I can’t believe it’s April already. I honestly love this time of year. We are back on British Summer Time, there’s more daylight and the days feel longer. To add to my joy, I put away my winter clothes yesterday and I am delighted that my spring/summer outfits are out and back in my wardrobe. This feels magical especially after all those weeks of rain and cold and we can finally expect some glorious warm weather this week. So I thought what better time than now to write about change.
Earlier this year I wrote about the mind – thoughts and feelings and offered some insights on healthy thinking styles and mindfulness tools to help us shift unhealthy thoughts. This time I want to zone in on how we can change habits to create a happy healthy body.
My friends, if you think I’m going to list out diets and offer weight loss techniques, then please stop reading because I will be disappointing you. I believe, to make any change more powerful and long lasting we need to move away from quick fixes and start looking at things from the inside out rather than outside in. And that’s the same for developing a happy healthy body.
A few years ago I was at a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) training session learning about cognitive distortions and how to shift them. What was so interesting to see was the deep correlation between the mind and body. We all know that we experience a physiological response to external or internal stimuli. If we are in a stressful situation we immediately can see that manifest in our bodies – the shoulders tensing, muscles tightening, heart rate beating and so on. Similarly did you know that physiological factors also affect the mind?
On my training, I learnt about some physiological factors that sabotage our mind and bodies. I won’t go into all of them but I want to share a few with you:
Sleep Deprivation: Not getting enough sleep has a big effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. There are enough studies that show the importance of sleep and the lack of it leading to extreme fatigue, irritation, anxiety and an inability to perform tasks well.
Caffeine: A stimulant, excess amounts of caffeine can cause insomnia, nervousness and restlessness, stomach irritation, nausea and vomiting, increased heart rate and respiration, and other side effects.
Nutrition: Poor nutrition can contribute to stress, tiredness and our capacity to work. Over time, it can contribute to the risk of developing illnesses and other health problems such as: being overweight or obese, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and more.
I work with a lot of women and mothers and I notice how tired they are from work, home and parenting duties. They are not able to perform at their best and most of the time it’s because they don’t pay attention to certain obvious factors that can be sabotaging their mental and physical wellbeing.
I said earlier that change should come from inside out, so its really important for us to first start getting aware of our body and what we put into it. How can we change something if we don’t know what we do? So I’m going to offer you the same tool I learnt at my CBT session. Here are some steps you can follow.
Step 1: For the next 2 weeks, keep a daily habit log and start recording your intakes and patterns. For example – Sleep – how many hours of sleep did you get that night; Water – the number of glasses your drank in the day; Caffeine/Alcohol – how many cups of coffee or glasses of wine that went in; Nutrition – what did your diet consist of the whole day from breakfast through to dinner. You can add as many as you want – exercise or inactivity; cigarettes you smoke if you are a smoker and so on. This log will be helpful to really get self-aware of your patterns.
Step 2: Once you have your log, its time to really sit down and look at the changes you want to make. Perhaps you notice that you are drinking way too much coffee; or eating less fruits and vegetables; sleeping too little or watching too much TV. If your habit log is too overwhelming just start with 2 habits you want to change and focus on that. The trick here is not to completely cut the habit but to replace it with something healthier. For example – if you want to cut down on the number of cups of coffee you are drinking then replace it with herbal tea or water instead. If you are sitting in front of the TV for too long and want to shift that then replace a part of it by going for a walk or reading a book.
My friends, I hope you find this exercise useful. If you want to work more deeply on changing patterns and habits I recommend you work with a change work professional. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques work excellently to break and shift stubborn habits. One such NLP technique which can help abolish many bad or unwanted habits and behaviours, such as smoking, overeating, nail biting, and so forth is the “Swish” pattern. It works by changing your focus just when you are about to drop into the old habit unconsciously, putting a newly introduced desirable habit into your conscious mind as a substitute. This interruption changes your focus and makes you consciously aware of what you are about to do. If you want to know more, please do get in touch.