I lie here awake at 2:00 am and can not get back to bed. I just finished listening to rain on the Portal App for an hour while attempting to use mindfulness strategies to fall asleep but I am still wide awake. For now, I’ve left my bed and I am downstairs on the couch sitting up typing these thoughts…
I have been on a “Fat to Fit Journey” since June 13th, 2020. Going 70 weeks strong and maintaining my mantra of self-care every day since. Well, almost every day. lol. On purpose, I have lost approximately 44 pounds since April 2020 going from 216lbs to 172lbs. No discounting the positives here, I am very proud of myself.
While I should be sleeping I am realizing I can not exercise my problems away. I suffer from an Anxiety Disorder and have had periods of Depression. I really have not been taking care of myself until last year. Unfortunately, like you, I have many problems and while I have done an amazing job focusing on my physical health I have been more passive with other problematic areas in my life such as work, finances, home life, and relationships. I do not want to stop doing self-care and exercise each day but I need to start “Mind Mapping” other areas of my life and determine the next small step I can take to further improve my health and wellbeing.
Last year, what helped me make changes was performing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) on myself. It is something I teach at work to others and I pride myself on the philosophy of practicing what I teach. I used an activity monitoring schedule to chart out a few weeks of my previous behavior. I chose a small slot of time after work and started making a change to exercise each day. This change in my life started to slowly influence other healthier habits in my life and as I’ve learned from Charles Duhigg, I started to create a “Keystone Habit”.
My Ultimate Goal last year was to increase my physical health, mood, instances of pleasure, and overall wellbeing. I really think you can never stop working towards a goal like that. There is no finish line. We all have habits that are unhealthy and that is okay. For the majority of my adult life though, I have engaged in habits I’ve coined “Self Destructive” and come to the realization that Self Care is greater than Self Destruction. No doubt the changes I have made helped me feel better but they have not solved other significant problems in my life.
Anxiety and Depression can definitely be a barrier to managing problems. A big problem right now is my use of marijuana. The interesting thing about drugs and alcohol is we can all use these substances to cope with stress but then our use of drugs and alcohol can actually become the biggest problem we have. So ironic. Well, 28 days ago I had my last joint. I am going to be turning 41 in eight days and for me, it’s time to stop smoking that sweet Mary Jane. Hey, anxiety can be a good thing right!
It is not my goal to eliminate anxiety completely and I worry a lot about my health and future as I get older. Worry can motivate change in ourselves and worrying about my health is helping me change the way I use marijuana. My heart and lungs are more important now. Also, after doing a lot of research on the negative aspects of smoking marijuana and finding Matthew Walker on the internet I’ve realized marijuana can have devastating effects on our overall sleep quality and how it impacts our REM cycle. Just like eating and sex, sleeping is a human biological drive. We need sleep. Sleeping consistently is high up there on improving our health and like Matthew states “without sleep, we die”.
Even though I have achieved so much thus far the other problematic areas in my life have not changed. These problems have a significant toll on my mental health. Exercising and smoking marijuana have been good distractions. With my knowledge of CBT and practicing self-awareness, I am becoming more aware of those problems. Problems I want to take a closer look at to determine the next small step I can take towards managing them. It truly is one step at a time and the turtle wins the race of life. Besides, any of the previous “get fit in X number of weeks” have never worked for me. I always went back to my old habits. As I’ve slowly developed healthier habits in my life such as mobility, walking, basic calisthenics, yoga, socializing with friends, and eating healthier, the next step for me is to stop smoking marijuana.
Wherever you are in life it is never too late to make a change. One step at a time. I encourage you to learn how to set S.M.A.R.T goals. This post was never meant to be about S.M.A.R.T goals but as I am typing this I would like to give you my quick thoughts on goal setting and S.M.A.R.T Goals. Sometimes people have different words attached to the acronym but it all means the same thing. I’ve learned it this way and would like to credit Dr. Randy Paterson’s Changeways Core Program for the following:
S.M.A.R.T goals are:
S = Specific. You want to be specific in what you are going to be doing or changing in your life. Losing weight is not specific. Getting fit is not specific. Those are “Ultimate Goals” and S.M.A.R.T goals are “Immediate Goals”. Deciding you are not going to eat ice cream is specific. Last year I decided to do Yoga with Adriene every day for 6 months. That is pretty specific. I knew exactly what I was going to do each evening and Adriene laid it out for me with her 30-day challenges. I completed all six of her 30-day series last year and plan to do more of them one day. There were some days I missed but I didn’t let those missed days overweigh my accomplishments. I didn’t allow missing two days of the week to perseverate in my mind as failures. I looked at the days I completed Yoga one day at a time as a success. For example, if I was to do Yoga each evening and two nights of the week I didn’t do it because of multiple reasons that was okay because five days out of the seven I successfully completed doing it. Even if you planned to complete Yoga every day and only did it once in the week you have to acknowledge your accomplishment because it is one!
