I'm not a psychologist by any means. Outside of two psychology classes during my Bachelor's program at Queens College, and a couple of books I've read in my free time, I don't know much on the topic.
I do know, however, that positive behavioral adaptations are the number one goal on my list for all new clients I work with. In order to become healthier versions of ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally, we must cultivate new ways to progress our current state of well-being.
I like to think of these changes in behavior as, "small victories". The more victories we create for ourselves, the better motivated we become to stick to the process in order to get us to our desired outcome.
An example of a small victory I developed for one of my newer client's this past month was simply drinking a glass of water every morning immediately after waking up. Three weeks later, this has essentially become clockwork, and gives me the ability to progress him to another rung on the ladder with his lifestyle.
While it seems small, just drinking another 8-ounces of water daily has also improved my client's food journal each week I sit down and analyze it with him. Whether there's a correlation between the two or not, I couldn't tell you, but it seems like this one little addition to his life has benefited other aspects of his process.
With that being said, here are five applicable habits you can begin to test out today in order to better enhance your quality of life on a day-to-day basis. Fair warning, some of these will be much tougher to stick to than others.
Ditch the Snooze Button
Boom. Straight willpower right out of the gate. Are you one of those people that sets eight different alarms in the morning with each one being five minutes apart? I'll admit, I was guilty of this for awhile.
It occurred to me that I would typically feel pretty good after the initial alarm went off. However, I always chose to go back to bed. Once the second (sometimes I'd set up to four) alarm went off, that feel-good effect prior wore off completely and I'd feel like straight garbage. This feeling would persist throughout the day and never seemed to wear off.
Now, I set my phone's alarm clock on the complete opposite side of the room. Once 5 AM hits, I have no choice but to get out of bed and shut it off before my dog, Benji, goes crazy. Once I'm up, I'm up. It's helped out big time with how I feel during the day, and I take less mid-day naps than I ever have before because of it.
Take the Stairs
Iron Lion Performance, the training studio I work out of, is located on the fourth floor of a commercial warehouse. When you first walk into the building, there's an elevator directly to your right and a staircase directly next to the elevator.
I made a pact with all of my clients, barring structural damage in their knees, that if they take the stairs up to their session I will as well. I trek that staircase a solid five or six times a day and I'll be completely honest, it sucks. My quads start to burn by the third story, and I'm out of breath once I get to the top. It never seems to get easier.
I know, however, that those two minutes of physical exertion are going to have a greater benefit towards my health in the long run than simply pressing a button and allowing a machine to get me from point A to point B.
If you're working on the 80th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper, I'm not expecting you to walk up the stairs. I'm not that big of an asshole. However, there's no reason you can't get off at the 75th floor and take the stairs the rest of the way. You won't be a sweaty mess from 3 minutes of low-to-moderate intensity exertion, I promise.
I told you some of these wouldn't be easy!
Remove Toxic Relationships from Your Life
Without getting too personal, I was in an extremely toxic relationship for much longer than I should have been. The girl was bat-shit crazy. For years I let her take advantage of me, and treat me like garbage. Now, I'm not saying I was perfect throughout everything, but the overall point of this story is the fact that I was completely miserable in this situation.
Nowadays, this poisonous relationship has been diminished completely from my life, and I've never been happier. Cutting the ties on relationships is probably the most difficult lifestyle change that I provide you with today. This isn't easy... well, at least it isn't for me. I can't speak for you, but I can guarantee that if you remove people that inhibit the happiness in your life, you'll be much healthier emotionally.
Get Your Mind Right
Perception dictates emotion. The way we view a scenario at hand is going to determine the way we react to it.
This is talked about in Mindset by Carol Dweck, a must-read book that I've previously written about. Dweck dissects the concepts behind people that exhibit a fixed-mindset, and those that present a growth-mindset. Here's a basic example that I tend to see a lot in the weight room.
When people miss lifts, it typically impacts them in a negative way. I've heard it all:
- I'm not strong.
- I suck at this lift.
- I'm a failure.
- Maybe this isn't for me.
This is an example of the fixed-mindset. First of all, slow down. It's moving a barbell up and down, for Pete's sake.
Second, missed lifts are an excellent learning opportunity when you embrace it as one. If we begin to embrace the growth-mindset, we should begin to ask ourselves these questions:
- How can I improve my program to hit this weight next time?
- Maybe my technique needs work?
- Am I tiring myself out during my other workouts?
You don't suck at working out (whatever that means) simply because you missed a rep. You also don't have everything figured out simply because you hit a new personal best on your deadlift. There's always ways to improve, both inside and outside of the gym. That goes for everybody, including myself.
Join A Community
Out of all the behavioral changes that I previously mentioned, this is the one I highly suggest you take action upon first. When you become part of a community, you become involved with something bigger than yourself.
One way I've created a community among my clients is through a private Facebook group. I use this group page as an opportunity to create camaraderie between my clients, as well as a way to share their personal achievements, interesting articles, and recipes.
Your community doesn't have to be an online-based community. For example, I have a client that knits with some of her friends on practically a weekly basis. Another one of my clients goes out golfing with his buddies as the weather gets nicer.
Associate yourself with people that have similar interests as you, and it will help make you feel part of something special. I'm grateful for the clients I train and the tight bond they've helped me create here with the Iron Lion family.
Change your mind, change your life. Surround yourself with other people on the same mission as you. Develop ways to create "small victories" for yourself in order to enhance your willpower. And last, but certainly not least, embrace the process and all the ups and downs that come with it. If you can follow this guide, I can confidently guarantee positive habitual changes in your lifestyle, resulting in a healthier you.