Focus on Adding not Eliminating
We’ve heard it a million times before, that everyone self-medicates from one degree to another. This is the time of year that gets me thinking about our “go-to” substances for self-medicating. No judgement, I get it. We live in a stress fuelled world. A common thread we are experiencing at some level is that none of us feel that we are earning enough income to do all the things we want to do. We aren't accomplishing enough. Or we are not attaining what we really desire in life. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones that happen to be where you want to be in life, but also at the exhausted phase in an intricate juggling act, when one moment of inattention can cause everything to topple. Trying to eliminate our “go-to” stress reducers like alcohol, drugs, over-eating, etc, then causes even more stress.
Most people I know often attempt a health kick from time to time. We tell ourselves: “Thats it— no more ______” (fill in your substance of choice for designated period of time). We hear it all around us: “I’m off gluten” or “Im off coffee”. Or my favourite, “Im off everything on that 30 day elimination cleanse”. (Don’t even get me started on “cleansing”—is often a code word for socially approved disordered eating).
In order to address the need for stress reduction and attain greater levels of health/wellness, what is the best approach? What should we focus on? The most common strategy is to eliminating the bad stuff from our lives. But my wellness philosophy has never been about elimination, cutting things out or going cold turkey. We get mentally caught up in the idea that we should be halting the bad things that we are doing to ourselves. Just stop! we tell ourselves. Then we berate ourselves for feeling so dependant and not being able to quit. This is the place where the sense of defeat sets in, and downward spirals begin.
Although there are certain types of people get a little high off self-deprivation, most people respond to deprivation by feeling more stressed, more anxious, and then we crave our “thang” even more. Deprivation causes mental distress, and that is why there should be no sense of deprivation in your wellness plan at all. Don't confuse discipline with deprivation, discipline is a healthy thing, deprivation equals stress. Our lives are hard enough as they are, to not willingly put ourselves through more struggle.
So what is the solution to attaining higher levels of wellness? I believe it has to start with small changes that you build on over time. So where I tend to focus is on adding positive good stuff to your life instead of focusing on eliminating the bad. “Adding” is about giving yourself what you need to nurture yourself back to a healthier place.
I may not be thee epitome of health or the thinnest person I know—but what I do have going for me is a healthy state of mind. And that my friends is the key to this self-nurturing approach to wellness. We do not need to be perfect in order to be happy or healthy. Here are a few illustrations of the elimination path versus the addition path:
Example - “Diet”
The old way to think about what we eat is to say to ourselves:
‘I eat too much, I will eat less.’
‘I eat too much sugar, I wont eat sugar or carbs’
…and on and on. It is the energetic equivalent of saying “No, no, no,” to yourself all the time. I cant have this, I cant have that. (I cant even remember if I can eat that—LOL)
We’ve all experienced that cranky feeling of diet deprivation. Its not fun, nor is this method productive.
The new way of thinking is, what can I add to my diet that will improve my health? It seems that every study done on plant based natural foods demonstrates an increase in real foods increases health and wellness. Its a no brainer. The alternative to the deprivation, is to focus on ADDING something healthy. For example, set a manageable goal for something like— everyday you will eat one fruit in the morning and one salad everyday day with lunch or dinner. AND do not stress, feel guilty, or bad about anything else you eat (you know, within reason). Just focus on adding the good stuff. You are taking care of yourself.
Guess what happens when you focus on adding? You are increasing nutritionally dense foods that happen to be low calorie, and it fills you up so that you have less room to eat the less healthy food. Other healthy “additions" I incorporate for myself are eating a ziplock bag full of fresh cut veggies and hummus daily. A tablespoon of psyllium husks in water everyday to add fibre and help flush our fat and toxins from my digestive tract. Even without eliminating the “unhealthy” foods and treats, your body is better able to digest the good stuff and flush out the bad stuff—because you focused on adding the good stuff first.
Another example - removing your “crutch” —the end of the day cocktails or wine habit (or what have you…)
Instead of focusing on removing something like your nightly drinks, instead add a healthy stress reducing activity to your regular repertoire. Many years ago I did a workshop with Tony Robbins who said that everyone should have 50 activities they can do to change or alter their negative headspace. Activities they can use to switch from negative state of mind to a positive one. Well, I have yet to meet anyone who has more than a handful— but we just seem to fall back on the same few—and generally unhealthy ones. We need to ask ourselves what kinds of activities helps us feel more nurtured and less stressed? If you can’t answer that question then you need to start to explore. Is it yoga? Is it meeting a friend for tea? Is it painting? Start your list and pick one that is the easiest and most convenient for you to feel better, regularly.
Again, to use myself as an example, had I focused on subtracting the thing that I've been leaning on as my stress reliever would likely lead to more stress. Harder, because my crutch hadn’t been replaced with a healthier alternative. I used to have an infrared sauna at home which helped me to relax, to detox and to feel more refreshed and vibrant. So after several years of not having access to the sauna, I started ADDING that to my weekly routine. It sure does feel sooooo goooood! And guess what? I haven't desired my crutch of “the evening drinks” at all. I am building a foundation of health, and am not as willing to throw out all the good I’ve done all day for a splurge, especially when I don’t even need it like I used to.
As you add ‘wellness conscious’ choices to your lifestyle, you will find that you naturally gravitate away from the things you “should” be avoiding, without effort. How does this work? What I’ve noticed is that as you start to nurture yourself, your desire for the more destructive “stress relievers” lessens the hold on you. As you build on the small successes, you are more motivated to add more healthier choices. It is amazing how much progress can be made by making small changes over time.
If though, you still find yourself struggling with your "go-to" self medication of choice, well after committing to a more self-loving approach to health— than the most supportive thing you can do is ask for help. We are not meant to battle our demons every day, so if you find that you are— I hope you have the strength and courage to ask for help. Not just once- but until you get the help you need to find your way back into your true self.
In Love ~ Health ~ Wellness