This month I’m inviting you to take the challenge and develop the habit of health! That sounds like a tall order, but don’t worry, I’m going to discuss how we can make changes in small, ‘do-able’ steps that will result in permanent change with minimal stress.
First, I want to define the ‘habit of health.’ Adequate regular physical activity and sleep are important components, as is drinking enough, good quality water. Having said that, I’m going to focus on nutrition from here on.
Of course, it’s important to eat a diet that contains lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains, while minimizing refined carbohydrates, processed foods, saturated fats, red meat and alcohol.
In addition to these basics, Nature’s Sunshine’s Habit of Health is a unique program that addresses the basic categories of essential nutrients to help you build a nutritional foundation strong enough to endure the challenges of life.
You perceive and experience life according to your beliefs. Your actions and words reflect your beliefs. You are what you believe you are. Your habits stem from your beliefs. You cannot expect to change a negative habit into a positive one if your underlying belief remains negative. Therefore, to successfully and permanently transform your bad habits into good ones, you must also change your beliefs.
But this isn’t so hard. Your beliefs are simply thoughts that you’ve had repeatedly. They are not carved in stone. They are not even necessarily true. And they can be changed.
You can work on changing the habit and the belief at the same time; you don’t have to change your belief first. For example, you can work on believing that you have healthy eating habits (e.g. with affirmations, see below) as you are in the process of changing your eating habits.
You were not born with your habits, either good or bad. Most of our beliefs, and therefore, habits, are formed from ages 0 to 6 when we absorb everything we see and hear, and don’t have the capacity to edit, or to decide for ourselves which advice we agree with and which we do not. These beliefs are in our subconscious, as are our habits. Our subconscious mind helps us function on “automatic pilot” so we don’t have to consciously think about everything we do, e.g. how to walk, how to drive a car (some habits are acquired later in life).
Habits are intended to serve us well and free up our conscious mind to think and learn new information. However, when you realize that a habit or belief is not serving you well, you can take steps to change it, and it’s pretty easy.
Estimates vary regarding how long it takes to change a habit, from 21 to 30 days – take your pick, I’m sure individuals vary, and while 21 days may be enough for many people, others may need 28 or 30 days. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll talk about 21 days here since that’s pretty commonly accepted, but don’t feel that number’s carved in stone.
21 days is the amount of time it takes for a new behavior to become automatic or part of your routine, so that you will stick with it without having to consciously focus on it.
Clearly, you must want to make the change. You need to clearly see the benefits of the change. And you need to believe that you can make the change you’re contemplating.
Set reasonable goals: Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. Don’t try to entirely revamp your health habits all at once. Break down your goals into small, very specific and doable (and measurable) components, and get started on making small changes. For example, implement one of the healthy nutrients listed above, such as fibre, and figure out how to make sure you include that in your diet every day. Then move on to the next one, and so on.
You don’t have to wait until one habit is fully established to begin working on the next change. Add changes as quickly as you feel comfortable doing so. However, one change per month is a good average. (This theory can be applied to other areas of your life too.)
Use affirmations: Write or record affirmations about the changes you commit to making. Read or listen to these affirmations at least twice a day, ideally first thing in the morning and again in the evening. For example, to continue with the idea of introducing more fibre into your diet, you might say, “Every day I add a tablespoon of [chia seed/flaxseed/your choice of fibre] to my cereal.” That would be a good start. Note that the affirmation is in the present tense, and it is positively worded (no negative words, like no or not).
Reward yourself for your successes: But do it with something healthy, not with a return to junk food! For example, after a week of healthy eating you might treat yourself to a pedicure (or some other non-food treat).
Keep track of your progress: Keep a daily journal to document your successes and also your lapses. If you’re having trouble sticking to a change, you may need to alter your strategy or change some beliefs about what you’re trying to change. The more detailed your journal is, the better you will be able to keep track of your progress and to see what works for you and what doesn’t.
Good luck! I hope you will “take the challenge.” Your good health is worth it. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
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The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.
These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.