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I was recently asked how health and wellness can transform someone’s life over time. Even though the answers might seem self-evident, many people are still struggling with compromised health. Clients are often at a loss because they are painfully aware of what needs to happen to improve their health, but they cannot get themselves to do it.
Starting can be so overwhelming because by the time we hit rock bottom and wisely decide to ask for help, we are steeped in the patterns that got us here and have backed ourselves into a corner health wise. Where do we even start?!
Knowing better does not equate to doing better. I, for one, can attest to this. The patterns that bring us to this point are entrenched, practiced, and have deep roots. It has taken me consistent, hard work over time to change some of my own less-than-healthful default settings and shift the old underlying patterns.
Clients often request help with their motivation. I would like to speak to the motivation piece in this post, providing food for thought and help you to visualize what life can be like when you have your health. I would also like to acknowledge some of what can be threatened on the path to greater health, that is, what we stand to lose. There is the changing of the health habit/behavior itself, and then there is what must be overcome in one’s life in order to do this. Sometimes the latter is what is holding the old habit in place.
Health is wealth. If you do not have your health, it has ripple effects across your entire life. I think key words here are working towards greater health “over time.” If you have a health condition, whether it is high blood pressure, chronic pain, sleep problems, or anxiety, you can work with a medical professional to manage the health condition. Nevertheless, you can and must also address the root lifestyle causes to create more robust positive changes.
Conversely, if you do have your health, everything else is so much easier and more enjoyable! You can generally do the activities that bring you joy without restriction or fear, enhancing the quality of your entire life. You are a better spouse, parent, sibling, child, artist, friend, and worker. You are not burdened by the need for or reliance upon external substances such as medications, alcohol, or junk food. The stress of having to always be near a bathroom, seek out places to have a cigarette, or time and hassle involved in medical appointments are a thing of the past. You can make plans with confidence in your ability to follow through with them.
You are no longer terrified of falling and may age at home, maintaining your independence farther into your lifespan. You are able to manage a chronic neurological or musculoskeletal condition with greater ease and better quality of life. You do not feel like a burden to the people around you. You are in a better position to pursue your dreams and passions in life. You are free.
If disrupting unskillful health habits is a precursor to experiencing true change over time, health might mean things like letting go of old identities and ways of operating, some of which we may have grown to feel like a part of us.
You may be challenged to give up any of the following along the way:
- Being too “nice”
- Trying to be as productive as possible
- Needing to be a top performer in your career
- Your job
- Numbing out through any type of addiction – drugs, alcohol, junk food, disordered eating, overexercising, shopping, gambling, excess TV, workaholism, sexual acting out, internet/phone, video games, or virtually anything else!
- Toxic relationships, including relationships based on a shared destructive habit
- Hiding or suppressing who you really are
- Pretending you are someone who you really aren’t
- The status quo
- Badge of honor for exhaustion
- Trying to change someone else
We can gain health but must lose things that are not serving us. This may sound great and seem simple enough, yet it can feel threatening to adjust personality traits that we feel define us. In fact, there very well may be a grief process involved. In the words of David Foster Wallace, “Everything I have let go of has claw marks on it.” There is a period of liminal time in the transformative process in which you are no longer who you were but not yet who you are to become. And most of us are not too comfortable with uncertainty!
This certainly helps me to put health habit change into perspective for myself and clients. I have compassion for those wanting the quick fix; it can be painful to be where we are, to start where we are. I know this because I have been there, too. I am still there sometimes. I used to get so angry when I heard the words “wellness journey” from a coach or mentor. What I really wanted was a day- or week-long “journey” or to find the one thing that “worked”. In truth, it’s juggling several factors and adjusting the dials of your life with endurance, patience, and faith, often with support and guidance from someone whom you trust enough to be vulnerable and authentic, that works.
Part of the work is making the smallest change that you have committed to and then maintaining that change over time, weathering any fallout, triggers, or resistance that arises until your default setting actually changes. Then you can decide on the next thing to implement.
Doing the work over time is a noble act and comes with great rewards. Your true success is directly proportional to how well you take care of yourself. Even when it is hard, it is worth it to become the unique individual you were meant to be!
Health means the world to me. What does health mean to you???