Any writer, painter, illustrator, fine artist, whatever will tell you about the difficulty that comes with starting a new project. The newness and possibility of something new can feel overwhelming, large, and just plain scary.
It's similar to the fear that comes with public speaking in that when given the amount of space and time we need to really express ourselves, we (or at least, I) often can't speak at all, because we don't know where to start and are overwhelmed by possibility and the potential for power.
The same thing happens when it comes to managing personal health and wellness. Try starting on a new diet or exercise regime, making a wellness practice part of your daily or weekly habits and you're meet with that same quiet, giant space. It's overwhelming and since it can be hard to know where to start, we usually just don't start at all.
For me, the only way to achieve any sort of balance is by keeping things extremely uneven – basically to "go hard or go home." All or nothing. An entire pint of ice cream or not even a bite. Regular workouts or pure relaxation.
Finding balanced in the unbalanced.
A podcast once told me it had something to do with my personality type and I'm sure that's true. Regardless, it works great for me. And so, with this behavior in mind, I've put together a little guide to living a more balanced life – with a very important emphasis on health and wellness.
Here's what's worked for me:
Make it a lifestyle, not a one-time practice
Whatever you're trying to achieve (lower sugar intake, more workouts, more personal or meditative time, etc.) the only way you can make this new behavior part of a regular routine is by thinking of it as an entire lifestyle. You're not eating healthy today, you're changing the way you approach food and eating overall. You're not trying out a new yoga class once, then again in 2-3 months. You're practicing yoga, and making it a part of your weekly schedule. Accept your new health-focused behavior as a part of your overall lifestyle, envelope it in your existing routine, and soon (soon) it will become a natural practice.
Eliminate the idea of "good" behavior
Don't applaud yourself for living a healthy, balanced life. Just like the idea of turning a behavior into a lifestyle, once you decide to eat healthy/exercise/get more sleep/read more/meditate, etc., know that this is now normal behavior for you – not "good" behavior. "Good" behavior is looked at as an exception to the norm that can be rewarded with bad. Make your "good" behavior the new norm and let that be the reward in itself.
Phone a friend
This is an oft-repeated piece of advice when it comes to working out or going to the gym, but the same principle of routine and accountability applies to any sort of wellness practice. If you're trying to cut down on junk food, ask a friend to join you in the practice and keep tabs on each other. Then really follow through with your plans, and continue. If you don't have a companion or would rather go it alone, write things down in a journal, find a weekly podcast that you love and with a regular publishing schedule that will inadvertently hold you accountable, and stick with it.
To really nail it home, associate your new wellness behavior with another sense – be it a scent you smell when meditating, a song you listen to while working out, or a podcast you play while cooking (healthier) food. Choose practices that will accompany your practice and before you know it, you'll be living your new, healthier life.
This (un)balanced behavior has helped me to live a much healthier, more balanced life than I did several years ago but obviously these practices are always easier said than done.
Case in point: I just finished doing yoga right now. If I'm honest, I really didn't want to practice even though I love doing yoga. But you know what? I love my Outdoor Voices yoga pants and knew I'd feel better after I was done practicing, so I lit a candle and did the damn thing. And now, I feel so much better for it.
Checkmate. But really, what works for you?