In my last article, I discussed how we now need to make choices which empower our health in the era of COVID 19 as current healthcare resources are being diverted to deal with the pandemic. I discussed that it is not information but transformation, which will empower us. I also discussed how transformation comes from deep within and is simply a matter of choice.
It is the choices that we make that have the power to strengthen our immunity and resilience and elevate our health. Unfortunately, many of us do not make the right choices, which I will try to decipher here. The fact is that the choices, which have the potential to take our lives to a higher level, are usually difficult. This is because they involve us stepping outside of our comfort zones.
For example, it is easier to sit on a couch and watch Netflix then go for a run, easier to snack on a donut then on an apple and easier to stay up late scrolling through our social media than to get to sleep in the early evening to get your required hours of sleep. You see, the right choices are difficult to make, not only because they take us out of our comfort zones, but they also involve effort.
Making effort can only happen through two means. The first is through our willpower and the second is through habit. The problem with willpower is that it is a faculty which occupies the conscious mind which only accounts for 5% of our behaviour and thinking. The other 95% resides in the subconscious mind, which is where our habits are formed and reside. Our subconscious habits are usually programmed in our early childhood. The easier negative choices are often made because they have become automatic through the force of habit, which resides in the subconscious mind.
The question then arises, how do we change our habits so we make the right choices for our health? The first step is to bring our choices, whatever they are, into our conscious awareness. We are usually not aware of any of our habits because they reside in our subconscious mind and are automatic. We must first become fully aware of every choice we are making throughout the day.
I encourage everyone to try a simple exercise. Keep a small journal and a pen with you throughout the day and, every time you make a choice, right down what the options were and the choice that you made. Do this for every choice you make. Now, this may sound laborious but it is a powerful exercise and will bring to light all the choices that you make throughout the day, many of which you are unaware of.
Once you have a list of all the choices you have made throughout the day, go through that list and put a checkmark beside any choice that you are proud of and an X beside any choice that you wish you had not made. You will then have a list of negative choices that you made which may surprise you because you may not have been aware of these until now.
Now, go through the list of negative choices and pick the one that will have the greatest impact on your health. This choice may be lighting up a cigarette, eating a sugary snack or staying up late to watch Netflix instead of getting your needed sleep. The reason to pick one choice is because it is difficult to change all of your undesirable habits at once because they are subconscious.
Once you have picked one of your negative choices then you make a list of all the things you could do instead of making that choice. For example, if the choice was to eat a sugary snack, you make a list of all the other things you could have eaten instead. These could include an apple, an orange, berries, carrots, celery, cucumbers or radishes to name a few. You then make a list of the reasons why you should make the alternate choice. This could be for weight loss, to not elevate your blood sugar, to improve your energy, to decrease fatigue, to prevent tooth decay, to give yourself the necessary phytonutrients and antioxidants, to name a few.
Now, what you need to do is to bring the negative choice to your conscious mind. You do this by creating a trigger which will remind you. Using the example above, every time you enter your kitchen, you may ask someone, who you live with, to remind you of why you are there, which is to get a snack. You could also put a sign on your refrigerator which reminds you that you are here for a snack.
Once you are in the zone of choice, which means in the time and place that the negative choice could be made, you refer to your list of alternative positive choices and the reasons that you should make them. You then make the choice that you know will empower your health. I also recommend that you have an accountability partner to help you, someone who will be there to watch over the choice you make. Now, I realize that someone may not always be there with you when you make a crucial choice, but try to have someone present or someone who you can call.
This will be difficult at first because what you are trying to do is to change a subconscious habit and you may fail at first but you must stick with it. By being persistent with the above practice you will, eventually, be able to change your negative habits in order to make the right choices to empower your health. Once you are able to do this with the highest impact negative habit then go through all your negative habits, over time, in order of the ones which will make the greatest impact on your health.
This is not meant to be an overnight fix for negative habits and is not a sprint but a marathon and requires dedication and persistence, however the longterm benefits of this practice are immeasurable to your health and overall quality of life. In fact, now that we are in the era of COVID 19, it is even more crucial that we make empowering choices for all the areas of lives, not just our health but our relationships, our finances and our overall wellbeing, serenity and happiness.
In my next blog, I’ll talk the role of fear in influencing our choices and how to overcome this fear.
Nauman Naeem MD