We’re told that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and common cancers caused by tobacco, poor diet, insufficient exercise and excessive alcohol consumption account for 60% of global deaths. Obesity and other “lifestyle” conditions trigger a range of chronic illnesses that are swamping medical systems around the developed world*.
We also know that leading a healthy lifestyle makes you feel a whole lot better in all sorts of ways while we are alive!
Most of us know how to live healthier lives, but why is it so hard for us to do? There are plenty of reasons and excuses:
- I don’t have the time.
- I don’t know how to get fit.
- I don’t have a place to go, or getting there is too hard.
- I don’t have the money to afford that.
- I don’t like doing things I’m not good at.
- I’m not motivated to do something good for myself.
The list goes on and on, and as HSPers we have even more excuses. Don’t get me wrong – they’re good excuses! But these days we all know we should eat nutritious diets, maintain a healthy weight and partake in some physical activities. Hang with me here!
Change is hard. There are as many reasons not to change, as there are suggestions for how to change. No one can force you. For those of us not doing what we should to live a reasonably healthy life, maybe it’s time for us to sit down and have a serious talk with ourselves. Read the first two paragraphs again!
One of the biggest traps that prevents us changing is negativity… what we think, what we say, how we respond to people, things and situations. Check yourself out for an hour, or a day and see if this is a problem for you. Ask a trusted loved one such as a best friend to tell you honestly if you tend to be negative. No matter how hard you try, nothing much of any importance will change in your life while your experience of the world and a lot of the things in it is largely negative.
Use these 3 steps to move away from negativity.
The first step is to become increasingly and continually aware of our own negativity, and how negativity from others impacts us.
It’s helpful to first recognize all those things you say to yourself in your head like the “I don’t…” or “I’m not…” list above, or some of these others: Life isn’t fair. I feel like crap. Getting around is too hard. And especially I can’t or I could never do that. Understand how saying and hearing ourselves saying such things as our standard response or thought is unhelpful, if not damaging, on several levels.
The next step is to say Stop! Enough! and refuse to let the negativity in and to run our lives, because that’s what it does.
The third step is to replace our negative thoughts or negative reactions with something neutral or positive. This can be achieved in a number of ways:
- head talk: My mind is clear and I feel calm and relaxed. I am really enjoying the book I’m reading. So-and-so is such a nice person. I’m looking forward to… .
- quiet time: take yourself off to a peaceful, quiet space – no TV, no radio, no iPod, no mobile, no computer, no book or magazine – and just be, don’t do. Pay attention for 5 min to the one thing that is going on all the time, that is, our bodies breathing. Notice the movement of the body during breathing, the differences between breathing in and breathing out, and also the pause in between. Notice how calming it is just to pay attention to this thing we never think about.
- physical activity: this is the positive opposite of ‘quiet time’. Engage in movement… go for a walk, or sit and stretch, have a workout, play a game, throw a ball for a pet or with a friend, get outside, go to a park and enjoy nature.
3 steps… that’s all it takes… to start to turn your life around from a largely negative experience to a largely positive one. Make the 3 steps become a habit – catch the negativity, stop it, replace it. Make it a lifelong habit and you might just find that more things seem possible, and those lifestyle changes that you know you need to make now seem within reach.
*Financial Times, August 1, 2012, p.4. Lifestyle conditions increase the pain for medical system.