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Keeping Yourself Motivated to Achieve and Maintain A Healthier Lifestyle

Updated on September 8, 2014
Chauncy Morlan, Circus Fat Man about 100 years ago-- people would pay good money to see him so rare was his obesity then-- today we see people this size and bigger all over the mall.
Chauncy Morlan, Circus Fat Man about 100 years ago-- people would pay good money to see him so rare was his obesity then-- today we see people this size and bigger all over the mall. | Source

Before talking about the steps to take towards a healthier lifestyle, it's worth looking at what we want to walk away from. The Internet has certainly engraved our minds with some horrific images of the outcomes of unhealthy lifestyles: individuals who weigh hundreds of pounds more than any Circus Fat Man back in the days of the "freak shows"; the rich and famous stumbling back and forth between treatment centers and relapses; and photos of people with failed facelifts and breast "enhancements", obsessively pursuing happiness under the surgeon's knife (or laser beam).

In general terms, slumping somewhere between the most gruesome lifestyle scenarios and your svelte, bike-racing, rosy-cheeked, vegan neighbor are you and I-- how do we actually spring off the couch, racewalk around our livingroom, and release those 30-100 pounds that have been dogging us since ....... (fill in the blank)? I give some practical tips for that just below, and in the far-down-below part of this article I introduce what I believe is the optimal support program for anyone who is either finding the self-motivation idea just totally un-doable and/or overwhelming or who would like to master certain principles in their lives that will definitely lead to a marked improvement in their holistic health and lifestyle.

How Do I Motivate Myself To Have A Healthier Lifestyle?

Motivation. There lies the core of the answer to this question. (If it's an apple core, you're off to good start.) We can read and listen to "motivational speakers" until the proverbial cows come home, but in truth, we motivate ourselves. As motivational book author Wayne Dyer states: “Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.” So, once you've made the choice to have a healthier lifestyle, you are on the road to achieving that!

What IS a Healthier Lifestyle?

Whenever you are setting a goal to accomplish something it is important to take the time to break down exactly what it is that you want to achieve. How will you measure what healthier is? What will a healthier lifestyle look like for you? You have made the choice to go about motivating yourself to live healthier, so what choices do you need to make to have the outcomes you desire?

Let's "unpack" this a bit so that it is consumable in smaller chunks...

Defining "Healthier Lifestyle" and Goal Setting To Achieve That

What is your healthier lifestyle vision for yourself? For this exercise you will need a few pens or pencils, some writing paper, a quiet space, and some unimpeded time to just dream and write. Suggestion: Gift yourself with this time. Leave your iPhone in a secure other space. If music seems to help you think, put on some classical instrumental music as background. Relax. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths.

First, think of the physical aspects of a healthier lifestyle. Rest and sleep. Diet. Exercise. Unhealthy habits you want to release. In each category you can set a goal for yourself. Start by setting a date for achieving what it is you want to achieve (knowing that goals are basically dreams with a date). This is just a "draft" that you will hone up when you have all the information you need to make it realistic AND exciting enough to truly keep you interested and be realistic according to your current lifestyle. It's useful to know, for example, that most of us need a lot more sleep than we get. Human beings are wired to make healthier choices if they sleep during the night when their brains and other body parts are geared for balance, recovery and healing. Every hour of dark-time sleep before midnight is equal to two hours after midnight. There really IS something to the old adage: "Early to bed and early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy, and wise".

After you have considered what you want your physical "healthier lifestyle" to be by (your goal date) then shift to envisioning the intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual goals you have for yourself. Do you feel "out of the loop" intellectually and hanker for something more stimulating than playing Farmville on Facebook, or are you worried about developing Alzheimer's disease if it "runs" in your family? What intellectual goals have you let lie hidden because you perhaps thought you didn't have what it takes? Want to learn a new language so you can actually read and talk to people when you travel to far countries? Have you always thought how nice it would be to play the harp or the guitar? As you move into the other goal categories you will probably find that just writing down one of these intellectual goals (ex., learn to play the guitar) will spark social, emotional and spiritual goals that you have not considered within your realm of ability before, but that now seem possible (and likely are!). This is YOU drafting the design for YOUR Healthier Lifestyle.

Have fun brainstorming your way through each of these categories. Please remember that you are looking at "healthier lifestyle" and don't use this as an opportunity to beat yourself up emotionally for not being the poster child for the perfect healthiest lifestyle on the planet. Every journey begins with a single step, and these are just the baby steps towards making the ultimate improvements you want to see in your healthier lifestyle.

