let’s accentuate the positive. What is consistent in your life that feels good, healthy, or simply makes you happy? Perhaps it is the quality time you spend with your partner or friends. Maybe it is the time you carve out of your schedule every week for exercise, a massage or just some alone time in your local coffee shop. Maybe it is your commitment to 7+ hours of sleep or your passion for your work or a hobby. Perhaps, you make a point to get to a doctor for a yearly check up. For me, this month, it was a very small change; I had read about the benefits of certain foods liked cooked tomatoes, raspberries and red wine, so I made a point to incorporate more of them in my diet. Every time I did it, it felt good–I was supporting my health. Decisions that support your health are in your life too. Start looking for them and then recognize and appreciate the good you purposefully bring to your life.
Let’s also consider the times when we want to make more healthful choices and yet don’t. Why does this happen?
The first thing that comes to mind is that we are used to living our lives as they are. Change is painful, even when we know it is for the better. It requires effort to get through our extensive “to do” list. How many times have you said, “Just one more thing is going to send me over the edge!” And so even though we intellectually understand the benefits of healthy changes, we make the determination that this too will just have to wait.
There are other times when our unhealthy choices are a misguided attempt at self-care. We want to avoid a difficult situation or confrontation, the stress is wearing, and we find some temporary relief and comfort in a smoke, a drink, a Krispy Kreme or two.
Consider for a moment the times when “health” guides us one way and we resist. We are afraid to trust ourselves. Our natural instincts have been drowned out by voices not our own.
“I’m beat, but if I leave work by 6, my boss isn’t going to think I am hard-working and committed? I’d better stay or I may risk that promotion.”
“I’m hungry, but I really shouldn’t eat more…Got to watch those calories. If I let myself eat every time I’m hungry, I’d weigh more than 200 lbs.”
“Do you really need that gym time? A ‘good’ Mom would spend that time at home with the kids.”
Recognize yourself in any of the above?
I imagine it is easy for all of us to relate. Solutions seem like climbing Mt. Everest–out of reach, impossible; we feel defeated before we even begin the journey, and so it’s understandable that we sometimes scrap the new game plan entirely. In turn, little by little, many of us trade our health, our self, our wants, our desires to meet the expectations of others.
Perhaps, if we could see into the future and really grasp the long term impact of our choices today, we would choose differently. But many times, the erosion happens so slowly. In the moment, we believe we are making the best choice. “It is more important for me to finish this project than take my spin class.” “My day has been so crummy; I deserve this bacon cheeseburger with fries.” “The kids need me to take them to karate so that coffee date with my best friend will have to wait.” “My partner will understand another canceled dinner; after all, we need the money.”
Yet, when you find yourself consistently making these choices that don’t feel healthy or align with what you really want, pause for a second and ask yourself?
What results can I expect if I continue my current behavior/choices/path?
What is the impact on the other aspects of my life, work, relationships, health?
How important is this to me right now?
Finally: What am I willing to do?
Really, only you can answer these questions, and you can’t fool yourself.
Take some time to reflect, identify what you value and then consider the longer term impact of your choices. This approach should help you decide how you want to live today. There will be trade-offs. You will prioritize different things at different times. Trust yourself to know when you are out of balance, when it is time for a new approach, and then implement change in small steps. Appreciate what you have accomplished, no matter how small; positive reinforcement creates momentum to continue. Good health, in its many facets, results when you live well on your terms.