No More Excuses: What I Did To (Finally) Start Living A Healthy Life

Posted on July 18, 2016 in Health and Life

By Ashmeeta Mehendiratta:

I know, waking up early in the morning would be good for me and I will get more time to work on myself. I know, meditation will have great effects on my mental health and will make me stable and more at peace with myself. I know, if I take that gym membership, I’ve been thinking about, I’d be able to get those abs and the thigh gap, I’ve always had a fascination for. Good things can happen to me, only if I stop resisting them!

I have these internal debates with myself as I start my day, but my wellness always loses and my laziness wins. To get to a point where I can do great things for myself is a psychological mission! Hence, I decided to find out, what makes me love myself, a little less.

I Know It’s Good For Me

We see a father coughing his lungs out and ‘Mukesh‘ dying in every ‘no smoking’ advertisement, yet nothing impacts us to take that first step to quit smoking! We have almost become immune to it.

We know, if we exercise every day or quit smoking, it will impact our health positively and would see good changes in our body and feel good about ourselves. So if we know it’s good for us, why don’t we do it?

While we have figured out the part, that a particular habit is really good for us, we also need to understand what is preventing us from adopting this good habit.

Resistance To Change

When I want to build a good habit, like meditating every morning – I feel a resistance. A resistance to change and change can be scary. Change leads to uncertainty and we prefer living in the four walls of our comfort zone, even if it doesn’t make us happy. We are so comfortable with the way we live, it’s almost addictive.

There is this instinctive side of me which stops me. It tells my brain — “Just five minutes more! I do not have the energy to get up and exercise, I can sleep for one more hour.” My brain is always ready with excuses even though a part of it knows; I will feel amazing all through the day if I motivate myself enough to get to that treadmill. But no, it’s painful, it’s difficult, it’s too much work!

Two Different Thinking Systems

According to the dual process theory, System 1, is the instinctive, fast, automatic method of thinking and System 2 is the slow, calculated, logic-based method of thinking which relies on rationality and logical reasoning. System 1, is the one that we use to take most of the actions and System 2, is consulted from time-to-time when we need to make more thoughtful decisions.

System 2 (our conscious side) knows, exercising every day is good for me but my instinctive side decides whether I should go ahead with it or not. The only way, I can go ahead and do those squats to get that thigh gap, is by allowing my conscious side to win over my instinctive side.

Let’s pause for a moment.

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment.

What if I told you to pause reading this article and start with exercising right away or start with meditation or pursue the good habit you’ve been wanting to, right away!

Notice what goes through your mind. One side of your brain wants to do it. The other side stops you. List down these excuses you’ve been giving yourself.

This is what I do to make my instinctive side win:

I don’t promise myself to wake up by 5 am tomorrow morning, meditate for 30 minutes, go for a run in the park, do 30 squats and drink 8 glasses of water.

I can only dream to do something like that. Hah!

So I set extremely small goals for myself, which my mind says I can easily do, even my instinctive mind. For example, for tomorrow, my goal is to wake up and drink two glasses of water, jump 5 times and spend just 5 minutes mindfully breathing.

Scale Up — Slow And Steady

Slowly, I will increase 5 jumps to 10, make sure I drink 8 glasses a day, meditate for 10 minutes and go for run after I come back from work (not in the morning, yet).

As I take these small steps, I’ll feel good about myself and evidence in my instinctive side will start becoming more positive and eventually change. The idea is to use, little willpower while starting, giving feedback to my mind and building up evidence for my instinctive mind to use. So the next time, my mind wouldn’t find it painful or difficult.

Building A Sustainable Habit

When we are successful in building a habit our instinctive and conscious mind will be in line with each other raising no conflict. We will be pursuing those good habits automatically and we will be able to feel great every day!

The following are things I do to be able to build a good habit:

  • Make a list of excuses I make to myself every day and try to break free of them day-by-day.
  • Set extremely small goals for myself : Get up half hour early, drink two glasses of water as soon as I wake up, jump 5 times, do mindful breathing for 5 minutes, listen to guided meditation on YouTube for 5 minutes and go for a run after I come back from office.
  • Keep doing the same for 2-3 days or even a week.
  • Slowly scale up and raise my goals: From half hour to one hour, from 5 five minutes to 7 and so on.