After you have this draft written up you will have a much better idea of what it is that you consider a "healthier lifestyle". Now, depending on what sort of personality you have, you might want to break all of your goals down into smaller planning segments and chart things you can do regularly (preferably daily) towards achieving each larger goal. Using the intellectual goal of learning to play the guitar, for example, you might have a checklist that goes something like: Day 1- watch 3 youtube videos on learning guitar Day 2- read 5 pages of a teach-yourself-the-guitar manual Day 3- watch 3 youtube videos Day 4- go into the music shop and look at possible guitars to buy Day 5- look into various guitar lessons online.... etc. You can see how this breakdown is a much less overwhelming way to approach your larger goal. Build in small rewards such as Day 14- go to a guitar concert in the community. You might also be jazzed by the Dream Board concept. There are several thousand ideas for creating a dream board and other means of keeping yourself motivated to fulfill your goals on the Internet. You can do it!

If you want some amazing support in achieving your healthier lifestyle goals, read on...

Our granddaughter at the Beach: Healthier Choices seem almost natural to children...
Our granddaughter at the Beach: Healthier Choices seem almost natural to children...

A Bit On My Own Journey to a Healthier Lifestyle

My own background is populated with alcoholic ancestors (including a parent), mental illnesses, and the usual stuff of any genogram-- a diagram that shows, symbolically, many aspects of a individual's family history, relationships and social health-- that social workers plot out with struggling families. I know, because I was a social worker for many years of my working life. I contributed my own dysfunction and disconbobulation to any genograms my offspring might be mapping up. Yes, like most of us on the planet, I had a less-than healthy lifestyle that I desired to improve.

One piece of wisdom that I believe I have acquired the credibility to pass along is that no matter how aged and experienced one becomes, there are always opportunities to learn (or re-learn) skills that will improve your life. I have done a lot of personality tests in my life and recognize that I am pretty profoundly introverted meaning that my energy is recharged when I have frequent and fairly lengthy times apart from others, and that crowd situations generally sap and confuse me, particularly if they are for more than an hour. If I had been 18 when the Internet was developed I do believe that I would have skipped real-live University in preference to online courses. Perhaps I would not have made so many unhealthy "choices" had I had the ability to step away from my more extroverted peers (whom I admired, and who were the social "norms" then) and taken the time to pursue healthier goals.

Yes, you are right-- one never knows. Happily, as I moved through life I have been given the opportunity to learn and experience health-enhancing events through my 50s and into my 60s. Probably the most significant feature in my ability to continue to make healthier goals and changes has been marrying my husband, a man who walks the healthy talk, and has for at least 40 years of the time we have been married. He is a man of integrity, in general, but he really has a passion for living an honest, wholesome, healthy, principled life.

In 1993 I was baptized and became a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, like my husband had twenty-three years before me. Seventh-day Adventists, according to the book called "Blue Zones" by Dan Buettner and a subsequent article in National Geographic, are listed among the longest-living people groups on the planet. Still, years of having smoked heavily (25)-- and other unhealthy habits-- are hard to erase in a short period of making healthier choices. I burnt out in my Social Work job probably about 5 or more years before I actually took early retirement (in 2005). And I did what so many burnt-out social workers did before me, I studied online to become a life coach.

I know. The irony has not escaped me.

I do have a lot of "head" knowledge about healthy living, and because of the health principles that are a significant part of the teachings of Adventism, I have been enjoying a high level of good physical health since leaving my job (and the extreme prairie climate, I might add). I am very grateful for this.

However, I began to notice that in spite of my many blessings I began to have increasingly more bouts of "floating anxiety" and it was not uncommon for me to wake up feeling sad and empty for no particular reason. My husband also pointed out that I used a lot of irrational accusatory statements that were preceded by phrases like "You always..." or "I never...." when the "always" or "never" patently was not so.

I began to feel like it really didn't matter what choices I made, that I didn't have much to live for.

And then an opportunity came along that 'brought life back into my life'. My former desire to be healthier and happier kicked in again. The opportunity? My husband and I were invited to take training as facilitators for the Nedley Depression Recovery Program in a nearby community and to join the team presenting the program in that town.

our younger granddaughter on her 3rd birthday... healthy self-worth plays the piano
our younger granddaughter on her 3rd birthday... healthy self-worth plays the piano

How An Invisible Disease Can Overtake the Mighty

Of course I knew a lot about depression, this "invisible disease". For more than twenty years I had worked with women who sadly claimed the diagnosis and who described their distress to me in detail. Furthermore, in retrospect, I know that my mother suffered from clinical depression.

