As a culture, we are inundated with messages from all around us about the importance of being ‘healthy’ and looking after our ‘wellbeing’. The media saturates us with information overload about, for example, what we should and shouldn’t be eating; the latest facts and figures about various illnesses; whether or not alcohol is a good or bad thing; and on and on …
Media campaigns are often designed to convince us to part with our hard earned cash to pay for expensive treatments, pills, potions and even cosmetic surgery, in order that we can skip to the front of the queue for the next ‘miracle cure’ which promises us a quick and easy solution to our challenges.
Some campaigns are targeted to address the latest government agenda and societal issues, in order to reduce the financial burden on the public purse, caused by our ‘lifestyle’ related health problems.
Among the top 10 current public health issues of concern are: Diabetes; Obesity; Heart Disease; Cancer; Mental Ill Health and Substance Abuse. In amongst the list are those factors which the public health authorities want to focus on such as: physical health & nutrition; levels of physical activity; and reducing smoking, alcohol and recreational drug use. It is also acknowledged that environmental factors are implicated (ie our living conditions and peer group) and, I would argue, that stress is a major player (see Stress to Success).
Many of us hear about, and talk of, the need to lead a ‘healthy lifestyle’, but what do we mean by that, and how do we achieve it and attend to all its facets, when we lead such busy lives? Considering all the ‘noise’ about health, and the choices available to us, the seemingly enormous task of fitting in healthy habits can seem overwhelming, and so we put it off until another day. ‘I’ll start the diet on Monday’, ‘I’ll cut out alcohol after Christmas’, ‘I’ll join the gym and that’ll sort me out’. And then tomorrow never comes, dry January is over, and our gym passes go unused week after week.
So, what is different about yet another workshop on ‘Healthy Lifestyles’? The answer is, I believe, twofold – First, we believe in education, based on sound research that is stripped of the common health myths. We first need to understand, in very simple terms, what is required for ‘good enough’ health and to gently challenge any unhelpful beliefs or habits we may have developed or acquired about ‘health’.
Second, a calm and moderate approach to health is helpful. If we know we need to make some significant changes, extreme planning can be counter-productive. For example, we may be overweight, unfit, drink too much, and stressed. We may get to the point where we say ‘right that’s it, I start on Monday, I’m going to join the diet club, go to the gym every morning, and cut out alcohol completely’. We may begin with the best intentions and even with some success – however, come Thursday, as the weekend approaches, when we feel tired, busy and stressed, our enthusiasm and commitment begins to wane. We ‘fall off the wagon’, feel as if we have failed, and return with immediate effect, to our old and familiar ways.
The common adage that what we need is more willpower is wholly untrue. This is also backed up by research, which tells us that willpower uses a lot of our energy and resources, and runs out over a fairly short space of time. What we actually need, is forward planning and gradual, small changes over time, which eventually become automatic.
Some work around stress, Emotional Resilience (ER) and mindset may need to be done, (ER has been addressed here Emotional Resilience ) in order to ensure that we can both embark upon, and maintain, our commitment.
So, what does the Positive Ways Healthy Lifestyles programme cover? In addition to checking in with our Emotional Needs and Resources (Human Givens), we also look at sleep; nutrition; and exercise.
All elements of the programme are based on the latest psychological insights and research. With each element, we take a balanced approach including deconstructing some of the myths around sleep, nutrition and exercise.
For example, getting the right type of sleep is more important than the quantity of sleep we are getting. Lying awake worrying about the fact that we aren’t sleeping, is often a common challenge amongst insomniacs which perpetuates the issue so, shifting our beliefs around sleep, by educating ourselves about the research based facts, in the first instance, can be very helpful.
With eating, we are looking to make small changes, step by step, rather than embark upon a faddy ‘diet’ regime which feels inhibiting. For example, if we eat frosted shredded wheats for breakfast, switching to plain shredded wheats may be a manageable step in the first instance.
Likewise, with exercise, if we have been completely sedentary for a long while, walking to the shops instead of taking the car may be a manageable initial step.
In short, what we are working towards is building in lifestyle improvements, bit by bit, so that they are sustainable over the long term and eventually we find we are living a ‘healthy lifestyle’.
All of the elements of the programme are delivered by qualified and experienced facilitators who are experts within their particular fields. Many of them have also had first-hand experience of some of the challenges which will be addressed, thus adding an even deeper dimension of understanding and identification with our clients.
If you would like more information on this programme or any of our work, please contact Emma Jaynes on: 07791 520388 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please visit www.positiveways.co.uk