4 steps to a healthier lifestyle

Research statistics continue to show that many people in the UK have unhealthy lifestyles despite the government and other organisations spending vast sums on health promotion. What does this tell us? It tells us what we already know: that human beings are very susceptible to unhealthy lifestyles for many well-known reasons:

  • A lack of awareness
  • A lack of motivation
  • A lack knowledge
  • Stressful lives

And yet, many people ARE successfully achieving a healthier lifestyle. How they achieve this is the subject of this post.

Step one: developing awareness

To overcome an unhealthy lifestyle, we need to be fully aware we are living one. While this might sound obvious, many of us are to varying degrees unconscious of living in ways detrimental to our wellbeing. Even if we know we live unhealthily, we may not be sufficiently aware of the consequences. If we are unaware of something, then there is nothing to change! Therefore, committing action to overcome a problematic lifestyle requires full awareness of the lifestyle and its effects. Only through the complete understanding that awareness brings can we work out the pros of changing our lifestyle and the cons of failing to do so.

Try this exercise to begin your journey to a healthier lifestyle. Take a blank piece of paper and reflect on the following:

  • Pros of carrying on with my current lifestyle
  • Cons of carrying on with my current lifestyle
  • Pros of creating a new lifestyle
  • Cons of creating a new lifestyle

This awareness exercise aims to get you to where committing to your new lifestyle becomes too emotionally persuasive and attractive.

Step two: taking action

When we know we want to act, the next step is to ensure we take action. Too many of us leave good ideas for healthier ways of living on our mental drawing boards to gather dust. And if there is one thing our brains hate more than anything, it is when we fail to act on ideas that can support our thriving and surviving. Taking action is easier said than done; however, if we have answers to the following questions, we are more likely to do so.

  • Resources: do I have what I need? If I don’t, can I acquire them myself, or does someone else have what I need?
  • Skills and abilities: do I have the necessary skills and abilities? If I don’t, can I develop them myself, or will I need support?
  • Confidence and belief: do I have enough? If I don’t, can I build these qualities independently, or will I need support?
  • Wellbeing: do I feel resilient enough? If I don’t, is boosting my wellbeing something I can do by myself, or will I need to involve someone else?
  • Support: do I have the help I need? If I don’t, who will provide it?
  • Motivation: do I feel motivated enough? If I don’t, can I motivate myself, or will I need encouragement from someone else?
  • Time: do I have enough time? If I don’t, how can I find the time I need? Is this the right time? If it isn’t, when will it be?
  • Environment: am I in the right environment? Or do I need to be somewhere else?
  • Strategy: do I have the right strategies? If I don’t, how will I acquire them? By myself or with support?

What did you discover? Do you have the answers? If you don’t, be kind to yourself and find someone who does.

Step three: maintaining action

Have you ever given up on a New Year’s Resolution? Did you keep going until the middle of March and run out of motivation? Many of us have, of course. So why are we often unable to keep going, despite how vital the Resolution is to our health and wellbeing? The answer lies in how we think, behave, feel, and form relationships at critical moments, which I call our Cave and Continuation Points.

Cave or Continuation Points are when the new lifestyle we are committed to achieving comes into conflict with the old one it is intended to replace. It is when we realise, sometimes cruelly, that the transformation we are after will not be achieved by a single burst of effort; when we discover that our transformation will be made up of a series of hard-fought, hard-won smaller transformations. The New Year’s Resolution is a perfect example of a journey of transformation beset by regular Cave and Continuation Points.

Your cave and continuation points

Whether we cave and fall back into our previous way of living, or whether we continue into our desired new one, will depend on how we think, behave, feel, and form our relationships at our Cave and Continuation Points.

Reflect on these questions when at your cave and continuation points:

  • How do you think? Do you engage in negative thinking, e.g. I will never succeed, so I might as well give up.
  • How do you behave? Do you act against your best interests, e.g., you don’t sign up for your local gym or go for your daily walk?
  • How do you feel? Do difficult emotions persuade you to give up, e.g. I feel low, so I might as well binge eat because at least I feel better for a while?
  • How do you relate? Do you avoid people? Or do you convince them to be unhealthy to make you feel better?

Whether it is losing weight or keeping fit, continuing on our journey of transformation requires us to put in place the right cognitive, behavioural, emotional and relationship strategies when we reach this stage.

Step four: achieving success

Consigning your old lifestyle firmly to the past is the measure of real success when we can look ourselves in the eye and say I am living the life I want to lead. And being successful comes down to one thing: how much we value ourselves. Only when we value ourselves do we take committed action to live healthily.

People give away their most valuable possession when living unhealthily, their health and wellbeing. And yet, if someone were asked to hand over everything of value they possess by a complete stranger, the answer would be, “no!” Their house, car, money, technology or things of emotional value – none of it would they give away. And yet, when their negative lifestyle comes along and asks them to hand over their value, they do so without question. So why would someone fight to hold on to their laptop and family photos, but not their health and wellbeing? It doesn’t make sense.

Take The Valuables Test for a healthier lifestyle

So what if you stopped giving away what you value and achieve a healthier lifestyle? How would that come about? It could go something like this:

  • Start by listing everything of value you possess.
  • Once you have your list, really connect with the possessions on it. Remind yourself what they mean to you.
  • Now imagine a stranger or even someone you really don’t like asking you to hand it all over. How do you feel? I hope you feel like saying, “no.” Now locate in your mind and body where that, “no” resides. This is your ‘place of certainty’. When your negative lifestyle comes along, which it will, and asks you to hand over everything of value again, be ready for it.
  • Locate your place of certainty and stare your negative lifestyle in the face. It wants nothing more than to take away what you value the most. This time you will say “no.”

How did you find this exercise? Has it helped you understand why you have not succeeded in the past and how you can in the future?

Getting support to achieve a healthier lifestyle

Since 2005, I have supported thousands of people to achieve a healthier lifestyle. My IMPACT Model offers proven coaching and therapeutic ideas, strategies and techniques to take you from where you are now to where you want to be. And my IMPACT Programmes offer you the tailored support you need for your journey of transformation.

So, if you are determined to replace your unhealthy lifestyle with one that can give you back your quality of life, why not take that step now and get in touch?