There are definite times and places in a balanced life for indulgences. I love a good celebratory cocktail or piece of birthday cake. But like all of life's pleasures, there are appropriate times and places for those indulgences. Otherwise, they lose their sparkle and can become crutches that over time negatively impact our health journey.
We all have go-to moves when life gets tough. For some of us it is to "reward" ourselves with junk food or alcohol. Those are the two crutches we are going to discuss today.
I hear from my fitness participants about what gets in their way. I also hear what they say when they think I am not listening, sometimes by what they post on social media. A lot of our culture has become "allergic" to negative feelings, and it is portrayed in our advertising and communications with one another. We are told to drown out our stresses, heartaches, bad days with a glass (or bottle) of wine or a cheesecake. Does this actually make anything better? Do your issues and feelings go away with that high-calorie food or alcoholic beverage? Nope. The problems still exist and now you've compounded it with a headache and some extra pounds. Great, now you get to have a slower metabolism and a worse self-esteem to go with those issues that made you eat/drink in the first place.
THIS IS NOT WORKING FOR YOU!
What if.... what if you chose different coping mechanisms and by doing so felt better physically, spiritually, and emotionally?
First, I'd like to discuss the matter of not facing our stressors head-on. There is little benefit from sticking your head in the sand when life gets tough because as soon as the head comes out of the sand, the problem is still there. Taco Tuesday when you had a tough day at work, or Wine-thirty when your kiddo acts like a mad tyrant doesn't take away the issues at hand. I do know that disconnecting temporarily from your problems can sometimes be beneficial. A good mindful rest can increase your ability to be rational and to problem solve....but binging on trash-food or drinking vodka tonics till you fall asleep is no way to get mindful rest. So let's discuss other strategies to giving yourself healthy downtime:
1. Take a hot bath or shower - This has been proven to reduce stress and inflammation in the body, increase circulation, aid in better sleep, and lower blood pressure.
2. Take a walk - Aside from the outside physical benefits (weight loss and maintenance, reduction of cellulite, toning of muscles) a good walk has been shown to improve your mood, fight depression, reduce stress and cortisol production through deep breathing, and increase your energy by providing extra oxygen to your cells.
3. Talk with someone - Whether it be a professional or a best friend, discussing your problems with others creates a chain reaction of thought in your brain. It has been proven that just the act of "thinking of a solution" can reduce the stress response in your brain. You don't even have to implement the change you came up with to experience the physical result of seeking solution.
4. Get outside and in nature - Getting out in a forest or the sunshine have been proven to boost your serotonin and vitamin D levels and that improves not just your immune system but your mood. There are many other benefits - google "forest bathing" for more ideas.
5. Meditation - Man, the benefits of meditation are seemingly endless and I am admittedly not great at it (I am working on it, though). To name a very few, meditation lessens anxiety, impulsivity, and depression. It can also enhance optimism, awareness, and relaxation. Also, meditation is shown to help with emotional eating.
These are easy, free ideas....and there are a million others. If you know me, throwing around some big, heavy weights and sweating until I am drenched is my preferred anti-depressant but it is important to find what you love so you can stick with it.
This week, when you reach for the wine or the chips, take a second to write down what you are feeling when you do it. You don't even have to make a change yet, but simply acknowledge what is going on. Knowing yourself, looking at your issues with wide eyes instead of sticking your head in the sand, is an important step towards your physical and emotion health.
Let's open this up for discussion and support one another by striving to come up with helpful solutions. You can send me an email with your successes and failures and I'll help or, if you are on Facebook, we can open it up for discussion with your peers.
Love and health to you all,