Believe Blog 3: Overcoming Unhealthy Challenges
By Paige Harnish, LISW
Licensed Mental Health Clinician & Behavioral Health Specialist
It’s true, we are creatures of habit. We follow very predictable patterns of thinking and behaving—how we have responded in the past is likely how we will respond in the future. This is why most people struggle to maintain consistent diets and exercise routines.
The first thing we can do to overcome unhealthy patterns is to recognize that fad diets and cure all exercise routines are not maintainable long term. Instead, we must focus on implementing a healthy routine of balance and moderation. