The following tips are my personal recipe for successful and lifetime personal wellness. These are the strategies I have employed for the last 25 years that have kept me motivated to continue to try to improve my overall wellness. For the record, wellness encompasses the following three key components: Fitness, Nutrition and Stress Management. These tips apply to all these categories and can be considered as my personal benchmark recommendations for success.
Battle vs. War
When we identify that changes in our wellness are necessary the tendency is to want to change every aspect of our lives and to do so instantly. We decide that starting January 1, you pick the year, our New Years resolution is going to include starting a daily 2-hour workout program, starting a 100% vegan nutrition program, and starting to meditate 4-hours a day. We set the clock for 4am and plan to get started by popping out of bed and hitting the gym for 6-hours, right after drinking 32 ounces of vitamin water, but not before we face East and bowing to Mecca! Cut to the real world and we see that alarm going off at 4:00am and our fist smashing it into the next life as we go back to sleep for another 3 hours. Oh well…. there’s always next year!
Sound familiar? I know a lot of people who have had good intentions to get going, but they are ill prepared to make a shift of such drastic proportions. It’s like the beginning of a war and they want to win the war that day. Forget about it! We need to focus on a smaller piece of the war and win one battle at a time. Anything more than that can be potentially dangerous to our health and mental well being, and failure is virtually guaranteed. Starting slow and having a positive experience is far more likely to generate a lifelong wellness program. Win small battles and you will win the war!
Set Realistic Goals
A better plan is to take on small changes that make sense for you. For example, if you are looking to begin a wellness program for the first time, after you get some direction from your doctor on where it is medically safe to begin, you could start your fitness plan by beginning a walking program. You could change your eating habits by adding a fruit or vegetable to each meal rather than depriving yourself of the things you like. You could start a stress management program by sitting quietly for 10 minutes every morning and evening. The truth is, small, realistic changes are something you can do without shocking your system. Small changes are generally safe and they accomplish the goal of getting you started on a lifelong journey. Lifetime wellness should always be our goal. Remember, you did not get out of shape overnight. This was a decline that potentially has occurred over years or even decades. It takes time to make positive changes and change should be slow, realistic and steady if you want to be successful.
That’s right…I want you to make excuses. Make excuses to workout, make excuses to eat better and make excuses to do something to manage your stress! I don’t care where your motivation comes from. The reasons to improve our wellness are infinite! We want to live longer, to play with our children or grand children, to enhance our survival, to look better, to manage our pain, to feel better, to improve the quality of our life, to improve our self-esteem and so on. It simply does not matter what our motivation is, we just have to find the things that matter to us and use those as daily reminders to strive toward our goal of complete wellness. Stop reading right now and make a list of the reasons that support you in stoking your motivation to work on your wellness. Post that list in a place where you will see it everyday.
Before you go to bed each night spend 60 seconds seeing yourself exactly as you would like to be. See yourself as trim, fit, healthy, relaxed, happy and in perfect health. Tell yourself that when you wake up you will feel fantastic, refreshed and ready to face your day. When you rise that morning make your first thoughts “I feel refreshed, energized and ready for my day!” Sit on the edge of the bed, sit up straight and once again visualize yourself exactly as you want to be. These simply, positive affirmation and visualization techniques are phenomenally powerful. Don’t believe me; try it for 4 – 6 weeks. It works because the mind controls the body, but you have to prove it to yourself first. Don’t take my word for it, but do take my challenge. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can do this simple technique. I don’t care how busy you are, you can spare a few minutes each day for your own self-care!
I mean this quite literally. It is very hard to stay on track without help and support. What type of help you decide to enlist is entirely up to you. You can hire a wellness professional to help guide you in every aspect of your personal development. You can make a contract with a friend to provide support for each other. You can have a competition with a group of friends or co-workers to see who can loose the most body fat. You can make a family resolution, list your goals and support each other in achieving those goals. How you go about setting up a support system is unique to your needs, but it is also a critical component to your success. Nothing works better than having someone to help or someone to help you.
Make a Contract
Write up a contract with three sections. These three sections should include fitness, nutrition and stress management. Under each section you will list REALISTIC goals and set a REASONABLE time to achieve those goals. Write this down, sign it, give a copy to a friend or partner so they can check up on your progress and have that person sign your contract to support you. Frame your contract and post it where you will see it every day. This is a real contract and as you will see in the next section, there should be rewards and consequences for sticking with the contract or for breaking it!
I very strongly believe that once you set a realistic goal for yourself, and you state those goals in a formal contract, you should also set two other components. Those components include consequences for failing to reach your goals and rewards for reaching your goals. Consequences do not need to be drastic, but they should serve as enough incentive to keep you motivated not to suffer them! Rewards should be something pleasant that you really want to do. No, you can’t go to your local food gorge and order the entire 7 layer chocolate decadence cake! A better choice might be buying some new cloths to fit your new trim body, or treating yourself to a massage or planning a vacation to a special location. Whatever you decide set these rewards and consequences as you go along your journey. Sometimes this added incentive is just the ticket to keep you striving toward lifetime improvement.
Believe in Yourself
Most of the people I see that continue to fail are, as a general rule, people who simply do not believe in themselves. Many people are only content to whine about their situation and they become so mired in this personal created reality that they feel powerless to change. This can be very difficult for some people. Life, people and events can be cruel and leave us scared and unsure of ourselves. Sometimes making positive changes, even small changes, can seem completely overwhelming. This is where believing in ourselves becomes critically important. You must accept the fact that it is OK to fail! Seriously, failure is simply a part of life. We have all heard about seeing glass half-empty or half full. How do you see your glass? We have a choice to fail backward or fail forward. We can acknowledge and accept that life is difficult, challenging and at times overwhelming and we can move forward from there. Believe in the indomitable will of your spirit. See yourself as successful, reaching your goals. Believe!
Find Your Thing
When it comes to wellness we are all significantly different. Find things that appeal to you. If you are starting a fitness program and you hate lifting weights, then start with a walking program, or swimming program. If you are going to improve your diet then add some extra fruit and vegetables to every meal and eat them first so you are not so hungry for the other foods that may not be as healthy. Get a book on different stress management techniques like “The Guide to Stress Management” by Dr. L. John Mason and pick a stress management strategy that looks good to you. Try different things and experiment until you find something that really appeals to you. Your thing is your thing and I really don’t care what it is, but until you find it you are not as likely to be successful in making long term, lifelong wellness a success.
Get Off Your Butt!
Ok, when you reach the end of this paragraph stop reading, get off your ass, and go do something to improve your wellness. For example, take a fitness brake. Go for a walk around your building at work, do some pushups or jog in place. I don’t care, just move! Take a nutrition brake and instead of powering down a muffin, scone or donut have a piece of fruit. Take a stress management brake and sit quietly for 10 minutes seeing yourself as happy, healthy and fit! Do it right now!!!!!
Rodger Ruge is a retired police officer, martial artist, and personal trainer. He recently had his first book published, The Warrior's Mantra, Barricade Books, June 2005. Rodger's business, Ready Force Inc. , specializes in training and consulting in law enforcement weaponless defense and wellness. You can visit Rodger's website at http://www.readyforce.net .