“Habits help us through our day,” says Ian Newby-Clark writing for www.psychologytoday.com. “You have dozens, maybe even hundreds.”
As helpful as habits are in getting us through a day, what if some of them are not good for us? How hard are these habits to change? Meg Selig, also writing for www.psychologytoday.com, tells the inspiring story of Lance Lynn, pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Well, he’d gotten into the familiar – and unhealthy – baseball habit of chewing tobacco. He also had a new daughter on the way and was able to quit, cold turkey, by using “one good thought”. When he thought about his daughter, and being around for her, it was enough to keep him from reaching for the tobacco.
“Reflecting on their core values,” writes Selig, “helped people become more open-minded to health advice.” Some examples Selig gives for “core values” are: family, life partner, belief in a higher power, friends, creativity, keeping your job.
And what better time is there to reflect on habits than near the start of another new year? It’s so wonderful, isn’t it? To get a brand new kick at the can every twelve months? Or, if you’re like me and go off the rails regularly, you could break it down to getting a new start each month, or week, or even day, perhaps?
If you read self-help books, you’ll find numerous recipes for continuous improvement, involving the various aspects of one’s life. You can make it as complicated as you wish. I have a brother-in-law who is a successful businessman and I’ve always liked his approach: KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. Consequently, my husband B’s categories for his annual life plan for success are appropriate as there are only three to remember: Relationships, Finance, Health.
Ha. Put in that order you could read it this way: relationships finance health. Which is so true when you think of the Lance Lynn tale. It was the value he placed on his relationship with his new daughter that financed his health. That “core value” rose above the value he placed on fitting in with his co-workers – teammates – for his job which just finances his finance. Nurture your relationships and they will finance your health!
Relationships, as they are the foundation of our being, the origin of our very existence, are a perfect place to start a life plan, aren’t they? There are the intimate ones – spouse, parents, siblings, offspring. And friends, who can be just as intimate. And co-workers, who we often spend more time with than our close family and friends.
Over a fine New Year’s Eve dinner, B and I discussed relationships with another couple. B mentioned how he made a conscious decision last year to call his mother and brother, who don’t live near us, on a more regular basis than he’d been doing. Whether he has something specific to discuss or not. It makes him feel good, closer to them, and they seem to appreciate it.
Then this question came up. What if you have family members who never call? What if you’re the one who always has to initiate contact? We tossed that around for a bit and all decided that it doesn’t matter who does the calling. B pointed out that the effort is basically the same. A few buttons on a touch screen and voila. Contact made.
So, sitting by the fire the next day, I made a list of my personal relationships – husband, family, friends, co-work-outers (ha, I don’t have co-workers) – and I could see areas for improvement. More contact and more meaningful contact, conversation. For those in my daily life, like B, like my daughter, her children, more meaningful activities – hiking, swimming, cycling, playing, meals. For close friends who are busy with their own lives but whose company I enjoy, just regular contact through phone, text or email, to remind them, “Hey! How’s it going? Let’s get together soon.” And there are family members on the fringes I could keep in better touch with. (I think of my mother and her birthday list and amazing card sending.)
Under Finance, B lists planning, spending, saving and review. Personal finances can get complicated – mine sure did with age. But there are ways to simplify, or at least view your finances more simply, so you have control and not the other way around. And there are so many great books to give you insights into various strategies, by writers like Suze Orman, David Bach and Napoleon Hill. Personally, I like reading about people who’ve had it all – Jeff Olson, author of The Slight Edge, was both a beach bum and a millionaire – then lost it, then carved a way back. Why? My first husband was a risk-taker in all things, so our wealth was like a balloon being constantly inflated and deflated. I’m not a risk-taker in all things, so now that I’m on my own financially I worry about making a big blunder. I find it reassuring to know others have and survived.
Under Health, B lists activities, fitness, stress, health awareness and relaxation. (Note he doesn’t saying anything about the activity of eating, or not eating, chocolate! Phew. We’ll assume eating falls under “health awareness”?) I consider myself lucky in that I became a Jazzercise fitness instructor in my early 40s because I wanted to kick my fitness level up a notch. Once you do something crazy like that, there’s no turning back. If you really don’t feel like working out one night, but a workout is on the schedule and you’re the instructor, you have no choice. You’re working out. It was a trickster way of developing a healthy habit, I suppose.
If you struggle with fitness, here’s a feel good story for you. My Jazzercise gang bought me an Indigo GC for Christmas, so I went there to purchase a Fitbit. The knowledgeable and friendly woman who worked there seemed familiar, yet not. The more we chatted, she shared how she’d lost over 100 pounds (a whole person!) over the previous year by using her Fitbit to track calories in and energy out. She pulled up a picture of her previous self on her phone and I said, yes, you’re the one who helped me purchase a Fitbit for my husband last year! Her voice and kind manner were what I recognized. She positively glows. She talks openly about going for surgery to deal with some saggy skin issues. She says she started by walking. Just walking. A step in the right direction . . . Left to the trail or gym instead of right to the couch and bowl of chips?
I’m also lucky in that B is an amazing cook and loves to eat healthy, which tends to keep me on the straight and narrow when it comes to diet.
No matter where you live, if you have health concerns – or just want to be more aware of your current overall health – there are places like Medpoint, here in London, Ontario, that will, for a price, document your current state of health, advise where it should be and give you a roadmap to help you get there. And of course, as you get older, an annual reminder about health is also a time to confirm all of these wonderful tests are checked off the list: poop, boob (prostate for males), pap and so on.
Like Lance Lynn, use “one good thought” to help you alter your habits, if necessary, so the health of your relationships, bank account and the sweet house you live in – your body – are the best they can be.
Website photo is of me nurturing my relationship with beautiful Beau, my grandson.