Today is the first day of the rest...
February 27, 2011 4:40 PM   Subscribe

What techniques do you use to affect positive change in your life?

My husband and I are starting some brand new healthy habits tomorrow--diet, exercise, nutrition related. We've been doing the right stuff off and on, but we're really serious about making consistent, disciplined changes now. We've done the shopping, the meal planning, the scheduling, and anticipated hiccups in the schedule. We're really ready to begin day zero tomorrow morning.

What techniques have helped you make disciplined changes in your life? Does journaling help? Meditation/prayer? Talking about it everyday to check resolve? Checklists? Gold stars? Rewards/punishment? We're just trying to brainstorm all techniques to help us move down the path towards success here.
posted by Kronur to Human Relations (17 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Health Month!. There's even a metafilter team!

Otherwise, on the same tack, checking in with someone (like your husband) daily helps to reinforce why and how you're doing this, even when it's hard. And don't give up when there are unintended hiccups. And realize this is something you're doing for life, not just this week. Give yourself a little end-of-a-goal treat as a reward. Aw, basically all of these days are incorporated in Health Month, do that.
posted by ldthomps at 4:45 PM on February 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

I made a desktop background that I look at fairly often when I am switching applications or doing other work. It says "You are immortal. The result of everything you do today will last forever." I wish I could remember where I first read those words.

The reason it works for me is that it makes me remember that I have things to do, and that, in a given moment, I am either working toward those goals or I am not, and the difference has lasting consequences.
posted by gauche at 4:46 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Celebrate small victories (eg if your bugaboo is always snacking, celebrate that you went the whole night without snacking - right on! high five!), and don't set it up as a monolithic thing that can be derailed if you slip up. Don't dwell on goofs. After a slip up, think: ok, I slipped up, getting back on track, gonna do better starting now - I will do x (small virtuous thing) right now.

I find virtuous actions make me feel more virtuous - so if I make a nice hot breakfast (right on! high five!) I'm more likely to then empty the dishwasher (right on! high five!). The key to breaking the bad cycle is preventing the reverse dynamic where you slip up - eat junk food for breakfast - and then think, well, today's shot, I might as well not even bother unloading the dishwasher, oh what a slug I am, etc. No, think "ok, getting back on track. Gonna do my small virtuous thing right now."
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:47 PM on February 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

Portion controll. Drink more water.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:10 PM on February 27, 2011

Meditation, breath exercises, yoga, time tracking, rewards: did help.

These did not help: journaling, checklists, punishments.
posted by rainy at 5:23 PM on February 27, 2011

It's always boiled down to mood for me. Exercise and eating well will produce happy moods and that feeds on itself. Early on you might just have to push through using the sort of methods you've mentioned, but long term success for me has always come down to sustained improved moods along with disciplining myself against old habits - if I had a bad day, for example, I can't go and compensate with junk food and a bunch of beer.

Also with the diet - I'll note that when I started juicing I got an actual body high off of it which shocked me and was really nice. Lime, spinach, ginger, beet, apple and carrot in the morning is so superior to caffeine.
posted by MillMan at 5:25 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some things that have worked for me:

Perspective - a misstep or poor choice should not derail all your efforts. You do not have to be perfect. Don't turn a "cheat" snack/meal into a "cheat" week.

Blogging really helped me process my thoughts, share my struggles and accomplishments with others and helped keep me honest.

Tracking my food via FitDay or something like LiveStrong's Meal tracker has been incredibly wonderful in helping to educate me about what I eat and how much.

In regard to exercise - find something you genuinely like doing and it will never be a burden to do it. For me, it is tennis. I could play tennis everyday, I love it. I also go to the gym regularly - strength training, some cardio & core work - in order to get stronger, less injury-prone when playing tennis. I hate the gym, but I do it because it makes me a better tennis player and no more tennis elbow or shoulder pain.

Drink plenty of water.

Don't think of this as a diet (short term). Think about your efforts as improving your quality of life (long term).
posted by SoulOnIce at 5:30 PM on February 27, 2011

I just began (early February) a new attempt to become healthier. It's too early to tell if this will work, but I have seen some positive results. What you may find helpful is some of my unorthodox approaches, they may at least be food for thought.

- I quit my gym...with my work schedule I was never getting there often enough, so it wasn't enabling my fitness but rather throttling it
- got rid of stuff in my basement that I would have liked to keep but were not as important as my health...this allowed me to set-up a home gym which I have been going down and spending 15 to 20 minutes in every day (as opposed to one or two hours a weekend before).
- surprisingly I discovered I had all over the house many of the things I needed for a home gym (a Total Gym I had bought years ago but folded up due to lack of space before...lots of dumbbell bars and plates, a weight stack attached to the basement wall but you couldn't get near it before)
- I set up some old amplified PC speakers down there and I bring my netbook down and watch movies while working out (amazing how much more pleasant a work-out is when you're not squinting at your phone or iPod with headphones)
- I not only bring my lunch to work I bring enough food for snacks through the work day. I take a single protein bar, a yogurt, a couple packs of plain oatmeal with Splenda packs for sweetness, a bottle of water plus my lunch establishes a pattern that I live within. This is to avoid buying things out of the vending machines.
- I make my morning and afternoon meal plus my snacks the bulk of what I eat. I don't eat a dinner so much as a big snack (maybe a bagel, tea, diet popsicles, another protein bar)
- I made a list of healthy food preferences and put it out on a section of my Web site. No matter where I am as long as I have access to the Web (incl. through my phone) I can remind myself of the kinds of foods that satisfy me, are good for me and do not contain a lot of fat or calories. Believe it or not the oatmeal is a big deal for me. I don't know what it is, but it not only satisfies me but actually calms me down too. Go figure. YMMV.
- I focused on getting out of the rut I had been in before...I wasn't losing weight, I'm not getting any style diseases are going to start setting in and then I'll hate myself for not having done whatever it took to avoid that. Doing same thing over and over and expecting different results equals crazy, right?

