I was talking to a friend recently, and she commented that when she first met me (quite a few years ago now), she “didn’t get how (I) did it.” “It” meaning how I choose and keep up the health-promoting and spiritual practices I do every day.
It got me thinking about all the “its” I do that most people would say are “too taxing,” a “bother,” “too much work,” “things that take too much time,” or, for some other reason, undoable. Here’s the shortlist: I only eat organic, preferably raw, whole foods, and no meat. No chemical additives. No unhealthy preservatives. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. No marijuana. No CBD. Nothing! I meditate daily and practice other aspects of yoga, such as pranayama (breathing) and asana (poses, postures), most days. I recycle almost everything I can. I do not use any household or personal products that are toxic. No toxic sprays on my lawn or garden. No GMOs. No Roundup!!!
Out Of My Way
This seems like a lot, and sometimes pulling this off requires quite a bit of extra work. When I travel to the south, where they are notoriously disinterested in recycling even products that are easy (plastic bottles, please! How hard is that?), I end up with a boatload of stuff in the back of my car I bring home to recycle. I look and can’t find recycling bins in most places. I have had multiple conversations bringing the issue up with locals in the hopes that I might inspire them to make more of an effort. I talk to hotel managers. Yep. I write emails. So, that takes time. I need to go out of my way to do these things.
Finding organic food to eat when traveling? Good luck with that. I travel with boxes and insulated containers of healthy food that I get to bring in and out of wherever I am staying, pile it into the fridge, take it back out, and stick it back in my car when I leave. Yep. Extra work. Extra trips back and forth to the car. Yep, sometimes it’s raining! Sometimes it’s snowing! Sometimes my car is parked far away. Uhuh! I hit the gym. Daily if I can. Sometimes the fitness center in the hotel, and sometimes I need to find the local Y or yoga studio and figure out how to get there, along with whatever other plans I have going. Sometimes yoga in the room I’m staying in. Yep. Extra work. Extra effort. Lots of it!
What It Takes
So the question is, how do I do it, and how might you be able to do it, too? Some key things come to mind. Caring. Values. Motivation. Willingness. Maturity. Dealing with the real issues and emotions that drive behavior. Changing attitudes.
I think the first place we start is simply caring enough. Call it motivation. Call it “what drives you.” Call it acting on your values. If you are like most people who are driven by emotional needs and a desire to avoid uncomfortable inner sensations, you are more likely to overeat comfort food or choose mood-altering foods. Lots of carbs. Yeah, a raw zucchini stick will not do that for you.
If, however, you value health and being at your optimum body weight, and you value those more than temporary remission of uncomfortable feelings, these choices become easier. Another option is to deal with your emotions and discomforts in more productive ways. EFT tapping, meditation, counseling, sound healing. There are lots of healthy tools available to us.
Caring matters. There is a certain degree of narcissism that is promoted in our culture, and there also are a lot of unmet needs within most people that cause them to stay focused on themselves disproportionately. The drivers are “How do I take care of myself?” “What do I need?” “What can I do for myself?” “How can I manipulate this situation or person to my benefit?”. If that’s an issue for you, you may need to retrain yourself to think of others more and to attend to your inner emotional issues more attentively. Why do some of us walk through life feeling so needy? Notice that if it’s true for you. What comes up for you when you “give” too much”? Feel burdened, angry, depleted? There’s usually a historical root for these patterns, and we need to dig them out. When we do that, we mature and grow healthier emotionally.
Willingness helps. There is a certain attitude I adopted a long time ago that leads me to be very willing to do these things. I think it’s about accepting that they are worth doing and choosing not to see it as a burden or a chore, or just choosing to believe that it matters enough, that the effort is worth it, and that the consequences are acceptable.
If we make a big deal out of feared consequences (“There won’t be anything for me to eat at the party,” “I will be the only one who isn’t drinking”) and feel put out by them, we won’t sustain the behavior.
If we choose not to care about other people’s judgments of us and our healthy lifestyle and just stand our ground, we fare better. We learn to let go of things. There are only so many things we can do in a day, and on the days when I need to stand at the sink for over an hour pulling the lids off the Keurig cups so I can recycle the aluminum and the plastic, and compost the coffee grinds, there is something else (like getting the floor vacuumed) that I’m not going to get done. So I shrug the vacuuming off (that’s actually REALLY easy for me to do!), or I don’t respond to emails that day. At some point, we need to let go and accept what we won’t do, can’t do, or don’t want to do.
Once you adopt a healthier lifestyle that cares more for the environment, you learn to love it. You feel better, move better, and feel better about yourself because you are making a difference. You lost weight. You gain muscle. You have more energy. You meet interesting people! Lots of benefits! We need to focus on those and not on the perceived hardships.
In the end, we all want to live without guilt and shame, and if we truly care about ourselves, our communities, and our world, these behaviors will help us do that. You will know you are doing your best, and that feels good.
So if this essay speaks to you, maybe pick one thing you could change in your attitude or behavior, try it for a week, and if it doesn’t stick, maybe it’s not for you. If that seems unbearable, just do it for today. Pick the healthier choice every time a decision needs to be made today. It is unlikely that you won’t feel better by the end of the day.