Our habits matter - in ways ranging from obvious to surprisingly subtle, they build us up or wear us down over time. They can make us stronger, more confident, healthier, more patient, or enable us to grow and improve. Conversely, the presence of a different routine or recurring act can cause equally bold negative results. Whether we're ready to admit it or not, all of our habits make a difference in how we feel and function now and in the future.
The outward is only the outside of that which is within. Men are not concealed under habits, but are revealed by them; they are their true clothes. -Thoreau
FIND YOUR MOTIVATION TO STICK TO GOOD HABITS
Take charge of what you struggle with and make an effort to improve.
The combination of choices and habits that create the best functioning you is entirely unique. Finding what works and what doesn't is an ongoing process that we have the choice to be a conscious part of on a daily basis, or not. It's important to stop and ask ourselves how we're doing, how we're feeling, and OFTEN. Get to know the subtleties. It's not selfish, it's necessary and well worth it.
It's too easy to develop a cloudy comfortability about our days and weeks and the routines therein, accepting things as they are. When we pause to think and evaluate how we're feeling, it helps to hold us accountable and keep our efforts clear and on track.
I am not a victim.
We all have personal struggles to deal with in this life. Mine surround my lung issues. To be blunt, a bronchiectasis cough is really gross. It's different than a normal "I have a cold" cough. I would describe it as embarrassing, annoying, and inconvenient. It's daily presence in my life was always a struggle for me growing up. Beyond the outward annoyances are the greater physical deficiencies that accompany the condition. Doctors told me that 25% of my lung capacity is permanently and irretrievably damaged, leaving me with 75% to work with.
I was prescribed many rounds of antibiotics in high school that kept things at bay with a compromise in overall immunity. I got sick, a lot. I worked hard to creatively hide it from people over time. I made it through my college years feeling "okay", but really I was slowly submitting to the idea that this condition I was born with would dictate what I could and couldn't do in this life.
I am so unendingly happy that one day I realized how wrong I was.
Thank you, nature.
My first bigger hike with Ben was up the Stony Brook trail to Imp Shelter in New Hampshire in 2010; 9 miles round trip. It was a painful struggle for both my mind and body. I had to stop more than several times to cough and catch my breath. Dealing with my bronchiectasis on this occasion was extra frustrating considering the massive crush I had (and still have!) on Ben. I wanted to be smooth and outdoorsy, effortlessly trekking up the trail free of sweat or any sign of pain; i.e. "kick-ass". That so didn't happen. I complained and swore more than anyone should during that hike. As I walked, with my head down, I pictured myself years down the road, forgoing challenging and rewarding physical activities like this because it's just not worth it. "Oh, you go ahead Ben, I'll stay here and... read."
42 breaks and countless coughing fits later, the world started to open up. When we finally got to the top of the mountain and saw the incredible view, I felt my muscles sing with hard work and felt a glimpse of the accomplishment high that I'm now so in love with. How could I not have more of this in my life, anytime I want?! Even at that stage of my journey, when a SOLID number of changes were needed in my daily habits in order to make improvements to my condition, I still did it, and I wanted more.
Years passed, trial and error galore along the way. The only thing I always knew for sure is that I wanted to find a solution without medication. To see if that was even possible. I realized that you have to be open, be willing to commit and explore your options in order to discover what works best for YOU. Take charge and decide to do whatever the heck you need to do to feel better. This is just my story, ours are all different.
Today, I feel strong, my lungs feel strong, and I know now that we can accomplish anything we put our minds to. The simple beauty of being able to chase after my dog on the beach and feel FINE. AHH. I can't even tell you. It's awesome.
Listen to your body.
Get to know how every little thing you eat, touch, do, or don't do makes you feel.
I'm extremely sensitive when it comes to my eating and exercise habits. What, when, where, how much, etc. The connection between these physical habits and my mental health is so incredibly strong, increasingly so as my choice to be aware soldiers on.
I'm often asked why I would "deprive" myself of things like (most) dairy, meat, refined sugar, etc. or why I insist on doing Insanity, hiking or running on a what could be a lazy Sunday. The answer is simply that I have to. I FINALLY found the prescription-free, natural formula that enables me to run, laugh, play, and feel confident without coughing or struggling to breathe. To me, it's a small price to pay to better.
Since that brutal hike 5 years ago, I've made it my personal mission to work to improve my condition, to not let it stop me from kicking ass physically, and mentally. I just want to kick ass.
We've hiked that same trail at least three more times since then, each trip better than the last.
THIS is why I'm so passionate about how I move and eat. THIS is what motivates me to do more, and to share.
Striving to master these daily habits around food and exercise naturally promotes positivity and growth in other areas of your life. When you find confidence in yourself as a result of treating your body well, choosing to fuel it with REAL food, letting go of the stress and getting back to life's happy basics, you're moving in the right direction. There is literally no stopping you. 🙂 That's how I feel, anyway! It all starts with a solid foundation of healthy habits that enable you to achieve your goals.
Aim to learn and and re-learn what you really need, make your list. Here's mine:
- Quality sleep;
- REAL, unprocessed food;
- The occasional cookie (I love homemade cookies);
- Lots of water;
- Regular, CHALLENGING exercise; and
- Positivity, so damn much positivity.
Habits requiring more work or self-control are all a matter of perspective.
Try not to look at making certain food/exercise choices or replacing others as deprivation, rather, as finally honoring what works for you and what doesn't. It's better for the long run.
I encourage you to honor what works for YOUR personal body and mind. No matter what anyone else says. The tiniest adjustments can make all the difference. Check in with yourself on a daily basis, notice the little things, the fluctuations, the good, the bad, the great, because it all matters. It helps us to stay motivated.
Something that I find incredibly helpful is focusing on small, continual improvements on a daily basis. I make a game out of challenging myself all the damn time in different ways, and (usually) completing the challenges successfully. It's important to have a goal, maybe more than one, or a few. It doesn't matter. There is nothing wrong with dreaming and finding ways to shape those dreams into your real life. Allocating energy toward achieving your goals is time well spent. If you're anything like me, there will be moments of frustration resulting from the reality that this process takes time. However, if you are working to improve yourself in some small way each day, then you are on the right track. These smaller movements combine to create greater change when this forward motion becomes a habit. When you make reaching your goals and not accepting anything less a priority, you've already won.
If something isn't working, change it.
You have that power.
If the same habit causes the same negative reaction each time, well, perhaps it's time to adjust or switch directions.
If a new routine makes you feel freaking amazing, do more of it!
Find out more about it.
Find others who nurture it.
You deserve greatness and chances are that your desired growth and progress are more attainable than you think.