Posted by: Corina Paraschiv | December 12, 2008

Changing your Lifestyle: Not an Easy Feat

When I make a decision, I tend to go all out.  If I decide to have a healthy lifestyle, I just go for it and switch absolutely everything that doesn’t work for me.  And usually, that works out pretty well because I am determined, but when I fail at my new objectives… well that hurts!   You fall from high high expectations.

But it has been brought to my attention that going step by step might make it easier.  To that I’d add: give yourself the chance to feel the progres.  To do that, you can use technology or good old pen and paper.  See below.  🙂

Idea no. 1 : Basics First
Before you get into anything too ellaborate, get back to the basics; eat well, take good care of your appearance, exercise, etc.

Idea no.2 : Be assertive
If you need to make some changes in your life, a lot of chances are your environment may pose a threat to that change – people will not make it easy on you if you are used to doing things one way and suddenly they have to adapt to your new schedule, to your new requirements when picking a restaurant, etc.  If you are with someone who cares about you, then you can explain why you need that change so they can not put obstacles in your way, and if you are dealing with a selfish co-worker for instance or anyone who does not have your interest at heart, then don’t bother explaining; just tell them what they are suggesting doesn’t work for you, offer them a couple of alternatives to chose from that would work for you and that way you can both get what you’d like.  No explain, no complain.

Idea no. 3: Focus on your Progress
To be motivated, look at all the good things you achieved, and measure your progress, rather than looking at what you have not met.  A whole lot of ways can make this possible.

The Schedule
One of the ways I use is sometimes, in the morning, as I wake up, I have a huge schedule in my room with time slots, and I fill it in as follows: As I wake up I associate time blocks of colors to things I want to do.  Yellow is for associations and clubs obligations, orange is for social time (time spent with others), pink is for alone time, and green is for study time & school.  One my big blocks are chosen and I can pick the precise activities I want to do by putting a post it on top of each color frame to have specific ideas of what to do.  I have an idea bank on the wall divided in different ways like “places to go”, “things to do”, etc. where, if I failed to have ideas I could get access to those.  The advantage of it is first you can see just how balanced your day is, second you can actually feel in charge of your day instead of randomly doing whatever comes next and third you can feel good about having done many things in your day by looking at your colorful schedule at the end of the day.

The Blocks of Time
An alternative to this when I do not have a specific time I need to get to places is just plan a sequence of activities as I wake up and tell myself for instance I’ll eat between the gym time and the study time.  That way, by making it more flexible, I can enjoy my day without stress and still get everything accomplished.

Tracking actions, moods & sleep
Using Optimism or Health Engage, orexcel spreadsheet or a pen and paper, you can track down your day in terms of how well you coped with different situations that came about and how good your habits and attitudes were.   That can be encouraging as you check the boxes and see what you did right, and it can serve as a reminder every day of what you can do to improve your day the next day.  For an idea

Correlate what you eat with your mood
Another software you can use is Smart Diary Suite to track down the relationship between what you eat, your energy levels, your health, your mood, and your weight and many other variables.  This helps you stay on track and feel like you are getting somewhere.  If you’re trying to change your eating habits, one thing that you can do is first put the junk food or snacks away so that you actually have to make a conscious decision to seek them out, and second make alternatives for quick healthy snacks available so that if you do end up hungry you have something onhand that is nutricious and good tasting.  Also by making some time to cook yourself at home, you eat better quality food, you control the portions you eat and you save money.  On top of it, you have to watch out: by putting fixed times for meals or snacks you can make sure you don’t end up starving when you finally find some time to eat, which allows you to take smaller portions!

Idea no.4 : Use technology to regulate your study habits
A simple little software like Anki can help you get into the habit of studying.  This open source software will help you repeat your lessons periodically helping you memorize in subjects where you have definitions and concepts to assimilate for exams.  You’ll then feel more motivated to do so on your own.

Idea no.5:  Set actual objectives
You can try setting clear objectives to yourself.  To start, ask yourself where are you?  Where do you want to be?  How are you going to get there.  Once that is done, you can take that how are you going to get there an further break it down.  Be very specific: how precisely do you want to achieve your goal?  If it is for instance going swimming, then find out how and when you’ll make that possible (ex. at the local swimming pool, at 5h00 every Monday, for an hour).  And then stick to it.

Idea no. 6 : Be accountable to someone
If you tell your family or close friends you will do something and they ask every now and then how that is going, you become accountable not only to yourself but to others.  Often that can help be more motivated and sticking to whatever your decision is.

Idea no. 7 : Do some research
The more you read on the topic and become familiar with whatever it is you are trying to achieve, the more you know why what you undertake is important, the more chances you have of both being motivated to stick to your decisions, and of knowing the best ways in which to achieve your goals.

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