Newsletter Library, Breaking Bad Habits
Is it possible to create a new personal reality? So-called unscripted television shows say you can - "The Biggest Loser" being one of the more popular of these tell-all and show-all programs. But most of us realize that these shows don't closely represent reality as we experience it. What causes us to tune in anyway? The answer is that even though reality shows may be scripted or controlled in some ways, they do contain an element of reality regarding the actual problems of the participants/contestants. We empathize with their struggles, and hope to discern some new knowledge that may help us overcome our own hurdles. But can a real person, in real life, make long-lasting changes in lifestyle, health, and wellness?
The provisional answer is yes.1,2,3 A real person can lose significant weight and keep it off. A real person can become physically fit, even though she hasn't exercised for 20 years, or ever. A real person can create a nutritional food plan that covers all the basics and also tastes great. A real person can sleep seven or eight hours a night, most nights, and have the ongoing experience of feeling well-rested. A real person can enjoy meaningful and fulfilling relationships with family and friends. In short, a real person can design and have a real life, even though from today's perspective such a rewarding life might seem an impossibly unattainable goal.
Your new reality is possible, but it doesn't come for free. If no effort were involved, every person in the developed world would be living happy, creative, self-fulfilled lives right now. You can see that is not the case when you look around at your workplace, the local market, or the shopping mall. How many people appear to be happy and engaged? How many appear anxious or stressed? Many times, anxiety and stress far outweigh happiness and enjoyment. For many, our default way of being seems to include worry, disorganization, disorder, and breakdown. These conditions lead to anxiety, which leads to stress, which leads to more worry and anxiety. When they form, these negative habits of thinking and action are habitually ineffective; they continue to be negative influences on our lives until we abolish them. In terms of health and well-being, our negative habits lead to the opposite conditions - we aren't healthy and we don't feel good about ourselves.
The world around us works the same way. Every moment, the universe is tending to greater entropy - the breakup of organized energy patterns and greater disorder. On the other hand, life has the power to reverse the natural tendency toward entropy. Life creates structure. Life creates organization. Think of honeycombs. Think of dams. Think of skyscrapers.
Why then do human lives often seem to fall apart so easily? The missing secret ingredients include intention, planning, and effort. And not only the effort required to keep the whole thing operational. Extra effort is called for to really make a difference. Extra effort that we take on our own behalf. In order for us to create a new personal reality, extra effort will be required. Weeks, months, and years of extra effort. This sounds like a lot. It is. The good news is that the payoff can be huge. The real payoff is the person you become as part of this process of renewal. You become your authentic self.
1Totsikas C, et al: Cardiorespiratory fitness determines the reduction in blood pressure and insulin resistance during lifestyle intervention. J Hypertens 29(6):1220-1227, 2011
2Lohmann H, et al: Fitness consultations in routine care of patients with type 2 diabetes in general practice: an 18-month non-randomised intervention study. BMC Fam Pract 11:83, 2010
3Ryan AS: Exercise in aging: its important role in mortality, obesity and insulin resistance. Aging Health 6(5):551-563, 2010