What I’ve learnt along the way….
So here are the factors I’ve found work as a framework for guiding dietary change, teaching yoga and approaching many of life’s challenges – all gleaned by experience and talking to clients:
- The little things add up – whether it’s cutting back on sugar, increasing movement or making time to relax, little and often are more fundamental than occasional grand sweeping gestures. Gradual change that sticks works where yo-yo dieting fails, sudden gym frenzy is energetically unsustainable and half-yearly holidays cannot make up for not finding time for recovery in daily life.
- Realism for success – change needs to work for you and fit into your life to have any chance of becoming an ingrained habit. This is where the little things come into their own; you can visualise incorporating walking 10 minutes several times a day where that plan to get to the swimming pool every morning might not last – it might once or twice a week though.
- Stay observant – the best change isn’t dramatic and you can lose sight of fundamental, gradual improvement, the best kind. Change that will stick and new lifestyles that happen organically are the ones where you really pay attention to what is happening along the way, for instance watching how afternoon energy improves and cravings fade when you prioritise a breakfast with protein and healthy fats.
- Give change time to happen – you can trust that your body has incredible healing mechanisms and is always working to move you back towards balance. Sometimes that balance has been ‘reset’ to expect living in a state of constant alert and you need to let your body know that it is safe and can relax, but you’ll be amazed at how things can move in the right direction if you put healthy change in motion and then let them filter through.
- Recovery can come with a period of shut-down – your body is a vastly intelligent organism that will prioritise energy conservation and healing whenever it gets the chance. If you’ve been stressed for a long time and start to relax and let go, it is a natural part of the process to have a period of lower energy where recovery can happen. Go with it and don’t panic – nap, rest and lie-in if that’s what you need.
- Let it go and start again – vicious cycles are easily created if let them. We are only human, are not expected to be ‘perfect’ (whatever that is) and treats are great for the soul when we are mostly acting positively for our health. If you stray from the path of righteousness, smile, shrug and start again the next day. Guilt and self-criticism are pointlessly stressful and life is just too short!
Over the years I’ve come to realise that these points can help life and change run that little more smoothly and create an enjoyable journey that can relieve, rather than add to life’s stressors. Being rigid, overly strict and even a bit neurotic (we’ve all been there!) only adds to the tension that keeps us away from relaxing into quality of life and optimal health.