We’ve all had those moments where we’ve said “That’s it. I’m going to eat very healthily from now on” or “I’ll start regularly exercising or meditating every day.” But most of us will usually hit a point where these promises to ourselves get thrown out the window. We’ll crave a piece of cake and find ourselves going back to our old eating habits. We’ll skip a day at the gym… and then quit going after that. We’ll decide we’re in too much of a rush to meditate that morning, and soon enough, meditating at all will be forgotten. In short, we’ll lose whatever motivation we had to adopt a healthier lifestyle. But why do we lose our motivation to lead healthier lives, and what can we do about it?
Leading a healthy lifestyle generally includes three things: healthy eating, exercise and mindfulness practices. Healthy eating and exercise generally ensure our physical health, whereas mindfulness practices support our mental health. While these three things are very good for us in a myriad of ways, most of us are all too quick to abandon them. But why is that? Why do we switch out our salad for donuts, sit on the couch instead of going for a walk, and forget about mindfulness altogether?
There are a couple of reasons why we lose our motivation to be healthier. The first is that in this day and age, most of us lead pretty sedentary lives. That’s not to say we laze around all day — we go to work and we study hard. But most of our work is done sitting down in front of a computer. Because of this, exercising or taking the time to meditate every day seem like major changes to us. The second reason we’re quick to lose our motivation is that we consider healthy eating, exercise, and mindfulness as luxuries as opposed to must-haves. We think “I don’t have the money to waste on organic food shopping, or going to a meditation center, or signing up for the gym.” We might even see mindfulness and exercise as boring and think that healthy eating means eating tasteless food. But our biggest reason for losing our motivation is this: we don’t get immediate results from any of these lifestyle changes.
Luckily for us, there are several things that we can do to keep ourselves motivated to lead healthier lifestyles. Here are just a few examples:
One reason we find it so hard to eat healthier, work out and practice mindfulness is that we start too big instead of slowly incorporating these changes into our lives bit by bit. We try to go to the gym or go running every day for an hour and a half instead of starting off with just 30 minutes. We try to meditate for 20 minutes every day when we have no previous experience with meditation. And we change our entire meal plan from top to bottom, instead of incorporating healthy dishes into our existing diet. But what if we were to do the opposite? What if we were to start with going for a run for 30 minutes, and then gradually increasing our exercise time? What if we incorporated leafy greens into all our meals and cut back on sugar, rather than quitting cold turkey? What if we started meditating for just 3-5 minutes every day and increased our meditation time after a week or two? Wouldn’t we then have an easier time sticking to the changes we want in our lives, slowly building on them over time?
Healthy eating doesn’t mean eating steamed broccoli and plain chicken breasts every day. If it were, no one would be able to stick with it. There are actually a ton of delicious, healthy recipes that we can make for ourselves. And with the vast amount of information on the internet at our fingertips, we’re in the perfect position to discover and experiment. Go through websites and cookbooks to find nutritious recipes that seem flavorful and delicious too. Try to find your favorites and prepare them regularly. You can even come up with your own recipes based on what you discover you like!
Usually, when we eat something we enjoy, we have the habit of quickly shoveling it in our mouths. Before we know it, there’s nothing left. But if we were to slow down and really take our time, we’d find that we enjoy our food more. Mindful eating enables us to do just that. By slowing down and really relishing in each juicy morsel of food, we can take real pleasure out of the dishes before us. What’s more, when we slow down the process of eating, we’ll find that we actually end up eating less. This is because the human body needs 15 minutes to feel full. So use your 15 minutes deliberately, enjoying the taste of the dish before you’re full.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that staying motivated to lead a healthier lifestyle is significantly more difficult if you’re the only one doing it. So, consider taking a friend or a family member with you on this journey. Go to the gym or running with a friend, and pump each other up when one of you grows less motivated than the other. Sit down and meditate with a family member or your significant other. By sharing these moments with people that you care about, not only will you be able to stick to your commitment more, but you’ll also form a stronger bond. Who knows—this way you might even develop stronger relationships than you thought possible.
We all have our reasons for wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle. If someone were to ask you why you wanted to be healthier, you would probably give one of two reasons:
“I want to lose weight” (if you’re trying to eat healthier or exercise more)
“I want to manage my stress better” (if you’re trying to incorporate mindfulness into your life)
But the thing is, we have to go deeper than that. Otherwise, the reasons we say we have can grow feeble enough for us to conjure up excuses not to stick to our commitments. So, don’t just say “I want to lose weight.” Ask yourself why. Maybe it’s because you’re dealing with health issues such as insulin resistance, diabetes, bad digestion or high cholesterol. Maybe it’s because you want to be a better role model for your children, younger siblings or nieces, and nephews.
The same goes for your reason for incorporating mindfulness into your life. Yes, you want to manage your stress better, but why? Perhaps it’s because your stress level is badly affecting your relationships. Perhaps it’s because it’s messing with your sleep schedule and causing insomnia. Or perhaps it’s because it’s keeping you from enjoying what should be truly precious moments with your loved ones.
Whatever your ‘why’ is, it’s important you question yourself to discover it. When you do, it’s even more important that you keep reminding yourself of it again and again. The human mind is, unfortunately, hardwired for forgetting and reverting back to old, familiar patterns. So, remind yourself of your why every day to add fuel to your motivation.
These are of course just some things you can try to keep your motivation up and lead a healthier life. What other methods and techniques do you think would help in this regard? Have you ever tried any of these, or have you found other methods that have worked for you?
Share your motivation tips with us below!