If being healthy is supposed to make you feel so good, why is it so hard?
I have personally struggled with this paradox for some time. I like to think of myself as a healthy person. I eat right, most of the time. I exercise regularly, most of the time. I try to do all of the thing “they” say that you should like meditate, spend time with family and friends, read (fiction and nonfiction), donate to causes I believe in, limit television… I could continue to list positive life practices but you get the idea and that is not what this is really about anyway. All of the things I do to be a better, healthier me I do most of the time but not all the time, not every day. Why? Well, it is hard.
For one thing we have been conditioned to want a quick fix for instant gratification. For our entire lives we have been told about how a “friend” or a “cousin” lost weight by eating nothing but cabbage or some guy that achieved perfect abs at home in just seven minutes a day. We hear about a pill that blocks fat or speeds up your metabolism. Most recently people seem to want to believe that they achieve perfect health by simply cutting gluten or artificial sweeteners from their diet. Changes in your health do not come instantly. Good or bad they happen gradually and are often unnoticed. It would be wonderful if you could start making positive changes on Monday and wake up energetic, attentive, thin and optimistic on Tuesday. Unfortunately it just does not work that way. The changes that you will feel in your health will come in gradual incremental amounts. If you simply compare yourself today from yourself yesterday there will be no noticeable change.
This can be discouraging. The trick is to document your progress only occasionally, not daily. Whatever the change you are trying to make document at the start. Write it down. I cannot stress enough the importance of a written or photo log. Your mind will play its tricks on you. You will deceive yourself. Once you write it down or take a picture the starting point is set and cannot be changed. I would recommend checking in on your progress about once a month. That may not seem often enough, it is. Remember this is going to take a while. Just about every philosophy that has ever existed reminds us that delayed gratification is virtuous. Anything worth having or doing takes time and dedication. The Tao Te Ching makes many references to this concept. The Bible Proverbs 21:20 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 to name a few. For a secular reference read Kundear. The concept of things that come easily have no worth and those that are difficult have value is, I believe, an underlying theme to “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”
Another discoursing factor can be that it is hard to quantify the absence of negative effects. We like to see results. It is very hard to appreciate the sleep you did not lose or the back pain you never developed. Being in good health affords you the benefit of not having bad health problems which in turn do not need to be fixed. Therefore their avoidance goes unnoticed. I myself will often overlook advantages my good health gives me until I run across someone whose health is challenged. Then I am reminded of the benefits of my hard work.
So here is what I want you to take away from this.
• Changing your health is a gradual process. One bad day will not send you back down the spiral any more than one good day will miraculously fix you.
• Expect slow and incremental improvements. To expect immediate results is to set yourself up for disappointment.
• Document your progress, but not too often
• Remind yourself to appreciate all of the health problems you do not have.
• Good health is its own reward. You don’t get a cookie for doing the right thing. It is just what you are supposed to do. You eat too many cookies anyway. 🙂