A lot of changes took place when COVID-19 began to spread into a global pandemic. Before that happened, I had joined a fitness challenge. Despite the gyms closing down, I still had to stay accountable and meet the requirements of the challenge. This, of course, presented challenges. I had to get creative. There were days that I really struggled, but I stuck with it. As a result, I have lost about 55 pounds in the past year.
As I was reflecting on what to write about, I realized that what I really wanted to highlight was lifestyle changes that will improve quality of life. Of course, fitness and nutrition come to mind, but those are not the only factors. I wanted to write about changes, in general, that one could make to improve their overall health and wellness. I have learned that I can only focus on making one small change at a time. Unfortunately, knowing something is good or bad for me is never enough to make change happen. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were as easy as that?
One of my favorite quotes is “In order for change to happen you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.” This may sound daunting, but I have found that the “uncomfortable” feeling is short-lived. The reason making the change feels uncomfortable at first is because the thing you want to change is familiar to you. However, that familiar thing is also what is causing emotional pain or discomfort. Leaving our comfort zone can be scary at first, but over time a new “normal” is established. It then becomes just as comfortable and even more rewarding than the initial “normal”.
You might be thinking, “I don’t even know where to begin making changes.” Maybe there are multiple things you wish to change. I would advise not trying to change everything at once. So, how can you get started?
Make a list of changes
If you are anything like me, there are many areas of your life you would like to improve. Start by writing them down. Once you make a list, figure out which ones are your top priorities. From there you can figure out which goal you want to work on first.
Develop a plan
Next, you can develop a plan for that goal. A podcast I was listening to discussed goals as being like a video game. You have to get through level one before you can get to level two. So, what does your level one look like? If you are wanting to increase physical exercise, you could say that level one is walking for 15 minutes per day for 3 days per week. Maybe this will last for 2 weeks, and then you can move to level two. So, what does level two look like? And so on.
Make small goals
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Maybe you have a huge goal in mind, but use the levels to break it down into smaller goals. If you don’t set realistic and attainable goals for yourself, you’re more likely to give up. Set yourself up for success by not over-committing yourself. The more specific you can be with your goals the more you are likely to achieve them.
Identify your barriers
What are some roadblocks that might hinder your progress? Life gets busy and stress happens. Some days you are not going to feel motivated to make changes. This is okay. However, you can set yourself up for success by making note of what challenges you might face. Balance this by planning cheat or rest days for yourself.
Accountability and encouraging support
In my own experiences there have been times where I said to myself, “I can do this on my own.” I have come to realize that yes, we have to put in the work to accomplish our goals. However, it is much easier to do when you have support. When I began my challenge I had to invest my own money into it. Of course, this made me nervous. What if it was a waste? Despite my fears, the investment is what helped me stay motivated. Sometimes it was the simple fact that I didn’t want to “waste” the money that got me going.
In addition, I had professionals checking in on me regularly. This provided some accountability, but it’s also worth it to find an accountability partner or community that understands the goal. It’s okay to put yourself out there and be vulnerable about the goals you are working towards. One of my requirements in my challenges was to make a Facebook post, which is not something that I would typically do. I couldn’t believe how much support and encouragement I got from my Facebook friends and how many people were inspired by my vulnerability. It also helped keep me motivated because I wanted to have some progress to share.
Failure doesn’t exist
One tough pill to swallow is this: if you don’t meet the initial goal this does not mean you are a failure. Every small step forward towards making changes should be praised even if you there are some backward movements here and there. It doesn’t matter how many times you fall, what matters is that you pick yourself up again and learn something about yourself and the process of change.
Love yourself throughout the changes
It’s important to love and value yourself throughout the entire journey, not just when you reach your goal. Humans have a bad habit of saying things like, “I will love myself when _______ happens.” Does this dialogue sound familiar at all? This used to be a regular mindset for me. I’ve now learned that loving myself where I am in my journey is crucial. For example, changing your internal dialogue can directly impact goal achievement. It can be easy to shame yourself for not sticking to an initial goal. Shaming yourself can easily bring you back to seeking comfort and familiarity by indulging in the very thing you are trying to change. Allow yourself grace, but try not to justify your behaviors at the same time.
A couple of affirmations that I remind myself of are:
- I am capable of more than I know
- I can learn to love myself as I am in in my journey
One thing at a time. Focusing on making progress on one thing will be more attainable and will help to improve your mental health. I have learned that sometimes I need to be in enough pain in order to realize that I need to make the change. Habits typically do not develop overnight, so we can’t expect to change them overnight.
If you need help identifying some changes that you’d like to work on, reach out to Covenant Family Solutions and talk to a mental health professional! Additionally, you can check out our self-guided mindfulness course. To view all of our self-guided courses, visit selfhelp.strengthenu.com.