What is the key to achieving better health? What one quality do all people living a healthy lifestyle share in common? It is not something you can buy, nor is it something you can touch. It cannot be taught, but can only be learned. I have come to find the secret to developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and the answer may be more obvious than you think.
Up until a few months ago I was living a lifestyle which would make most physicians cringe. Eating carelessly, smoking and drinking daily, oversleeping, rarely exercising. I knew in the back of my mind that indulging in these habits were, though pleasurable in the moment, not helping me in the long term. But I figured that I had better things to worry about, and unfortunately having a healthy diet was less of a priority to me than deciding which party or concert I was going to attend that night. Eventually the years of excessive consumption caught up with me and I began to feel like my bad habits were starting to take their toll on my body, and my wallet. It wasn’t easy but I decided that I needed a change of pace. A new lifestyle that was less frequently based on hedonistic values and more fit to treating my body like a temple of mind and spirit. I came to find that simply by changing the way I thought about myself and my future I was able to stick to a more stable lifestyle which, though requiring some sacrifice, has proven to be among the best decisions I have ever made.
As you may know, it is not always easy to eat healthy, exercise regularly, abstain from drinking too much alcohol or smoking. The environment we live in contributes to this tremendously. We live in a very impatient world where everything must be made to fit our busy, “On the go,” lifestyles. It has become customary to rely on fast food restaurants to serve us borderline edible “food matter,” which has often been pre made, and kept heated ready to be served within five minutes or less from the time of ordering. It has become normal to rely on coffee and energy drinks to give us that extra boost of energy we need to make it through the day. We as a collective society continue to indulge in unhealthy activities, relegating our voice of reason which whispers to us from time to time, “Maybe I shouldn’t eat the whole box.” The gruesome warning labels plastered onto packs of cigarettes hardly seem to phase the average smoker. The nutrition facts and ingredients on our instant ramen noodles are often overlooked as we open the package and begin preparing our “meal” consisting of half our daily sodium intake condensed into 80 grams of pasta.
There are two obstacles to achieving a healthy diet; ignorance and apathy. Most people are simply not aware of what is in their food. Their diet is not determined from nutritional value, but often from how much preparation time is required, the cost and shelf life (ramen noodles are very inexpensive and non-perishable), and of course pleasure value, aka taste. We have become detached from the origins of our food. We often buy fruits and vegetables, which could easily have been grown locally, but instead have been imported from half way around the world. This is of course very uneconomical considering the resources and fossil fuels used in the transportation of these fruits, vegetables, and meats. Fortunately in recent years, the importance of buying locally sourced foods has become more recognized.
Our schedules tend to be very busy, and it is somewhat understandable as to why some people may simply not care enough to structure their days around preparing healthy meals. It does take some effort to set aside the time to cook for yourself and prepare your meals ahead of time. It may be tempting at times to sleep in an extra half hour, substituting the most important meal of the day by grabbing a quick bite to eat on your way to work. It may be hard to come home from a long day at school, and have to head back out, down to the grocery store, when you can easily opt for a freshly cooked pizza delivered in thirty minutes or less. Coffee, and highly caffeinated drinks are used as mental stimulants, and expected to give us the energy which only a well balanced meal can provide. The importance of feeding the body with the nutrients it requires is paramount to staying focused and productive throughout the day, and the truth is that there really is no proper substitute for a well balanced diet.
The importance of keeping yourself properly hydrated is often over looked as well. The body is an incredible organism, capable of regulating an array of bodily functions all on its own. Water is the oil which keep the body’s internal mechanics flowing smoothly. Water is needed to help in the process of digestion, circulation, distribution of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature. Other bodily functions such as sweating, breathing, and urinating cause a loss in fluids. It may not be necessary to drink the recommended eight glasses per day, but keeping a proper balance of fluids is essential to help the body function at a peak level of efficiency.
Once the often self-imposed ignorance and apathy regarding health has been removed there is only one quality or characteristic needed to maintain a stable, balanced lifestyle. The most important secret to achieving better health can be summed up in one word; discipline. Training yourself to recognize which decisions will benefit you in the long run, and choosing not to partake in the activities which will hold you back, is the key to unlocking a healthy you. This is absolutely easier said than done. Discipline is in itself a muscle which will take some time to develop. What strengthens this muscle most of all is being able to flex it in times of laziness. It is especially when you begin to feel apathetic or unmotivated that discipline will be necessary in order to compel yourself to turn off the TV and go to the gym. In times where all you want to do is fall back into the comfort of unhealthy, compulsive behaviours, you must not ignore that scolding, nagging voice in your head that is screaming at you to do the right thing for your body and mind.
It all comes down to changing the way that you think. By changing your inner reality, your outer reality must also change to correspond to the new frequency which you have placed your mind at. This is not theory, it is law. Your thoughts are a veil through which you view yourself and the world. As Shakespeare once said, “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” So the next time you find yourself feeling reluctant to go to the gym, cooking for yourself, or simply refraining from making an unhealthy decision, remind yourself that the temporary discomfort in small, short-term sacrifice will pay off in the long run, and the value of feeling healthy and accomplished is indefinitely more gratifying than eating potato chips while watching a whole season of your favourite TV series. With time you will begin to recognize your progress and this will help to keep you motivated as well as adding to your momentum.
Write down your goals. Read them everyday and visualize what life will be like and how you will feel once you have manifested your inner vision. Surround yourself with inspiring people and literature and actively seek out the things which will become sources of motivational energy. In conclusion I leave you with one of my favourite quotes courtesy of Farrah Gray, “Comfort is the enemy of achievement.”