By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
Let’s talk about the winter blah’s, because it happens to most of us during the dark winter days. We’re less likely to be inspired to exercise, we can’t stop eating sugar and carbs, and we start to feel low and run-down. This inevitably leads us to feeling defeated and unmotivated about health, self-care and wellness. The dark mornings, cold days, irresistible urge to stay inside, eat comfort foods and watch Netflix seem to take over. To some degree living with the seasons and respecting our bodies’ desire for extra rest is a good thing, but not when it starts to derail your physical and emotional health.
I think a lot about self-motivation, and how to take care of our bodies consistently because we all know what to do to feel better. It’s never a lack of knowledge… Everyone knows that their emotional health will be better if they exercise. Everyone knows that eating too much sugar isn’t healthy. Everyone knows that getting to bed earlier and turning off the TV will create a better outcome the next day.
In this article we will explore three very simple strategies to get out from under that inertia. I’m not going to tell you to get up and go exercise – you know you should, and yet you’re not doing it. The intention in this article is to learn how to hack your mindset, and start taking action now.
STEP 1: PICK TWO PRIORITIES FOR THE DAY
I’m sure like me, you have a long to-do list each day, and rarely get everything accomplished that you set out to do. In fact, some days it just seems too overwhelming to start. My recommendation here is to pick just TWO priorities for the day. When you get up in the morning, set your intention and choose the most important two items on your list. Remember to start with the most important items, as this will greatly feed into your sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, and also spur you to move through the less important items.
The reason this works, is that you’re more likely to start with the easier items just because they’re easier, and then get distracted or run out of steam before you reach the ones that really count. For example, I can fly through an extremely busy Sunday with a full list of errands, wearing workout clothes for the entire day, and not get myself to the gym. I’m sure I’m not alone.
Big take-home: Start your day by doing the most important 2 things first.
STEP 2: USE THE 5 SECOND RULE
Have you heard of Mel Robbins and the ‘5 Second Rule’? This is a super simple strategy to break the habit of hesitation and self-doubt. It’s a way of launching yourself into motion before you talk yourself out of it. As Mel says:
You have about a 5 second windows in which you can move from idea to action before your brain kicks into full gear and sabotages any change in behaviour. Remember, your brain is wired to stop you from doing things that are uncomfortable, or uncertain or scary. It’s your job to learn to move from those ideas that could change everything to acting on them.
So when you’ve got the impulse to go to the gym, to cook a healthy meal or to get yourself out of bed early, speak out in a meeting, introduce yourself to someone interesting,.. just count down: 5…4…3…2…1, and then take action. Here’s an interview with Mel Robbins if you would like to hear more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Lz0VOltZKA.
Remember that it takes effort to break from your routine, and waiting until you ‘feel like it’ is never going to happen! If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so hard to do the little things that would improve your life, it’s actually because your brain is stopping you. In those few seconds that you hesitate, a stress signal gets sent to your brain and then your brain goes into action to protect you. The 5 second rule breaks this habit of hesitation and overthinking. This is how we all sabotage our own success.
Big take home: To create new habits, launch yourself into action by counting down from 5 to 1.
STEP 3: SPEND 10 MINUTES EACH DAY MOVING TOWARDS YOUR BIG LIFE GOALS
If you’re stuck in a place of routine, dissatisfaction, boredom or just feeling discontent with parts of your life, it’s time to get honest about what you really want and explore it. Some clues to help you find this: What do you love to learn, research and read about? Are there people who you really envy – what is it about their lives do you wish you had? If you sit back and imagine what your ideal day looks like, what’s missing?
So the practice here is to spend just 10 minutes every day in some small way that moves you closer to what you want. This could mean reading, learning or an online course about something that really interests you; saving money for travel, buying travel guides and mapping out a trip; learning about a new career path by speaking with people who do that kind of work; or really anything that slowly starts to point your life in the direction that you want.
Big take home: Spend 10 minutes each day doing something that moves you towards your big life goals. You’ll be amazed where this takes you if you stick with it!
I look forward to hearing how you use these three simple tools to move through your winter inertia. Remember, you’re not alone in this – we all get stuck and winters in Canada can be tough! Please reach out if you need more direct support, both with your motivation and also with your physical health.