But the biggest surprise was that I had several *symptoms of depression:

  • deep sadness or emptiness
  • apathy
  • agitation or restlessness
  • sleep disturbances
  • weight/appetite disorders
  • lack of concentration
  • feelings of excessive guilt or worthlessness
  • morbid thoughts
  • fatigue

In my idiosyncratic style of self-learning I guess I needed to go through the program's training and facilitating to learn about and overcome the depression.

Dr. Neil Nedley is a practicing physician in Internal Medicine with emphases in Gastroenterology, Mental Health, Lifestyle Medicine, and the difficult-to-diagnose patient. He noticed early on in his Internal Medicine practice just how many of his patients also suffered from depression. He determined to learn as much as he possibly could about depression and its causes, treatment and prevention, and he set about doing that.

Of course, most of the articles available to physicians at that time were about diagnosis and treatment with drugs.

Dr. Nedley also was an avid reader of "hot off the press" studies dealing with his internal medicine specialty, with a focus on studies having to do with the brain. He connected what he learned from new brain science studies and the role that the frontal lobe of the brain plays, and applied this learning in a "natural" healthy lifestyle approach to overcoming depression.

Dr. Nedley's in-patient lifestyle program bypasses the immediate placement of diagnosed patients on psychiatric drug therapy and instead does a thorough investigative work-up to discover the actual cause of their depression. He designed a comprehensive holistic treatment plan that deals with the underlying causes of depression in only twenty weeks.

Although there is much skepticism within certain quarters, Dr. Nedley unabashedly claims that his patients are "cured" of depression-- no longer dependent on drug medications, counseling, or even follow-up visits with him.

The 8-Week Nedley Depression Recovery Program has similar amazing results. The program is run by specially trained volunteers (many are RNs, social workers, and the like, but some are just well-trained "lay persons" interested in making a difference in people's lives). At the outset of the program (and at the end), participants complete an assessment of their symptoms and an inventory of their "hits" (genetic/developmental/nutritional/social/toxicological/circadian rhythm/addiction/lifestyle/medical/frontal lobe causes for depression). This evaluation is marked by Dr. Nedley's professional staff. Each of the eight sessions, the participants gather together to watch an informative video with Dr. Nedley addressing a chapter in his book, Depression: The Way Out. Following the video, participants break into small discussion groups. Between sessions there is quite a bit of assigned reading to do, along with encouragement to complete a daily checklist of items that might be described as "healthier lifestyle habits" than most of us would naturally attend to without the guidance. Each of the items has been researched extensively and included there because of its benefit in preventing depression or getting one back on-track if depression rears its ugly head again.

The program is utterly fascinating. And it works. People who are "majorly" depressed are, of course, not considered appropriate candidates for a volunteer-run program, but there are persons with some significant symptoms who are accepted into the program. Participants on psychiatric medications are not counseled by the 8-Week program volunteer staff 'how to get off' their medications, or anything of that nature, but during the 8 weeks that I was with the program there actually were people who went to their prescribing physician and were able to either lower their medication's dosage considerably, to eliminate some debilitating side-effects, or who actually gradually stopped using their medications under their physician's supervision.

In all, there were many revelations by Dr. Nedley that offered great encouragement and hopefulness. A graduation banquet at the end of the series (Week 9) gave individual participants an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings to the entire group (along with family and guest invitees). Along with some mind-blowing stories of positive change, at our banquet one participant's invited friend got up and told about how he had seen one of the other participants at a recent square dance and how surprised he had been to see how this elderly man seemed to have an entirely new lease on life, so exuberant and joyful he seemed.

For more information about the Nedley Depression Recovery Program (and to see if there is an 8-Week session coming up in your city), go here-->Dates of Depression Seminars. If you don't find anything listed for your city, I would suggest you might want to phone an Adventist church in your community and request that they run the program. There are Adventist Churches in every country in the world but the above directory is for North America only.

*Information about Dr. Neil Nedley, MD and his Depression Recovery Program development is from his excellent book, Depression: The Way Out, ©2011, Nedley Publishing, Ardmore, Oklahoma.

So, HOW Can I Keep Motivated in Achieving and Maintaining a Healthier Lifestyle?

In conclusion, it is most important to realize that you are capable of finding out what you consider a "healthier lifestyle." By doing some visioning, goal-setting, planning, and daily actions towards your goals you will, with self-discipline and incentives (rewards) of your own choosing, attain and maintain that 'healthier lifestyle'. If you find that you need more support, structure and/or suspect that you might be impeded in any way in keeping motivated to change--because of depression or unresolved grief, etc.-- I heartily recommend signing up for Dr. Nedley's Depression Recovery Program.

Picking Daisies for her Mama... a healthy lifestyle choice that practically every little child makes...
Picking Daisies for her Mama... a healthy lifestyle choice that practically every little child makes...


