Occasionally I will notice a trend or make a connection in my work. Recently, I have been super interested in what it takes and what allows us to make real and lasting changes in our lives. What I am noticing is this … my patients who see making healthy changes in their lives as a chore or nuisance struggle more than those who describe experiencing their healthy behaviors as grounding or centering.
Have you ever heard someone describe how important exercise is to them? Or how meaningful yoga is in their lives? Or how running keeps them sane? I hear comments like these a lot, because I ask my patients what moving their bodies means to them. For some, going to the gym is an essential part of their day. I love hearing statements like, “Running clears my head,” “Walking is my meditation,” “My weekly yoga class is what centers me,” and “Hiking and nature renew me.” Statements like these exemplify the point I am making. When a behavior is both healthy and essential in someone’s life, that behavior becomes effortless and grounding. It is needed for that individual to feel nourished and complete.
I recently spoke with a patient who describes eating a healthy, nourishing breakfast as the only thing in her day that she can depend on. “It grounds me. I can always rely on eating a healthy breakfast, and I start my day in a great state of mind.” The rest of her day can be hectic, stressful and overwhelming, but if she has taken care of herself and made herself a priority in the morning, she feels centered and successful all day long.
Another patient describes her weekly grocery trip to Trader Joe’s as the one thing she does all week that puts her family’s and her own health at the top of her list. If she can make the time each week to drive the 30 minutes and bring home organic, whole foods, her mind is at ease and she feels more grounded in her life.
The other day, I had a conversation with a woman about her daily rituals of eating and caring for herself. Someone had once commented to her that she was so rigid and regimented in what she ate. As a result, she had always seen her ritual of eating the same foods for breakfast as obsessive and inflexible. Fortunately, with the help of a health professional, she had recently come to see that she was actually grounded by what she chose to eat and by the rituals of eating nourishing, healthy foods. She has only recently begun to see her behaviors as essential to both her mental and physical health, and luckily is working on being able to let go of the years of judgment and criticism surrounding her ritual behavior.
I know for myself getting enough sleep has always grounded me. When I set boundaries for myself and go to bed in time to get “the number of hours I need” of sleep, all is well in my world. And wow, when I don’t or can’t get enough sleep, my ground is shattered.
When we choose to see our healthy behaviors and our healthy choices as things that elevate us, nourish and nurture us, and ground and center us, we simply have a better chance of maintaining these behaviors long term as they become an effortless part of us. If we see making changes or establishing healthy behaviors as a chore or a necessary evil, we set ourselves up for an uphill battle.
Can we see choosing health as something that connects us to ourselves and something that centers us in knowing that we are taking the very best care of ourselves that we can? Can we begin to understand and believe that we are worth nourishing and nurturing? Can we let the things we do every day to care for ourselves — the eating well, the sleeping enough, the exercise, the meditation — be the things that ground us? Can taking care of ourselves become effortless because it is essential to our being? Can you let your health be what you depend on every day?