Welcome Summer!

Although, we’re experiencing more gray days than we would like here in SoCal, that summer feeling is still in the air as kids finish the school year, vacations are planned, and we look forward to spending more time outdoors with family and friends.

This is a great time to begin a new summer habit.  You might want to pick up the habit of drinking a glass of water upon awakening; taking a daily walk at noon; trying intermittent fasting by not eating past 8:00 p.m.; or writing in your journal before going to bed.

Yet making a change is easier said than done.  The definition of status quo is the current situation; the way things are now.  Being creatures of habit, it is easier for us to live with the status quo than it is to disrupt it.  The status quo takes less energy both physically and mentally.  The status quo is safe – it is a known quantity compared to change which brings the unknown and can make us uncomfortable.  Warren Buffet said, “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken”.  But the good news is that change is possible when we are given clear steps to follow and incorporate into our daily routines.

Is there something you’d like to change about yourself?  Would you like to eliminate a habit that no longer serves you?  Or acquire a new habit to improve your life today?  You can seize this very moment to create a beneficial habit that by mid-summer can become as natural as brushing your teeth.

New Ideas for Old Habits

I encourage you to recognize the fact you have the capacity to change your old habits and you have the capacity to create new habits by making a conscious decision.  Your new way of being reinforces itself in the form of visible results when you shift away from a pernicious habit and begin to replace it with a positive one.  To make a lasting impact, the reward has to be greater than the effort put forth to change.  The more you repeat the new habit, the easier it gets, and the part of you holding on to any self-doubt of maintaining this new behavior is replaced by confidence as each new day passes.

The scope of a habit can range from starting a brand new exercise program to adding two extra reps to your already established strength training routine.  No matter, you can approach them in the same fashion. I found taking the time and energy to prepare for a new habit made it much easier and more fun to tackle.  It started with the fact I was unhappy with what I was doing, knowing it was not serving me well.  I thought about it a lot.  I knew what result I wanted.  I made a plan.  I thought about the plan.  I refined the plan.  I prepared my plan for action.  I was neither overzealous nor unreasonable in my expectations.  So when the time came to set my plan into motion, I was eager and committed without a shred of doubt.  I KNEW I was going to incorporate this plan into my life without interference from anyone or anything.  And I knew the benefits outweighed the effort to change.  With that determination I was able to create a new habit that would stick.

I’ll give you two examples of what worked for me in developing the personal habits of walking and meditation that are now a part of my regular routine.  I approached them both with what I call the 5-minute rule.  When I decided I wanted to incorporate a daily walk into my busy day, I told myself I was just going to get out there for five minutes.  I put on my walking shoes and stepped onto the front porch.  Once on my way, I didn’t feel like turning around to go home after just five minutes.  It was too enjoyable being in the fresh air and moving my body with purpose.  My walk lasted 20 minutes. In the coming days, I continued with the mindset I only had to walk for five minutes, and each time I went longer out of pure enjoyment.  Today, I take a brisk 40-minute walk, usually seven days a week.  I utilized the same 5-minute rule for my morning meditation, starting with 5 minutes and gradually increasing it to where I am today.  I now have a daily 20-minute meditation practice each morning upon awakening, with rare exception.  I don’t feel complete without these two habits that were born out of a single thought to make a change. Both were established within a 30-day period.

Changing Your Unwanted Habits

Suppose you have the habit of drinking a cup of coffee and eating a sweet snack at 3:00 p.m. as a pick-me-up.  You’re not happy with yourself because you’ve gained weight and can’t fall asleep at night as a result of the caffeine.  Rather than repeating that behavior on autopilot when the clock strikes three, you can consciously choose to stop and decide it’s time to make a change.  You can say to yourself or out loud if in an appropriate setting, “I consciously release this habit that no longer serves me”.  You can also have an inspirational picture to look at of something that makes you happy.  Like your favorite vacation spot or your loving pet. This shifts your thoughts to a positive place.  Then you might choose to do one of the following: drink a glass of water; meditate; take a fifteen-minute nap; take a walk; write in your journal; call someone and tell them how much you appreciate them; do some breathing exercises; listen to some music or an inspirational podcast.  The possibilities are limitless.  You may not even be hungry, just in the habit at that time of day of looking for something to eat as a distraction.  And did you know that sometimes hunger is mistaken for thirst and a tall, refreshing glass of water will quell the urge?  If you just can’t shake the impulse to eat something sweet, take advantage of some mouth-watering seasonal fruit and cut up a couple of sweet, ripe, organic peaches and serve them on your favorite plate; or indulge in a generous bowl of cherries.  A handful of raw almonds or pumpkin seeds, although not sweet, are super nutritious and satisfying as well for a mid-afternoon snack.

Substituting fruit or nuts for your coffee and treat may not sound appealing at first, but the more fresh and delicious food you eat, the sooner the habit will take hold as you feel and look better, and I might also add you’ll enjoy the bonus of settling into your body’s natural weight.  Unlike empty calories from overly processed foods that leave you unsatisfied and craving more of the same, whole fresh fruits and vegetables come with the perfect amount of fiber, filling you up with high quality nutrition.  Because your body feels satiated and complete, over time you will stop wanting non-nutritional or useless food by default, simply because it will no longer enter your mind.

Pick One New Habit to Create

Make a list of all the habits you would like to change and all those you would like to create from scratch.  Pick one to improve your well-being and turn it into a written statement to yourself. It can be related to food or drink, to movement or exercise, to meditation, or to thought patterns.  Do not make it overly ambitious – keep it simple. And you can do it incrementally.  For instance, let’s say you want to cut back on soft drinks, and you have a soda every evening with dinner. Your statement might be, “I am going to cut back on my soft drink consumption by drinking water instead of soda two times this week”.  Another statement might be, “I am going to sit quietly for five minutes on Monday and Wednesday this week before eating breakfast”.  Notice how these examples are specific and attainable.

As you take on a new habit, I want to remind you not to be hard on yourself, as this will hinder the process of change.  Turning up the negative self-talk if you don’t do an A+ job will not help you achieve your goal.  It will take you deeper down the rabbit hole of frustration.  Be the observer, not the judge.  And don’t be so serious.  Save room for laughter.  Sometimes it’s great to stop and laugh out loud to relieve your self-imposed pressure, then take another small step forward.

Celebrating your victories, however insignificant they may seem, sets you up for long term success as they become a normal part of your day.  Once you feel comfortable and are seeing the results of feeling better physically and mentally, you can add on.  For instance, in our above examples, you might increase the frequency of replacing a soda with water from two to three times a week and see how that feels. And you can try adding Friday morning to your habit of sitting quietly before breakfast.  If it is too much, adjust back down to two days and try again in a week or so.  You know your body the best and what you are capable of accomplishing.

When you feel at ease and have reached the goal of your new habit, it will flow naturally into your routine. If you are up to it, you can revisit your list and choose another one, repeating the process.  Always check in with yourself and monitor your progress to be sure it will stick.

As you become more conscious of your daily habits and gear them toward incremental improvement, they will feed off one another.  By continuing to provide your body loving thoughts, plenty of fresh food, and regular exercise, increased vitality and certitude will effortlessly follow.

Here’s to your success. I know you can do it!

Stay tuned for more Nutritional and Lifestyle Tips.

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