Bottom line on all of the above: the things everyone else was telling me would work wasn' in for years. I think it's the old Steve Covey saying: "begin with the end in mind". Pretend you are already living a healthier life style, and figure out how you did it. If you believe it's possible, then no matter what obstacles are in your way, there must be work-arounds.

Agreeing with some other replies: rewards, punishments, journaling, weighing in, buddy system never worked for me. I don't doubt they have worked for others, probably a combination of my personality and work/social/schedule situations.
posted by forthright at 5:31 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing that journaling doesn't help me at all, but meditation does, and yoga really *really* does. Also, allowing yourself to fall back a little bit every now and then because you're human and that's ok.

But mostly: Find ways to make your new healthy lifestyle fun. Make exercise friends! Go shopping at farmers markets or, even better, GROW YOUR OWN VEGGIES (even just herbs in a pot). I find that adding herbs or chard I grew myself to a meal brings a lot of extra enjoyment to my meal, even if I'm just eating beans or lentils.

Best of luck! You're going to feel really great really soon.
posted by ferngully at 5:43 PM on February 27, 2011

Tracking works for me. I use Time Flies on the Iphone, which seemed to work better than some other goal tracking apps I looked at. I like that I can look and see that I've got "Drank soda" way down at the bottom of my list (greatest number of days since I've done it), and have "Went to the gym" at the top of my list. Whenever I think about eating some chips or whathaveyou, I think "do I really want to put 'Ate Chips' back at the top of my list?" and usually abstain.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:44 PM on February 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Personally, I've found that I'm positive when I'm around positive people. Right? So if you've got supportive friends/coworkers/associates, etc. stick with them. Be uplifted, let them encourage you.

Cut negativity out, in terms of aura. Don't let things get you down, so meditation, yoga, or a regular fun activity or class would be good. Don't let it get to you. We are only human. We might falter and have that soda. Or piece of cake. It's not a race, and even if you hit a roadbump and you keep going, that's all that matters.

Be happy, smile more, or try to seek out things that will try to induce this. Mental health is just as important as physical health. :)
posted by xtine at 10:22 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Start early.

I didn't set New Years' resolutions this year. Instead, I started making gradual changes in December, with the goal of them being fully entrenched habits by January first. The goals I set (tracking expenses, cutting unnecessary spending, minimising snacking, bringing lunch from home) have stuck much better than any of the resolutions I've made in the past. I think having the lead-up time made it easier for me to celebrate partial progress, instead of trying and failing to maintain perfection from day one.

So, I recommend setting yourself a date, perhaps a month from now, when you want your new habits to be completely integrated into your life. Tomorrow, you start working towards making that happen.
posted by embrangled at 10:36 PM on February 27, 2011

Seconding LobsterMitten - celebrate small victories. Acknowledge anything you do that brings you closer to your goals. Also, don't forget to celebrate and acknowledge not doing things that bring you further away from your goals. I remember to congratulate myself for exercising, but forget the candy bar that I really really wanted to eat and it took all my willpower to get away from it. It's easy to think that you've accomplished nothing if you forget those "don't do" successes, and go into a bad cycle that LobsterMitten describes. Just keep high-fiving yourself for every little step you take or don't take, as long as you don't go backwards.
posted by gakiko at 12:16 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some really great ideas and reinforcements! I marked best answers for some of the new things I never considered or forgot about in all the process...

1) I joined Health Month (thank goodness that March 1 is Tuesday, and I don't have to wait too long,) and I think I'll use my sponsorship to sponsor my non-mefi husband. I had never heard of this before, but How Cool!

2) We're going to prioritize the vegetable garden. We set aside next weekend to clean up the yard, so I'll start some raised beds then!

3) Investigating Time Flies; love the quote, and I will make some custom desktop backgrounds for the home & work computers; my husband loves the juice idea to get some of his veggies (and we hadn't really considered that one); and now I'm off to do some small virtuous tasks IRL.

It feels like spring is already here! thanks everyone!
posted by Kronur at 2:24 AM on February 28, 2011

Remember that slip-ups are part of human nature, and don't beat yourself up about them. To get myself back on track after a slip-up I use the mantra "today is the first day of the rest of your life."
posted by tidecat at 4:38 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

The first that jumped out at me was that you were going to start 'tomorrow.' Why not right now? Just make one change, but do it now.
posted by mike_bling at 4:40 PM on February 28, 2011

Remember that the bad habits probably took you thirty years to set. They may take you thirty years to unset; if you slip, don't give up.

The best advice that's worked for me is to pick things, one at a time, and change them, and make the new changes into permanent habits. No trick, no gimmick, no awfully silly gold stars. Just do it, again and again, the way you want to always do it, and eventually it becomes habit.

As with any new habit, again, when you slip, don't give up, and don't let that break the new good habits. That's the hardest for me; if I start exercising, I eventually get the flu a few months later, but that breaks my routine, which screws it up.

So setup your new habits to be resilient to temporary failures, if that makes any sense.
posted by talldean at 1:17 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

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