There are basically two camps in the "take control of your health" world of advice.
Yeah, it has its own world.
Camp 1: Stop whining and get healthy. -Super Fitness Person
Camp 2: Come on, you can do it! -Your Personal Cheerleader
Neither are helpful.
First, let's take a cold, hard look at a few realities.
Desire. You want this. Otherwise, you wouldn't have read this far.
Reasons. Making difficult life changes always presents more reasons not to do something, than reasons to do it. These are always good reasons. Side note: Let's not bog them down by calling them "excuses." Reasons and excuses are the same so the word "reasons" will do fine.
Your life. Someone is living your life, but healthier. You may even know them.
These three things look like this:
In order to connect these dots, we have to make some perspective conversions.
Desire into action. We'll get to the how in a second.
Reasons into habits. The reasons that you don't do things mostly go away in light of habits.
Someone else's life becomes your life. It happens all the time. Why not to you?
You want them to look like this:
That's all well and good, but how?
Telling a person he needs to create better habits is lame advice. Mr. Betterhabits lives next door to Ms. Eatlessandmovemore. These two neighbors sit on their porches every day, smugly looking down at the rest of us. Shame is a worthless tool for change. Instead, employ science.
We don't need to be told we should create better habits. We want to know how. If you want to read an interesting book on Habits, check out Charles Duhigg
's book The Power of Habit
. Not now, later...
In short, Duhigg's book explains how our brains are wired no differently than lab animals, that we respond to stimulus in much the same way. Cracking that code is the secret to creating new habits. It works because, science.
Here's how the habit loop looks in Duhigg's world:
Our behaviors, like 99% of them, are the result of habits, which are the results of external stimuli, like sounds or smells, which are reinforced with results. The question for the would-be healthier person is, how do I start this habit when I have so many reasons I can't even get started. Here's a short list of reasons to save you time coming up with your own.
- I work too much.
- I have to go to school.
- I have to study.
- I have children.
- All the above.
Remember back we agreed that someone out there is living a version of your life but managing his health? Here's how...
Desire into Action
This is the most important piece of advice in this whole blog. If you do nothing else, do this one thing.
Putting on your shoes, at the time you designate to get moving (exercise) will mean you are ready for something. (Let's assume you've already put on your trackies unless you have strange dressing habits.) Because you're dressed for an activity, you'll be more likely to engage in some such activity.
Relax, you're not committing to anything yet, just shoes. In fact, don't commit to more. Once your runners are on, you're free to spend as much time doing whatever activity you choose. Commit to this one habit every day, even if it's only for five minutes at first. Anyone can find five minutes.
Hack your brain: Set a unique alarm to go off at whatever time you've designated for putting on your runners. Do something nice for yourself afterward, like enjoy a smoothie or even a piece of chocolate. These hacks will reinforce your habit.
Reasons into Habits
This initial action is to think your way into larger habits. This isn't magic, its behavioural science, but if you must think of it that way, here is the secret to the trick. Over time, you'll want to expand your activities, naturally.
Eventually, you'll not be satisfied with banging out a few jumping jacks. Eventually, you will extend five minutes into ten, ten into fifteen, fifteen into twenty and you see where this is going... you have a new habit. It only took five minutes to start it.
Don't get caught up in the reasons you won't be able to commit more than shoes. What will happen, no tricks, is nothing at first, but over time... you will spend your day thinking about this pesky new behavior in which you are engaging. You'll start considering the important, daily stuffing of your life, in the context of the time you spend stuffing your day.
What will really floor you, is when you find time that you were hiding from yourself, maybe because you didn't yet believe you deserved it. Maybe it will be the time you spend reading blogs. (We hope you still read.) Who knows? You will find it. Again, let it happen, naturally.
Someone else's life becomes your life
When you weren't paying attention, you will have become that person who lives a version of your life, but healthier. At some point, you will look back on this simple task of putting your runners, which has multiplied into other activities. What will they be? For some, it's the gym. For others, it's partners tennis, surfing, skiing, CrossFit, yoga, and so on.
People will see you making different choices. They'll start asking you how you do it. Feel free to share this blog to save yourself time.
Here's why: Exercise, as you may learn from Duhigg's book, is a keystone habit. Keystone habits are habits which have reciprocal effects. People who exercise, tend to view themselves as healthy adults. Maybe not at first, but over time they consider better food choices. They take different vacations. They buy different cars. They change many things, stemming from just this one choice... to put on the shoes.
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Now for the disclaimer... Albeit you may agree this is good advice, this blog was written for entertainment purposes. It is no way intended to be clinical advice, nor is it intended to conflict with the advice of your physician. We seriously recommend that before you start any exercise program, you consult your physician