Have you ever tried to make changes to your lifestyle and found that you gave up in a few days?
Perhaps you were motivated by the latest diet trend and promptly jumped on that train to paleo land. Maybe you tried overhauling everything in your life, only to discover a week later that it doesn’t fit into your schedule, your kids hate your food and most importantly you just don’t care much about kale or chia seeds.
I’ve been there.
Here are 3 easy steps to making sure you stick to the
1. DREAM BIG START SMALL
Stop for a moment to think:
You see X celebrity or friend after a year and they are a new person, you think they have the solution for sticking to a healthy lifestyle. Next day you have their meal plan, their number and you are chomping down on THEIR favourite meals. You’re playing netball which you hate and not having much fun: it’s a wonder you lasted the week!
It seems that this inspiration sends you off into a stormy frenzy of overhauling, your eating, exercise, sleep and your wardrobe. It‘s all out with the old and in with the new in the space of a week! Your desire to be the new you YESTERDAY overrides the reality of the brain, body, and soul.
There are a few flaws in that plan…
Firstly, the brain finds it difficult to deal with dramatic changes at once. To break bad habits you really have to change your brain. Habits are stronger than intentional actions. So how do you get around this and make changes that stick? You have to do activities you enjoy and consistently practice the new change until it too becomes a habit.
Secondly, the body is really not primed to be the next Mo Farah: that’s going to take time and dedication. Lastly, the soul (nafs) rebels as you take it to task and that results in sabotage.
Action: don’t change everything at once choose one small goal you enjoy.
2. YOU ARE UNIQUE: MAKE IT PERSONAL
Despite the plethora of information regarding a healthy lifestyle, why can’t you stick to your goals? The deciding factor is not how motivated or informed you are. If the sales of popular diet programs (estimated at a global worth of $220billion in 2017) are anything to go by, it seems many people will run into the welcoming arms of the new diet sensation or the latest scientific study.
However, none of this one size fits all is working. The House of Commons briefing paper of Jan 2017 reported that the UK is the joint 6th place with Canada in obesity ranking within the OECD countries. It’s a worrying figure that 26% of the UK population, over the age of 15 are obese. It’s time for you to do something different and not be part of this statistic, prevention or action, take an individual approach to making a change.
Inspiration is good to get you started. However, if you’re letting your motivations and desires (nafs) propel you into chasing someone else’s shiny new life overhaul, this may, in fact, be sabotaging your success.
Need more convincing not to follow one size fits all?
Quranic evidence shows that we are all different:
Quran (30: 22) And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors. Verily, in that are indeed signs for men of sound knowledge.
Ibn Kathir elaborates that: “Allah created Adam, and until the Hour begins,
each of them has two eyes, two eyebrows, a nose, a forehead, a mouth and two
cheeks, but none of them looks like another; there is bound to be some difference
in posture, appearance, and speech, whether it is apparent or is hidden and
can only be noticed with careful observation. Each face has its own
characteristics and does not look like another; even if there was a group of
people who looked alike, having a beautiful or ugly characteristic in common,
there would still be a difference between one person and the next.
Acknowledge that you are unique: make an individual plan for yourself : its time for a change.
Action: make a list of the actions you have done in the past that have worked for you.
Healthy foods YOU like
The type of exercise you enjoy and at which time of the day
The social activities you prefer
The type of worship you find most fulfilling
Stress busters that hep you relax
3. GENTLY FORM GOOD HABITS
Habits are the process of making sure you do the same thing day in day out without motivation without inspiration. You never think that you don’t feel like putting on your shoes before going out (I’ve not seen many barefoot walkers). If you look at the actions in your life you will notice that things like brushing your teeth are an automatic part of your daily routine. In fact much of your daily routine is formed by habits, you do them without thinking.
Acknowledging that it’s going to take small consistent changes rather than a large overhaul to reach your goal, will make it easier to stick to your plan. I know a big drama around achieving: say running a marathon or losing 30 pounds in weight always sounds more appealing. However, the little-noted fact is how you get there because that’s the boring part! It’s the small consistent changes over time that make those long-term goals come to fruition.
When you look at life changing transformations through the faith lens, you would be hard-pressed to find a better example than the lifestyle changes that the Sahabah (companions of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH) made. A community that overhauled their lives from one that was totally lost and stubborn to those that are described as the best of generations in Islamic history.
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Prophet, peace, and blessings be upon him, said, “The best people are those of my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them. Then, there will come, people, whose witness will precede their oaths and whose oaths will precede their witness.”
Source: Sahih Bukhari 6065, Sahih Muslim 2533
How did they do it?
It took them 23 years of consistently applying the message of the Quran to bring about the change in their hearts and subsequently their actions. Allah in his wisdom knew that giving a completed guidance in one go would not have been effective. Guidance was given in small portions and in context.
Be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to achieve your first goal, don’t try to rush and move on to the next mini goal until you’re confident that you are applying the previous one. Stick to one change from today.
Because: if you do what you have always done then you will get what you have always got.
Action: be patient and list the small progress steps you can achieve towards your long term goal.
Practicalities: How do I do it?
Start with small changes:
Eat 3 meals a day if you are a snacker
Sleeping 30 mins, earlier if you burn the midnight oil.
Going for a walk for 20 mins more: build on what you are doing already
Drinking a small glass of water before each meal
Increase your reading of the Quran by one page
Practice Practice Practice, Same time same place every day
One change at a time.
Put up post- it notes to remind yourself what you are working on.
Make it stick: remember that our pious predecessors indicated that in order to perfect a habit and make it permanent, practice it consistently for 40 days.
Try using a calendar to mark off your progress in developing a new habit. It will be a visual reminder to you that you are working towards that long-term goal.
It’s the consistent application of these that will get you to that physical, mental and spiritual health goal you desire. So choose the most relevant one to you first and develop it into a habit so that you don’t need to feel in the mood do it. Practice it until you no longer need external motivation or inspiration. Before you know it you will have adopted several positive lifestyle habits and it’s the total sum of these over time that will ensure that they stay for life.
Allah hafiz for now
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