We are all creatures of habit. Like it or not, human nature thrives on routine and is wary of change. While resistance to change does vary in degree on an individual level, we all have changes we would like to implement in our lives that, for whatever myriad of reasons, remain just beyond our reach.
By the same token, we all want to be healthier, fitter, leaner, stronger. It is certainly not for a lack of desire that these goals remain elusive to so many people. After all, if getting fit and healthy was easy, there would be no obesity, no smoking-induced lung cancer, no blocked arteries or mental health crises. Healthy change is tough. It can be a long, hard road full of setbacks, plateaus, and do-overs. I could offer up a platitude here (nothing worth fighting for ever comes easy, blah, blah), but instead I’ll offer an alternative approach: yes, change can be tough, but your body will guide you. So listen to it.
If that sounds like an oversimplification, fair enough. And I’m not implying that you should intuitively know if your arteries are clogging or if a malignant tumor is forming. There are things that happen to our bodies and our minds that are out of our control and appear without warning, so the best prevention is regular, routine, thorough check-ups. But otherwise, I promise you that if you take the time to actually listen to your body, to really understand how you feel, you might find change to be intuitive.
A case in point: I recently fought a protracted battle with the stomach flu. I have long wanted to cut back on my coffee consumption, but I’ve never been able to hack it. Beyond even the caffeine factor, I truly enjoyed the taste, and that first cup of coffee in the morning felt like a vital step in my routine. Somehow, post-stomach flu, coffee lost its appeal to me. Totally and completely. For the first few days, I tried to force the issue and choke a cup down. But it never sat well with me and I didn’t enjoy it. So I stopped fighting my body and took the cue. I’m now about 3 weeks post-flu and feel better than I have in ages. Clearer-headed, less headaches. My body forced the change I hadn’t been able to enact through will power, and I am grateful.
While this may seem like a relatively small change – and the fact is that some coffee consumption has actually been shown to have health benefits – it’s one that has made a noticeable impact on my life. Think about those beach vacations. Fun and necessary from the standpoint of a mental break from the rat race, but how do you feel when you come home after a week of extra imbibing, little attention to what you’re eating, and a lack of any structured exercise? I’m guessing the answer is: not so good. And if that’s not your answer, I suspect you aren’t being truthful with yourself. Ever get to the point where you really feel like you NEED a good, solid sweat session? Or you find you’re craving a big bowl of greens? Not cookies or fries but salad? That’s your body telling you to get back to equilibrium. Our bodies are not made for processing so much junk, for sitting around more hours of the day than not. Listen to it when it reminds you of this.
Similarly with changes that benefit your mental and emotional health. Have you ever agreed to a project because it sounded, in theory, like a good thing to do, but it ended up being a source of stress and anxiety? And to be clear, I’m not talking about projects assigned by your boss 😊. But all too often we fall back to that “yes society” and agree to load up our schedules and participate in every fundraising effort, or project for our kids’ school, or planning of a social event. Do some of these projects bring you joy? Absolutely. But if you find that you are anxious about it more often than not, listen to your intuition and either bow out, if possible without significant negative impact to others, or learn from your mistake and resolve to be more discriminating in how you dedicate your time in the future.
I am not suggesting that it’s easy to implement these changes our bodies and minds demand, but by listening to those cues, you might find it’s easier to take those first baby steps toward lasting change. Our bodies are, after all, largely self-regulating machines. We have just become so accustomed to listening to the external cues on what we should be doing that we forget to trust the one person who inherently knows what’s best for us: ourselves.
Interested in talking about these small changes? Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.