Monday, February 28, 2011

Healthy Living: Practice Awareness

"What is necissary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself" ~Abraham Maslow 

When I posted last week about this healthy living series I bet you thought I would start with ‘choose food wisely’ or ‘be active’ huh?  Start with the most important elements shouldn’t I?  Well I am. 

This is about getting out of 'auto-pilot' mode and learning to really engage in your life and make choices actively instead of out of habit.  In order to live your most healthy life you need to bring your awareness to the choices you are making on a daily basis without thinking and start thinking about them.  

This is not a practice of trying to make changes in your daily choices but simply starting to think about the choices you are making, what the results of those choices are and what motivates those choices. This is a practice in self knowledge. Once you bring your awareness to the choices you are making, change will follow.  It is only natural.

6 Tips to practice awareness:

1. Keep a food/activity/sleep/stress/happiness journal
Write it down!  This can be a powerful exercise.  Studies have consistently shown that dieters that keep a food journal are more successful in losing and keeping off weight.  One study even went so far as to suggest that participants who kept a food journal lost twice as much as those who did not.

Why does this help?  Writing down what you eat does not make you less hungry. It does not make those cookies in the pantry less appealing. It does not make your late evening snack cravings go away.  It simply brings your awareness to what you are eating and therefore cuts back on mindless munching.

I think it is pretty safe to say that similar benefits can be found in keeping a journal of your overall health habits, exercise, sleep, stress levels, degree of overall contentment in your life etc.  It can be a powerful exercise, and is as simple as making a note on your desk calendar or in your smart phone.  Here are some great tips on how to keep a food journal.

2. Educate yourself
Do you know how many calories you need in a day to maintain your weight and avoid gaining?  What do studies say about how to get a restful night of sleep?  Do you know what the signs of stress are and the toll it can take on your health? 

After keeping a health journal for a few weeks pick one area of your health you think needs the most immediate attention and educate yourself on that area of health.  Search the internet, check out books on the topic from the library, or set an appointment and ask your doctor what you can do. Which leads to my next point.

3. Get checked out
Get an annual health check.  If this is something you tend to avoid, ask yourself why?  Be honest.  Chances are you know you are not going to like what you are going to hear.  Think about this for a minute.  Not hearing it does not make it any less true.  It does not make the impact on your life and health any less.  Knowledge is power! If this is still scary to you, ask for support.  Bring your spouse or a friend.  It will be ok!

4. Give yourself reminders
Pick a health habit you want to focus on and then write yourself reminders to bring your attention to it.  Put a note on the fridge or pantry or on your couch or T.V.  This could be an inspiring quote or motivating phrase, or something as simple as ‘get moving!’ or even more simple ‘think about it’.  Anything that will help bring your awareness to the habits that you want to work on.

5. If you have a spiritual practice, practice it!
Prayer, meditation, chanting mantras, daily devotionals, there are useful tools in every tradition.  Use them!  Spiritual awareness will naturally trickle over to your health awareness as well.  Living in awareness is an overall state of active being and not limited to any one area of your life.

6. Breathe
Spend a few minutes everyday and focus on your breath.  This is a simple but powerful practice to help bring your awareness within and slow down.  When you find yourself ‘reacting’ instead of actively choosing, slow down and breathe.  Try it.  It works!

You know what they say, knowledge is power, so self knowledge (awareness) is self empowerment!  Be empowered!

I believe awareness is such an important part of initiating change that I will likely be bringing this up again.  As a matter of fact tomorrow I think we will talk about one of the best ways I know of to increase body awareness.  Yoga!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I fully agree with these tips. Body (and mind) awareness is something I'm really wanting to work on right now... and you're right, yoga sure does help! ;)