It's hard to argue that our health is one of our most precious assets. Unfortunately, good health is something few of us fully appreciate - until it starts depreciating.
Most of us want to make our health a priority, but somehow we continue to let other, less important, things get in the way. How often have you claimed that you just don't have the time to exercise, to eat healthier, to go to bed earlier, or to practice yoga, meditation or some other health-focused activity? How much of your leisure time do you spend starring at a screen, mindlessly flipping through channels or scrolling through social media posts? So what is really stopping you from reaching your physical and emotional health goals? Perhaps these four things...
#1: Perception of time
Lack of time tends to be our number one excuse for not exercising. Time is a luxury that few of us have. Sometimes it feels like we barely have five minutes to sit down and eat lunch during a busy workday, let alone find extra time to hit the gym or shop around for fresh produce to make home-cooked, wholesome meals. Sure, the working single dad of twins doing his MBA part time might have less time to focus on his health than the newly retired, but when it comes down to it, we all get 24 hours in a day. For the most part, how much time we have to focus on our health is a matter of choice. That CEO friend of yours who sits on four boards, volunteers at the local soup kitchen, practices mindfulness each evening, and somehow still finds time to jog 10 kilometers to work every morning doesn’t have more time in her day than you do, she just has different priorities.
Have you ever heard the expression “if you want something done ask a busy person to do it”? It seems to hold true that the more we do, the more we can do. The more we practice effective time management, the more skilled at time management we become. Nobody is saying that it's easy to make the time for daily exercise - we're just saying it needs to be higher up on your priority list. Instead of sitting on the couch tonight to watch the news, go for a walk and listen to a news podcast instead. Does it really take that much more time out of your day to use the stairs instead of the elevator? Or to go for a walk around the block during your lunch break? Or to practice silent meditation during your commuter train ride to work? No, it doesn't. Yet these small changes can cumulatively have a substantial positive impact on your health over time. Tonight, instead of spending that hour before bed scrolling through Twitter or Instagram - vow to use the extra time to catch up on sleep. A whopping 1 in 3 Canadians are chronically sleep-deprived - getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night on average. Sleep is one of the best things you could do for your health. Need help? Check out our sleep guide. From today onward, block off at least 30 minutes in your calendar daily to focus on your health, and then honour the commitment to yourself the same way you would an important client meeting.
Too busy for doctor's visits? Discover how five minutes could have saved Bill's life.
Many health conditions can progress without symptoms for months or even sometimes years. Other times we experience minor symptoms, but then procrastinate visiting a doctor until the symptoms worsen. Most of us are aware that when our body is trying to tell us something, the earlier we seek medical advice the better. So then why do so many of us avoid visiting a doctor when something is wrong? In a recent survey conducted by IPSOS, a whopping 68% of Canadians surveyed reported having avoided or prolonged seeing a doctor (for non-emergency health issues) due to long wait times, the inability to book appointments outside of business hours, and similar barriers related to convenience. Watch the video below to hear Bill's story.
#2: Old habits
Old habits die hard. Why? Because our brains work on a trigger and reward basis — the so-called “habit loop” — which means it is easy to slip into a bad habit and, once the habit is formed, its difficult to fight back. Longtime bad habits become entrenched in our life at the neural level, becoming powerful determinants of our daily behaviour. The good news is that everyone is capable of making a positive change, especially when we can recognize which unhealthy behaviours have become habitual so that we can focus on breaking them one by one. When it comes to breaking a bad habit, one strategy is to try to think of a specific 'replacement behaviour' that is healthy. Then, create the intention to consciously and actively replace the unhealthy habit with the new healthy one. For example, if you have a tendency to drink too much coffee and not enough water, replace that 4pm coffee and cookie break with a 4pm apple and, glass of water, and an herbal tea (hold the sugar or honey). Replace your Saturday morning TV binge watching with a Saturday morning brisk walk. "When it comes health, it's important to be patient with yourself" comments Dr. Kathee Andrews, preventive health physician at Medisys Corporate Health. "Whether you are trying to lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, or are recovering from a physical or emotional health issue - take baby steps to make small, steady changes toward your goals. Be kind to yourself - if you falter, forgive yourself and move on, try again" Dr. Andrews continues. Breaking unhealthy habits, changing your lifestyle, or changing any aspect of your health takes time. The first step is always the hardest. The longer you’ve had the bad habit you are trying to break, the harder it will be. Need help making your health a priority? Contact us.
People, especially women, often neglect to put their own health first because they fear that by doing so they will fail someone else in their lives. "If I go to that yoga class on Sunday morning, I'll miss the first quarter of my son’s basketball game - he'll be disappointed. If I spend time tonight preparing a healthy, home-cooked lunch to take to work tomorrow, I won’t have enough time to review the slides for my morning meeting. If I go for a run tonight after the kids go to bed, the laundry and dishes wont get done" sound familiar? The reality is, you can’t put yourself first without putting something else in your life second. Stop thinking of investments in your physical and emotional health as self-indulgences. If you want to be there for the people you love, you need to get your priorities straight. Evaluate what really matters and make your health a priority.
#4: Adequate Support
You may be motivated to get healthy or stay healthy, but what about your spouse, partner, or family members? Are the people closest to you helping you achieve your health goals or are they standing in the way? A strong support network is often a critical component of success. Not surprisingly, research suggests that in every area of health improvement, success rates improve dramatically when partners living in the same household set and achieve their health goals together. Whether your goal is smoking cessation, increasing physical activity, shedding excess pounds, eating more vegetables, reducing stress, reducing alcohol intake, managing a problematic behaviour, or improving sleep habits it's helpful to engage others in your journey toward health and enlist their support. Being open and sharing your health goals and challenges with your loved ones is a great first step in enlisting the support of others.
Change is tough, but with the right support, knowledge and confidence to make it happen, you can make healthy lifestyle changes and look forward to remarkable results.
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