Little choices we make each day have more impact than we think. Eating a banana instead of a packet of biscuits. Walking up the stairs instead of riding the elevator. Watching television instead of reading a book. Each choice has consequences that reach further than the immediate outcome. Healthy eating impacts our mental as well as our physical health. Taking the elevator can become a habit that feeds over into other decisions about physical activity. Screen time before bed can hinder our ability to get to sleep and the quality of that sleep. So, how do we cultivate an environment where we can make the right choice for us at the time?
One of the things that has helped me most was identifying little things I can set in motion before doing the actual thing. This can be as simple as having the right type of foods at hand for when we become hungry.
I live on the fourth floor of an apartment building. When I leave for work in the morning and arrive home in the evening I make a choice. I can take the stairs, or wait for the elevator. If I make the choice in the moment I am more likely to take the elevator if it’s at my floor. But if I tell myself I am going to take the stairs before I am at the last moment I can make the decision, there’s a higher chance I do it without giving my brain time to convince me otherwise. (There are times when taking the elevator is a better option, such as when moving furniture, or when recovering from an injury, but the same decision making strategy applies: tell myself I am going to take the elevator well before the final moment a decision can be made.)
Another instance of this is to open my manuscript editing program before I close my laptop for the night. This one is fraught with danger, because I might see the bit of adventure I’m up to editing and get sucked back in! So I must simply open it, and then immediately put my computer to sleep. What this allows me to do the next day when I open my computer, is see the activity I want to straight away. The moment I login the screen that flashes up is saying, “Here you go, get stuck in”. It sounds too good to be true, as I could click into a different window and get sucked into watching YouTube videos, or watching some soccer, or playing computer games. But I don’t. Over time I have oriented the decision towards what I want and I sit down and edit for at least twenty minutes
Doing some exercise each day is an important part of managing my mental wellbeing. If I have a social engagement, such as a game of ultimate, I will go to that game and all will be well. If it is one of the five days of the week I don’t have ultimate, it is up to me to do organise and do the exercise. No one will be put out if I don’t, like if I didn’t turn up to an ultimate game where I was expected. No one will check if I have done my exercise for the day. But I know I will feel better if I do it. So I have started doing twenty five press-ups before I leave work at the end of the day. This gives a deadline to my mind. My mind knows we will get to go home as soon as we’ve done the press-ups. If I wait until I get home my mind will have more chance to pike out and choose something else.
So far it’s working and I plan to put more in place. Stay posted for updates, probably.
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Each of these setups is like a little game for me, achievable and winnable. Each small action I’ve taken has helped me improve my wellbeing and productivity more than I thought they would.
What little steps can you take to reduce the chance your mind will say no to healthy decisions?
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Keep on keeping on being awesome. PEACE.