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    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 3 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Thank you Mactavers for your encouraging comments! I think I tend to give a bit much advice of late, and not just to Baby Boomers, so I do appreciate your appreciation!

    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 3 years ago

      You are so right that health has to begin with good mental health and giving others, especially those of us Baby Boomers positive advice is appreciated.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      and thank you, James A., for your lovely comments, as usual! Your hubs are my measuring bar, as you know!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

      I enjoyed reading your story. The advice you give throughout this Hub is outstanding. Thank you for your service to the Community. :)

    • profile image

      Y Battle-Felton 5 years ago

      Thanks so much, techgran. That means a lot to me!

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      I'll add in my prayers that you will have a safe and happy adventure, making joyful memories with your kids!

    • profile image

      Y Battle-Felton 5 years ago

      Smiles, thank you. Yes, it's a large move. I've been accepted to a university there and have been awarded a scholarship, still it's big move for me. I'm moving my children there with me--I wouldn't have it any other way. Prayer is definitely keeping me sane, optimistic and just overall excited, smiles.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Good luck with that! It's a large move, isn't it? Do you have family in the UK? (And I find that prayer is often more useful than thinking, in my opinion)

    • profile image

      Y Battle-Felton 5 years ago

      Techygran, you're so right. We weren't necessarily created bit by bit yet I tend to think in terms of parts. I have been thinking through an issue to do with moving my family to the UK; everything is falling in to place except for one component that is a bit more problematic.

      I think I have t othink of it differently; that may be the key to solving it.

      Thanks, Techygran!

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Y Battle-Felton, thank you for your kind appraisal of this piece. I personally believe that we were created as whole beings with complex integrated circuits. Any dissembling of our parts calls out from the holist-being for re-harmonization, and that is definitely a spiritual process foremost, would you agree?

    • profile image

      Y Battle-Felton 5 years ago

      I love your total body concept; incorporating the mind does seem like the easiest way to ensure my mind will go along with the goals I set for my body, but I hadn't really thought in terms of a total body (intellectual, spiritual, emotional, etc...) make over or lifestyle change.

      What a nice read.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Missolive, you are so right about the way depression can grip at times, and I also agree with you about the benefits of morning walks! Some say that the Bible was referring to "the cool of the day" (when God walked with Adam & Eve)not as the early evening (as many suppose)but as the very early morning before the hot sun blazes. I tend to agree. Have a happy summer with your children. Thank you so much for your comments!

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 5 years ago from Texas

      techygran - excellent points and approach to living a healthy lifestyle. That darn depression sure is a damper with a mighty claw. Its grip can be pretty tough at times. Morning walks have always made me feel better about having a healthy day. Getting those endorphins going before the hot sun rises is a great way to get a positive edge. I'm looking forward to my summer mornings and healthy lunches with my kids. Thanks for all your wonderful tips and the adorable pictures.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      prairieprincess thank you for your kind comments-- I wish you all the best in achieving the changes you want for your health!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      Techygran, great hub! And you make such great points about motivation. It truly is the most important thing we need to make change. Without it, nothing else gets done.

      I can relate to this article because I am trying to make some significant changes in my health right now. I like your advice about envisioning the goals for each area.

      I am sharing this and will study it further. Great hub!

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Dear Denver, You are so right! ;)

    • Denver5280Click profile image

      Denver5280Click 5 years ago from Denver Colorado

      Healthier Lifestyle is very important! Every one should take a break from the computer and get some fresh air and sunshine!

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Vespawoolf, thanks again for your insightful comments... if you are making healthier changes in your life you will be well-endowed to slay the "family depression" demons-- all the best! ~Cynthia

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Techygran, thank you for sharing your life experience with us. I love your statement that no matter how aged or experienced one becomes, there are always opportunities to re-learn skills that improve our lives. I live a healthy lifestyle, but have recently learned about the benefits of juicing for improved health. All those nutrients have given me more energy. It's good to know about the Nedley Depression program. I'd never heard of it, but there's a lot of depression on my mother's side of the family so the information may come in handy someday!

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 6 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      thanks Debbie for your great comments and the vote-- and I totally agree with you about the importance of sleep in living a healthy lifestyle!

    • debbie roberts profile image

      Debbie Roberts 6 years ago from Greece

      Having a target to work towards is a good start to becoming motivated. A healthy lifestyle may mean different things to different people as you've pointed out.

      Sleep is much more important than we give it credit for, I know that personally I feel loads better when I'm in the habit of having early nights than I do when I've been getting to bed late. Life seems to flow easier and my brain is seems more efficient. Well worth the extra sleep, although it isn't always possible.

      An interesting hub and voted up.