As a family practitioner, I spend many hours coaching and coaxing patients to make changes in their diet, exercise habits, lifestyle, and their levels of stress. I would be very surprised if any reader out there is unaware that the key to health lies in these habits and behaviors and not so much in the medications we prescribe to deal with the symptoms of dis-ease. So here we are, at this time of year that many of us resolve to eat better, exercise more, lose weight, and so forth. Some of us succeed, but most of us, after a feeble or decent attempt to change, go right back to behaviors that do not serve our health, and thus our happiness very well at all.
So, what are the traits, characteristics, behaviors of those that succeed? In my experience and observing my patients, it seems to me the ones that succeed are those that respect and love themselves. They love themselves so much that they want to look good, feel good, and possess health to travel and play, and be more productive and creative. While the concept of loving oneself sounds selfish or narcissistic, it really is quite selfless. In the space of self-love, my patients are happier, more giving to others around them, able to work harder, have energy, and are more loving and kind to their family and friends. People who love themselves do not think twice about choosing healthier foods or exercising to care for their body. It is very clear that a person who takes care of themselves is happier and has much more to give than those of us who do not.
Not only am I healthcare provider, I am human. So how do I resolve in 2014 to eat healthier and exercise consistently to be the healthiest and happiest that I can be?
1. Laugh, often and more often. If you read my article on oxytocin, you know that when we laugh, oxytocin – our pleasure, happiness, relationship hormone – is released. This lowers stress and elevates all the good chemicals in our bodies that help us be healthy and promotes our ability to feel happy, loving to self and others, and to trust others. Hugging does this also!
2. Enjoy nature. We live in a beautiful place. A 10-minute walk can get the blood flowing, settle the mind, and elevate the mood (all research-proven). Between the rivers, biking, skiing and hiking trails, old mining roads, and ancient ruins, there is something here for everyone to get out, breathe fresh air, and feel the peace and wonder of our planet in our very own backyard.
3. Say “yes” when I mean yes and say “no” when I mean no. Taking time to reflect on what I want and communicate that. Saying yes to opportunity. Setting good boundaries and saying no to requests that compromise my ability to care for myself.
4. Forgive more, especially myself. How many times do we focus on forgiving someone who wronged us but forget to forgive ourselves for our role, the feelings of anger, the negative thoughts, the impact the interaction had on our well-being? It is so important to not only forgive the other person but to also forgive our self. In fact, I would argue that true forgiveness of another person/situation cannot be complete until one can forgive oneself first. And with that said, forgive more easily, readily. The damage done to the physical body through negative emotions is intense – cancer as well as liver and heart disease have been linked to unresolved anger…. Let it go!
5. Understand my needs do come first and honor that. We all know to “put our oxygen mask on before that of the child/other next to us”. As noted already, when our own needs aren’t met, we just don’t have much to offer/be of service to others. I see so many patients in my office sick from the burn-out of doing so much for everyone else without doing anything to take care of themselves. Again, when one takes time to replenish their batteries, care for themselves – be it through meditation, rest, exercise, time alone – we are happier and thus more loving and kinder and more giving; because we have something to give! It really is a win-win situation.
6. Stop seeking approval from others. When we stop this self-destructive behavior, we are able take care of ourselves and say no to the things that don’t support us. What is the purpose of seeking approval anyways? The premise is that “if you approve of me, then I must be likeable, loveable, worthy, etc.” When we stop seeking approval from others we are announcing to the world that we are worthy and lovable just the way we are. We can contribute to society by just following our own inner compass.
7. Do more letting go. Letting go of anger is one step. Another is letting go of criticizing myself and others. I am not talking about constructive criticism, but of that voice in our head that says “I’m stupid for …”; “I can’t do/be this/that…” “I am not pretty” – you get the point. This behavior serves no good for anyone. Ever. In choosing to love oneself, it is paramount to turn off this critic and pay attention to all the good and wonderful attributes we have and actions that we do, no matter how small. Every small victory is an affirmation of our deservedness to be on this planet, happy.
8. Say yes to success and let go of the fear of success or failure. Funny acknowledging that sometimes it is the fear of success of achieving a goal that stops us from achieving it. Success is good, success is awesome! And how does one get there… but by failing, and failing, and failing… One of the most helpful statistics I learned as I have struggled in this department is that 7 out of 10 millionaires declared bankruptcy (sometimes multiple times) before they made their millions. Our most successful people (defined by monetary gain) have failed royally before their success – it is just part of life for us all. Embracing both success and failure as an event and not a measurement of how good, worthy, etc. we are is a great thing to do.
9. Learn something new that is scary and inspiring. I signed up for voice lessons. Maybe for you, it is writing a novel, or skydiving, or taking an art class. What brings you inspiration, joy, a sense of purpose, or is a dream waiting to emerge? Go for it! What a wonderful way to love oneself, become a better person and an inspiration to others around you by indulging oneself in a new hobby?
As you see, none of these resolutions included exercising more or eating healthy. But here is the secret… once a person decides to embark of the journey of being kinder and loving to themself, things like eating healthier, losing weight, being more active just happen as part of the process. A person who has learned to love themselves tends to naturally do the things that brings them joy, happiness, and health. Readers, friends, and patients, that is my ultimate wish for you this year. May 2014 be your year to transform, blossom, and flourish!
Renae Blanton, MSN, ANP is a Family Nurse Practitioner at Sonas Integrative Medical Center. She specializes in integrative family medicine with a focus on environmental issues such as lead toxicity, anti-aging, bio-identical hormones for men and women, women’s health and chronic disease and illness. She can be reached at 970-247-2500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.