M = My own. You want to set goals you are in control of. One faulty assumption in life is we have the power to control others and although I could talk more on this the reality is we can only control ourselves. If you are setting goals make sure they’re your goals and nobody else’s. If your goal is for your partner to lose weight or to stop smoking marijuana then you are going to be setting yourself up for failure. If your goal is to show your partner that you care about them and plan to talk with them how you are worried about their health then hopefully that is something they will sit down to hear. It is also something you can achieve. Regardless of that. Make your goals your own. Make the accomplishment something that is in your total control.
A = Action-Oriented. It is so much easier to set goals that require action or a change in our behavior. As the CBT model teaches us we can help ourselves feel better by focusing on our actions and thoughts. You can not make yourself feel better by focusing on your feelings. Typically for most of us, it is much easier to start changing our behavior/actions first although we can definitely work on our thoughts; however, I would suggest starting with your behavior. I could state changing our thoughts would require a behavioral approach such as self-awareness of our thoughts and completing thought records requires a change in our behavior but I do not want to get into that right now. Make the goal something you can do, not feel. For example, If I set a goal of having fun with friends on Sunday and my anxiety took over and I may feel like the outing was a complete failure. You want to focus on accomplishing the behavior of going out with friends and less on the feelings you felt. Slowly, over time overcoming something like social anxiety by exposing ourselves to social outings is what will slowly help us feel more confident and less anxious.
R = Realistic. Is your goal realistic? Do you have the money? The time? The tools? I think this section is self-explanatory. To be kind of funny though how are you going to start running tomorrow if you do not have running shoes? The first S.M.A.R.T Goal might be to go looking for those shoes! Also, do you have the time? Is it realistic for you to start doing X, Y, and Z. At the beginning of 2021 I started the 90-day Move Strong Now program by Strength Side. I was also trying to keep up with daily yoga. I quickly became overwhelmed and my body was not recovering well. Feeling overwhelmed became useful for me and I used it as a sign to drop some tasks so I dropped Yoga and continued with the Move Strong Now Program. It helped me feel less overwhelmed and re-establish what my goals were at the time. It really wasn’t realistic for me to do both at once and I’m so glad I didn’t try to continue doing both after the first 12 days.
T = Time Defined. Some people can set goals and just accomplish them in one or two weeks. Unfortunately, I am a Professional Procrastinator and I needed to set a specific time to do things. If I didn’t get to Yoga right when I came home after work then I wasn’t going to do it. If I wasn’t going to do the cat litter first thing in the morning then it probably wasn’t getting done in the evening. One thing I’ve realized with procrastination is that I’ve often wasted so much time: overthinking, worrying, and stressing thinking about doing or not doing a specific task. In the past, it would have been quicker and easier to just do it in the first place. For me, I need to define the time I am going to do things. It helps me a lot. If I do not get it done at a certain time that is okay. No big deal! I can use that as a learning experience to re-evaluate what barriers there were and maybe decide to do it at a different part of the day. Is your garage a mess? It could take you 100 hours to clean it up, maybe more? lol. You are not alone, my garage is messy too! It could be daunting to start cleaning up your garage. So try to set a time for it. For example, “Spend 30 minutes every Saturday in the garage sorting out the garbage and items I might want to keep”. No rush, remember the turtle wins the race!
Now another mantra I’ve come up with…”Delete thought and just do it”. When we are starting something new there could be a lot of aversiveness to action. Your old self will want to sit on the couch, play Fortnite, eat ice cream, or whatever habit you are trying to break. Your mind will start telling you to “not do yoga”, just “put it off” or “it’s no big deal to eat one more bag of chips” each and every day. With a consistent approach I promise you your mind will slowly quiet down but you can not sit and wait for the motivation to change. The truth is our motivation levels change all the time and the one thing I’ve learned from others recently is consistency is a valuable key to have and use. Let your action come before motivation. With more action, you will get more motivation and in turn, this motivation will help you act more often; however, let it be that your motivation will not stay at a 10/10 and in the last 70 weeks my motivation has definitely been a roller coaster.
I hope you found the last little bit helpful.
Peace & Love,
If you would like to learn more about what I have been up to check out my Youtube Channel Mindful Paradigm.