You may have heard that Monday 20th Jan was ‘Blue Monday’, it is said to be the most depressing day of the year. A mix of the weather (in the northern hemisphere) debt levels, time since Christmas, the time when we will most likely fail in our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action.
I can see why it would happen, after the hype and excitement of Christmas & the New Year, committing to something in our resolutions to bring about a change, trying to stay motivated with short days and cold weather. I like to focus on the part that says ‘the feeling of a need to take action’ though, and here’s why:
‘Inaction increases fear, action amplifies courage.’ Jay Shetty
If you don’t know who Jay is then look him up, his work is seriously inspirational.
Have you ever noticed that if you sit and think about something that you’re dreading, you feel worse than when you actually decide to get started? More often things are rarely as bad as we make them in our head and simply by taking action, any action, we immediately feel better. We are more energised, more motivated and whatever it was that we were procrastinating about in our head is not so bad once we get started.
So that’s great when we do take action, what about when we’re not motivated to take action though? Let’s use the example of deciding to become more active in a bid to be more healthy & to lose weight.
To give us the best chance of sticking to something, first we need to understand why it’s important to us. That ‘why’ is crucial because that is our reason for taking action towards that goal, even when we don’t feel like it. In fact taking action when we don’t feel like it is more important than taking action when we do. It is easy to do things when we’re motivated but motivation inevitably wanes and that is when we must step up.
Doing something towards your goal when you don’t feel like it is the difference between being good & being great. Anyone can do things when they feel like it, when they’re in the mood, but those people who take action whether they feel like it or not are the people who succeed when others don’t. So how do you become that way? I believe that there are a number of factors, you may be surprised to hear that a great many are wholly within our control, more on that shortly.
First I want to pose a question?
Are you a person of your word?
If you say that you’ll do something to your partner, friend or colleague, do you do it? Are you seen as reliable? Are you known as someone that can be depended on to do what they say they will do? If you answered yes then great, here’s your next question;
Do you keep your word to yourself?
Do you stick to your commitments to yourself in the way that you do to those you care about? If not, why not? Why is it easier to let ourselves down in a way that we wouldn’t dream of doing to others?
If you are clear on your ‘why’ then you’re more likely to keep your promises to yourself. If you have committed to exercise 3 times a week and prepare healthy (yet tasty) meals, to keep you on track with your health goal, to set a great example to your children, or to reduce your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, increasing your chance of seeing your children grow up, then your motivation for getting your trainers on is greatly increased.
If anyone is thinking ‘that all makes sense but I don’t have time’, then your ‘why’ isn’t important enough to you. The fact is that we make time for the things that are important to us, for everything else we make excuses. If you were told tomorrow that you had to rest for 5 hours a day or you’d be dead, you would find a way to rest for 5 hours a day, it’s as simple as that, honestly. You may have to juggle some things in your life to make room for your ‘why’ but if you ‘can’t’ do that then you don’t want it enough.
Now I’ve shared that bombshell, here’s for the good news, here’s what you can do to give you the best possible chance of success, be prepared to be surprised!
Create the right balance in your life in relation to the following things:
When we have the right balance in these areas we are perfectly placed to make better choices. We are at the optimal condition to be able to perform well and that gives us the greatest chance to succeed. Conversely, when we are out of balance with any of the above we are much more likely to make poor decisions. To choose not to exercise, to snack rather than eat what our body needs, to drink alcohol when what we need is water and to sit on the sofa with a pack of biscuits instead of taking a walk.
The unhelpful part of your brain that tries to sabotage your good intentions is at its most active when any of the 4 areas above are out of balance. You have a much greater likelihood of ignoring your ‘why’ when that is the case. That part of your brain wants you to stay as you are, it’s trying to keep you in the very place that you want to move away from and it undermines the ‘new’ you by convincing you to drop back to usual habits. It tells you you’re too busy, it says ‘but life gets in the way’, all the excuses as to why you can’t do what you want/need to become the best version of yourself.
Once you recognise the importance of these 4 areas in each aspect of your life and prioritise them accordingly then life becomes significantly easier.
Here are a few tips on how to start:
Prioritise your sleep and get into a good sleep routine. On average we need between 7-9 hrs per night and the quality of sleep matters. Things that affect the quality of your sleep are numerous, here are just a few:
- Finish eating at least 3 hours before you intend to sleep
- Eradicate screen time for at least 1 hour before you intend to sleep
- Aim to go to bed and get up at the same time each day, this trains your brain when it’s time to sleep
- Make sure your room isn’t too warm
Sleep is a super healer and is so critical to our wellbeing, a separate post on this is in the pipeline due to its importance. Without quality sleep making good decisions becomes so much harder, your body craves the wrong things and it can send you into a very unhelpful spiral.
Eat food that nourishes you, keeping away from processed foods, as well as foods that are high in refined sugar. Find some tasty meals that you can make in batches so you make 5 meals with the effort of only making one.
- Plan your meals and take your own to work if you need to, you can control what you eat and probably save money too
- Eat wholegrain versions of bread and pasta where you can, if you always eat white then give it a go
- Avoid sugary cereals, porridge is the food of Gods!
Stay hydrated! So many of us don’t drink anything close to enough water and the impact on our bodies is huge. Once we feel thirsty we’re already dehydrated. Choose water over sugary drinks and beware the amount of sugar in fruit juices. If you need hot drinks then choose decaffeinated, especially after midday. Keep a bottle of water with you when you’re on the go and drink before you’re thirsty.
Movement is the final one and its importance is significantly underestimated. Most people are active from the neck up for 90% of their day! We are not designed to be so sedentary and movement is fundamentally linked to our mental state. Take the chance to move where you can, take the stairs instead of the lift, go for a walk at lunchtime. Volunteer at a local Dog’s Trust and walk dogs on weekends. Meet friends for a walk in the park before you go for a coffee or glass of wine. The gym is better than not exercising but being outside is better, and remember to take some water!
This all common sense but common sense is rarely applied, more often because of the ‘I don’t have time’ excuse. I would argue that we don’t have time not to, if we wish to retain our health, both physically and mentally, feel well in ourselves and live the life that we want.
Get the balance right in these areas, define your ‘why’ and see how you will fly with your priorities for this decade. When you hear about Blue Monday next year you’ll be so far ahead of where you are now it won’t be able to touch you.
If you’d like to make a change in any area of your life and you would like my support then get in touch for your free 30 minute consultation session and we can discuss how I can help you.
Do something today that your future self will thank you for!