Designing Your Healthy Lifestyle
About this time of year I like to get into a reflective mood. Being on the cusp of a new year feels like a good time for dreaming and creating visions.
Reflecting on the year that was helps me see the distance I’ve come and the accomplishments that can otherwise go unnoticed and unappreciated.
It can also bring up things that I said I wanted to do, or said I wanted to change but didn’t. There’s room for some gentleness here, and also room for a little strategizing. Sometimes we wanted something, but just didn’t have a strategy that was workable for us. Now that we know a little more about what didn’t work we can seek answers in different places than where we thought to find them last year.
Sometimes the path to the change we’re seeking, isn’t in the direction we expected.
Health is always in a state of change. It just doesn’t remain static. No sooner have I eaten a nourishing meal than I end up hungry again, so sooner have I exercised then I’m already tired of rest and need to move again.
I like to think of health as a trajectory.
I’m either headed in a direction I feel good about…or I don’t like where I’m headed.
Do you like where your health is headed?
Sometimes we don’t. And sometimes we’re pretty happy with it, but we still see some room for improvement.
The funny thing about being healthy is that every part of your life and lifestyle affects your health. It’s not just what’s going on in the material stuff of your body. It’s not just the ups and downs of your emotions. It’s not just what you eat and drink and breathe.
It’s all that and more.
Think of it as the “Get Happy” approach to pain management, or health enhancement. For instance, stress is a contributor to pain. The more stress you feel, the more that will push some part of your body past the threshold and into pain.
Greg Lehman said it clearly and succinctly in this short video:
What? Pain is complex – the overflowing cup analogy of pain.
So, while we’re reviewing our lives and dreaming about the future, let’s do a bit of an audit. Whether you have some pain in the body that you’re trying to solve, or whether you want to feel that your health is headed in a direction that you feel good about, here is an exercise you can do in service to your own personal vision of a healthy lifestyle.
This is an excellent tool for getting a broad overview snapshot that shows you where you might want to head in the coming year.
The image below is known as the Wheel of Life. I’ve borrowed this particular image from a pdf made by Positive Psychology.
The idea is to spend a few moments reflecting, one by one, on each of the areas of life that are written on the outside of the wheel. Then you’ll rank your level of satisfaction with that area of your life on a scale of 1 to 10 with one being low and 10 being high. If the number is a three then you highlight the line between 3 and 4, or alternatively you can color in the first three compartments, up to the 4.
Then you move on to the next area of your life, reflect, and make a mark on the wheel. When you’re done you’ll have a lumpy wheel that shows you at a glance what life area to put your energy into lifting up a bit in the coming year.
If you just can’t stand to be put in a box, what you can do is cross out all or some of the life areas and rewrite them in ways that make more sense to you. That’s totally fine.
Once you can see the life areas that are very satisfying for you, you can celebrate them! 🙂
And when you see the life areas that could be lifted up a bit, then you can start to ask, “What one thing would I need to do in this area to lift it up just 1 level?” Don’t try and think about how to get it from a 3 to a 10, or from a 5 to a 9. Just think about the one most important thing that would make the area better.
Then see if you can come up with the first couple of steps in a strategy that helps you feel more satisfied with that area.
It might seem like what’s bringing that area down is not within your control, but once we acknowledge that something significant isn’t within our control we can still think about what parts are, no matter how tiny they seem.
The effects of a few small, but strategic actions can be surprising in their potency.