Most people find it challenging to make changes to their lifestyle. How you live your life - what you eat, how active you are, how you respond to stress - is such a routine that you hardly ever notice it. So even thinking about making changes can seem hard and overwhelming at first.
The first step might be just to become more aware of what choices you are making now. What foods do you eat and how often do you eat them? How much exercise do you get? Focus on what you do now to help you start thinking about what you might do differently to be healthier.
How can I get past my previous lack of success?
Maybe you've tried to make lifestyle changes in the past, such as quitting smoking or losing weight. If you weren't as successful as you hoped to be, don't be discouraged. You can build on the things you learned before. Some people find that having a condition like heart disease motivates them to make changes they need to make. Knowing what can happen if you don't make changes can reinforce your motivation to follow through. Keep in mind that many people do succeed over time. Picture yourself having already succeeded - it may help you have more confidence in yourself that you can do it.
What if I have reasons why I can't change?
It's worth saying again - making changes to your lifestyle is hard. Most people dread hearing their doctors tell them to stop smoking or to lose weight. It takes effort. Naturally, everyone comes up with reasons why they can't do it. To help yourself succeed, it's key that you take time to consider your obstacles and how you can overcome them. See if any of the following sound like you.
- I am afraid to exercise. This can be especially true if have angina or have already had a heart attack. The key step here is not to go it alone. Work with your doctor or an exercise specialist to help you get started at a level that is safe for you. He or she will also keep track of your progress and help you determine when you can safely increase your exercise level. Just doing a little now with your doctor's supervision will make it possible for you to do a lot more later.
- I've smoked for years - there's nothing to gain from quitting now. Like others, you may think the damage has already been done. But the moment you quit smoking, your body starts to undo the damage that smoking causes.
- I know I should, but I don't think I can handle the stress of making changes. Your eating patterns, your drinking patterns, even your smoking may all be ways you cope with stress. Your doctor or a counselor can help you find healthier ways to handle stress. When you make changes and feel you are gaining control over your life, you'll have more confidence about how well you can handle your everyday stress.
The key is to find an approach that works for you. For instance, rather than trying to make all the changes at once, break them down into steps, and take one step at a time. It will take effort until you get used to your new routines. But rest assured that the effort you put into these changes will be well worth it.