How to achieve health success

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Good health can seem elusive. Even the seemingly healthiest person can develop a dreaded disease like cancer. This can lead a person to ask the question; is it even worth it to try to be "healthy?"

Yes it's worth it.

Being healthy can mean the difference between being able to do something active, or not. Being healthy can mean the difference between having debilitating anxiety, or not. Being healthy can mean the difference between independence in older age, or needing assistance. 

The current society we've created as humans, at least in developed countries, does not make being healthy as easy as it would seem. Yes we have gyms, and exercise and meditation videos on YouTube, and organic options for everything, and juice and smoothie bars, and self help books, and the list goes on. But temptations and distractions abound.

Highly palatable, processed food surrounds us.

It's easier than ever to binge on shows and movies, keeping us sitting and sedentary. 

Social media can catch us in a loop for minutes to hours on end. And when we finally drag ourselves away from social media for a time, we feel like something is missing, so we might sooth ourselves with food, sugary beverages, or alcohol.

We get caught up in these things for a very simple reason. We don't have a plan. We don't have direction. We haven't created the system we want, and we're following an old system of survival that doesn't serve us.

Create your system.

Your brain craves structure. If fact, that's the job of your brain. It observes all of the chaos outside of your body, and makes sense of it. Compartmentalizes it. And creates systems to allow you to deal with and exist within it.

If you're currently eating an "unhealthy" diet, your lower brain doesn't consider it unhealthy. All it knows is that the food that's coming in is what's available, and it's doing the best it can with what it is given. It's creating a system around your current diet, so it makes sense that it would drive you to the "unhealthy" foods you typically consume. Your brain knows what to do with it within the system.

The same goes for other habitual behaviors that create dopamine release in the brain. One of the systems your brain works off of is the motivational triad: seek pleasure, avoid pain, be energy efficient.

From a functional standpoint, a Snickers every afternoon is the jackpot! A big hit of pleasure, the satiation of the uncomfortable feeling of craving, plus it's easy to eat, and adds to future energy stores (in the form of fat).

To create a new system, you're working upstream against your brain, but a new system has to be established in order for it to become what you want it to become: habit.

This can also be applied to any higher goals you have when it comes to your health, or anything else, but let's take the afternoon Snickers for example. What if you want to replace that with an apple. Or avoid an afternoon snack altogether? You have to create a new system.

Follow these 4 steps to get it done:

  1. Identify the old system. What triggers the behavior or habit? How many steps are there to the old system? As an example: sitting at desk at work (1), clock hits 2pm (2), craving for Snickers hits (3), automatically pull Snickers from drawer or go to vending machine (5), eat the Snickers (6).
     
  2. Define the new system you want to replace it with.
     
  3. Break the new system down into small, achievable goals. Figure out the steps for your new system, so you can intervene in the old one. Example: sitting at work and clocks hits 2pm (1), immediately get up and grab an apple out of the fridge (2), walk out of the building to eat the apple (3), return to desk after apple is consumed (4).
     
  4. Implement your new "system", and stick with it until your brain accepts it.

It's guaranteed that your brain will want to follow the old system. That's ok. It's just doing its job. It will be frustrating every single day to start, but you have to keep the new system you want to create top of mind.

There will be discomfort, but that's ok too. Discomfort won't kill you. In fact, it will make you stronger. The more discomfort you're willing to allow yourself to feel, the better you will become at feeling it, and before you know it you'll be challenging yourself to even bigger changes.

Final Thoughts

This is a very simple concept on a topic that can seem extremely daunting and complicated, but it truly is so simple. It's important to know that your mind creates stories around facts. The fact is you could not eat the Snickers. That's the easy part. The hard part is the story your mind is going to spin when you don't eat the Snickers, and all the ways it will try to justify why you should eat the Snickers.

To create a successful system of health, you just have to be open to recognizing the current system you're running off of, and take the time to change it.

Do you feel like you need help identifying underlying systems that are keeping you stuck in an unhealthy place? I can help with that. Just fill out the form below to start a conversation. 

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