Small Choices That Lead to Healthier Habits for Life

 

You know there is a saying now that 100 is the new 80, that people are expecting to live to 100 years of age. Of course, we want to live a long life, but we want to live a life of health. We want to be healthy physically, mentally and emotionally. We also want to be healthy spiritually and have a strong sense of meaning and purpose in life. We want to wake up each morning and know why the day matters.

Believing You Can Change

A couple of things are important to remember. One is, to have that life, the first step is to believe that your life can be that way. You need to believe. If you can believe that, then you can begin to plan for that healthy life, one day at a time.  There are no guarantees for how long we are going to live. For some people they have already developed certain conditions, others are concerned about preventing the development of conditions in the future. Whether you have diabetes or heart disease or you are overweight or you are concerned about developing those conditions it’s never too late to begin to try to reverse the conditions that you may be suffering from and its certainly never too late to begin to put into place the habits, the lifestyle needed to both prevent or treat the chronic diseases that have become epidemics in our society and that sometimes keep people from living longer. On the flip side, living longer with these chronic diseases will zap our quality of life, including our energy, ability to connect with people and have the meaning and fulfillment in our lives that we want.

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It starts with making choices, small choices, one day at a time.

This includes choices around the foods you may eat. Choices around how or when you might exercise or be physically active. Choices around how you might choose to connect with others in your life.  When you look at some of the research on longevity, like the research around the Blue Zones, these areas in the world where people tend to live longest, there are some commonalities there. They don’t necessarily go to gyms or take a lot of medications or supplements, but what they do –  is eat a healthy diet (sometimes there is a little more meat than others) but their diet typically consists of fresh vegetables and fruit, they remain physically active throughout their entire lives,  they connect with their community and loved ones on a regular basis and finally, they have a sense of purpose in their lives. Purpose around their work and family.

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Finding the Time

Social connections and relationships are so critical to having a life that we want but it need not feel overwhelming. Sometimes the things that hold us back from the life that we want are subtle things that we over miss.

For example, I was talking to someone the other day and overall they were feeling pretty good. They were exercising, eating well and they felt well mentally. The one issue he was having was a lot of stomach upset. He just couldn’t figure out where it was coming from and had spoken to his physician and after talking it through it turns out that one of the habits he had was chewing a lot of gum. Well, guess what? Gum can have Sorbitol in it and that Sorbitol can affect the stomach. Just look at the label.   That Sorbitol can cause stomach upset. So this seemingly innocent habit that he had was the issue. He since switched to a gum that has Xylitol in it which is just a different type of additive. If you weren’t aware, Xylitol and sorbitol are sugar substitutes commonly found in foods labeled “sugar-free” or “no sugar added. Once he started chewing this sugar-free gum with Xylitol his GI issues got better. It was such a “small” thing with such a profound impact on him.

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We don’t need to think in terms of what overwhelming life shift that we have to take, but what are some small, new or revolved habits you can make to make sure the trajectory of your life is headed in the direction you want along with the quality of your life. Ask yourself, Is the quality of your life where you want it to be today? Are you doing what you need to in order to assure that the quality of your life will be what you want it to be tomorrow?

Finding Your Purpose, One Moment at a Time

So many people think “okay I want more purpose and meaning in my life”.  They say, “I heard this was important and it was mentioned on this podcast. . .” So, what do they do? They go out and buy the Dalai Lama’s book or the biography of Gandhi and they make it all seem so overwhelming.

A smarter approach is to ask yourself, how can I bring more purpose and meaning to this next moment in my life. To this encounter, task or meeting. It really often starts these seemingly small moments we have in our day. The better question is, “What purpose do I serve in this moment?”

You know I have been into exercising for a long time and I practiced martial arts when I was younger but we didn’t eat well. At one point I finally decided that I wanted to begin to eat more healthfully. I started really small. I use to put three sugars in my coffee and the first thing I did was to cut it down to two. I can almost remember the day. I would go to Dunkin Donuts and almost order three sugars and stop myself and say “nope, I’ll take two sugars” in my coffee today, please. I kinda worked my way back down. I just kept going from there. It has been those seemingly small changes that brought me to building healthy habits.

It is the small changes and small habits that we evolve over time and then we begin to string together these series of behaviors that hopefully leads to this life that we want for ourselves that is consistent with our purpose or goals or whatever feels meaningful in our lives.

 

But it starts small and builds from there.