Why do we do things we know are at best not helpful to us, and at worst harmful to us?
Why do we place trivial things above the things that matter most in the world?
My wife and I were talking this past weekend about how much she and I have changed over the last few years. More and more we realize how important it is to walk the walk of wellness. She asked me if I knew what still holds me back.
Often it is easy to know what holds us back but why it holds us back takes some investigation. The why takes more digging if we are interested in knowing the truth.
This is a good place to start this week. What is holding you back from experiencing wellness?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. What matters most is answering it honestly. If you have never asked the question, take a minute right now to stop and see what comes up.
After you have answered "what," ask yourself "why." Why would you let something that you know is the opposite of wellness stand in your way?
This time, see if you can allow yourself to get to the real heart of the matter. Understand that this is just to investigate into the truth. Remember that there is no right or wrong when you are simply investigating to know more about yourself.
For each of us, the answer is different. My experience has been that it is the struggle that provides the clue. What matters most is not being successful in finding the solution to the riddle, but being willing to discover the lesson of the riddle. Often the attempt to push through the issue or "fight" the issue actually strengthens it.
Most of us have experienced trying to lose weight and giving up some kind of food that we think will make it easier for us. When we say, for example, "No more soda," then what we focus on is the soda itself. The attempt to walk away from something actually leads us right up face to face with it.
We know that we are being called to be healthy and we know what stands in our way, but we still make excuses to justify why we pursue the unhealthy habit. So for soda, we talk our selves into it by saying we'll quit another time, or that it's not bad in moderation or it's OK if it's diet instead of regular (even though research has shown diet soda is not helpful for losing weight).
This is that opportunity I am referring to. This is the opportunity to investigate the why. Why should you stop soda? And more importantly, why is losing weight so important?
When you answer these questions, you can find your motivation. Then it is easier to notice how strong this call for wellness is. For example if you are interested in losing weight so you can look like you did years ago, then you are destined to struggle.
It is impossible to look exactly like you did last year, because you are no longer in that past moment, you are in this moment. This means your body has changed and physiologically you can never have the same body year to year. The struggle to do so is pointless. This does not mean you can't be healthy, but if you're interested in wellness, then being realistic is essential. This is why you need to investigate.
There are countless programs and diets out there that help us "control" our cravings, and yet the one most common cause for weight gain is "Yo-Yo" dieting. This is when you are going up in weight and down in weight, losing some weight only to regain it time and time again. And this is often because we are motivated by the past or by a superficial reason. This is often because we never found out why we were losing weight I mean the deep meaning.
So the question "What is the problem?" is sometimes easy to answer. In the case of losing weight, the answer might be "I don't have the will power to stick with something."
The why is harder to answer. Often we blame or beat ourselves up with superficial reasons. Instead, what I am suggesting is to allow ourselves to go a little deeper.
There are a lot of us out there who have enjoyed a lifestyle of eating beyond what our bodies need to survive and be healthy. We wander through life continuing to overeat while overlooking the clues our bodies might be giving us, such as acid reflux or restless nights of sleep. Some experience being so full it is hard to move after a meal.
We "know" that we should eat differently and yet we keep finding excuses why it is OK to eat poorly. For a lot of people the struggle starts more as an inconvenience. We have a little acid reflux, or our blood pressure is up a little bit. Later on, as the condition magnifies, we find ourselves neck deep in struggle. We might have a heart attack, for example, or if we are lucky enough to catch it early we get a few bypasses to keep the ticker pumping.
Once in the state of poor health, a lot of people realize the value of life and make lifestyle changes, the very changes we all knew we should make but kept putting off until the options were catapulted into the forefront. We "know" that we should change a behavior, but the reality is that changing the behavior is not as important as keeping it.
This is not meant as criticism. In fact, this is merely an attempt to help pull you back in the boat.
For some, the struggle comes in the form of back pain. We "know" we shouldn't lift with our backs, and yet we are short on time, or we have been lifting that way for years.
When it is a mild ache or an annoying pain, we don't stop our behaviors. A lot of us wait until the pain is so severe we literally can't move.
There are times when, even though we know that we should just be honest with a friend or loved one, we hold back on expressing what we really think. And there are times when we give someone advice instead of just listening when the person who came to us wants only to be heard.
The struggle comes when instead of trusting ourselves, we blurt out something that we then have to remedy in order to move on.
Sometimes we know in our hearts that we would be great at a certain career or a certain activity but we doubt our talents and gifts and turn our backs on our passion. Later when we find a job, we experience difficulties and the struggle begins. We are frustrated with work or feel like we are in a rut.
These struggles stop us in our tracks and we are forced to evaluate ourselves, and our decisions. This is why it matters so much to put "finding our peace" as the main priority in our life- because in the peaceful place we are better able to truly look into the why of our wanting wellness. It is through the struggles that we realize acting from an irrational place leads to more struggle, whereas acting from peace leads to peaceful decisions.
The path to wellness often starts with poor health. The consequences of mistreating the body become so obvious we simply cannot turn our back any longer and we must make changes in our life.
This is the breakdown. We can no longer run away from what stands between us and wellness. We are compelled to act, because there is no longer the luxury of putting it off. This is not a recommendation for drastic change. In fact, this is a call for exactly the opposite. This is a call to stop for just a minute and find out what you think really matters most. When you know this, then examine how you live day to day to find out what really matters most in your life.
If you are living a life that does not match what you think it should be, then why not begin to make changes?
For a lot of us this, the cycle will continue to repeat endlessly. Fortunately, there are times when the call is strong enough that we say, "No more. I must find wellness." When you hear that call, act. Waiting for the timing to improve means that the why you want wellness is not larger than the why you don't want wellness.
This is what walking the walk means. We all have promised ourselves to change a negative habit or behavior. In doing so, we have talked a good game. But to walk the walk, we actually have to commit to putting wellness first.
It is OK, by the way, if you do not want to put wellness first. Understand that beating ourselves up and criticizing our failed attempts only puts our focus on that. Gong back to the example of giving up soda: putting the attention on giving up soda makes soda the focus.
The process of wellness is to learn how to be well. The question about why we want wellness is simply a part of this process. Truth is often feared and or overlooked. Too many times we use old thoughts from past experiences and information we gathered from others to shape our beliefs. This time, simply stop for a minute right now and allow that spot deep inside you to answer the question. Try asking the question without "knowing" the answer- and listen for the answer.
Recognize that if there is struggle it is because we are missing the lesson. The struggle is the very compass that guides us back to wellness. It is not a curse, it is a gift, but to find the gift you have to investigate.
It is through this investigation that we uncover the truth. This is the path to Wellness. Find the areas that are in opposition to your well-being and find out why they are more important than your health. The answers may surprise you. They certainly have me.
Matthew Goodemote, a Gloversville native, owns Community Physical Therapy & Wellness. His Health & Wellness column will answer your questions and discuss topics that are relevant to your everyday way of life. If you would like to ask a question, e-mail Matthew at firstname.lastname@example.org.