As we approach Valentine’s Day, the season of chocolate covered strawberries, I boldly ask the question “How are you doing on your New Year’s Resolutions?” Are you still committed or did your enthusiasm wane a little with each week or at your first setback? If you are steadily progressing, congratulations and keep up the good work. If not, no harm, no foul, take a breath. Health is too important to give up on. How about taking a different approach? I could lay down the 5 same ways you already know to improve your health in 2018; drink more water, exercise, meditate, limit sugar and get an adjustment once or twice a month. This is great advise and beneficial, but potentially not that helpful when a romantic dinner for two is in the near future. Forget New Year’s. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, l am going to suggest “feeling” better be the new inspiration to your health goals. And, dive back in.
I am suggesting an approach to health or wellbeing that uses feelings for motivation but not necessarily to measure your outcomes. In other words, let how you feel drive the behavior or goal and let it determine how you participate with your course of action towards your desired end result. Perhaps we approach change from a change of heart, and include more passion, compassion and feeling good as our health goal and we feel pleasure and happiness along the way.
Ask yourself “how” would you like to feel in your body, life, mental and emotional space. Is it confident in a swimsuit, sexy for your lover, energetic for your job, inspired for your children, enthusiastic when you wake up and greet the day? If those feelings become what you seek, might it change your behaviors?
Is the health you seek related to weight, blood pressure, increasing your chest press by 25% or stopping your addiction to nicotine or alcohol? Will you take action? And, do you have a plan? Can you envision yourself looking or feeling better, happier, more at ease in your body and mind?
When you think about it, goal weight, health risk and our vices don’t motivate us for very long. We are motivated by how we “feel” from moment to moment, and in a generalized feeling tone of our day or experiences. Being overweight may make you feel self-conscious, smoking may cause guilt for wanting to stop but not stopping, a daily glass or bottle of wine may cause you to experience tension or distrust with yourself or a family member, having a gym membership you don’t regularly use may be eroding your personal sense of priority and commitment.
Change requires attention to our feelings. Our willingness to want something because it would feel good can be a powerful motivator. Our personal desires can lead us to knowing and course correction when we recognize our feelings in relationship to what are doing or not doing, when we are on course or off course. Off course may feel like guilt, lowered self-esteem, the fear of failure, chronic dissatisfaction or apathy. To get back on course seek feelings that align with your health goal and let those feelings motivate you back on course. Refuse to let your current health make you feel anything but good. Let the feeling of pride drive you to the gym, let the feeling self-nurturing motivate you to take a yoga class, let the feeling of sliding into those skinny jeans inspire you to order a turkey salad instead of a burger and fries. Let those good feelings love you towards your health goal. It will feel so much better if you make your habit of feeling good coincide with the habits of drinking more water, diet, exercise, and so on.
My challenge to you is to get quiet and consciously feel more deeply into what an improvement in your health would feel like. Make a list of 5 behaviors you can shift or improve to move you in the direction of your desired feeling state. For example, exercise makes you feel like you kept your word with yourself and you can take pride in knowing you burned 300 calories. A day without sugar makes you appreciate the flavor of apple and cinnamon that you forgot you enjoyed and makes you feel like a health conscious individual.
Make your changes small enough to cultivate a feeling of success to reinforce your changes. Fast results are not necessarily lasting results. Be realistic about the time it takes to lose 20 pounds, taper off of nicotine or caffeine or train for a marathon. Stay focused on your feelings and don’t get caught up in looking for immediate results. There is a difference between stepping on the scale and feeling either happy or sad as your weight goes up or down versus feeling appreciation because you know that no matter what the scale says today that you exercised and ate well and trust that the scale will follow your actions as the days and weeks go by. Two push-ups are still more than none and cutting nicotine or alcohol by half is still an improvement that feels like progress and self-control.
This Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to start a romance with healthy thoughts and feelings as the “new” way of loving and changing your health and wellness practices. Because, after all, being amazing feels great, strawberries are delicious, and skinny jeans feel sexy.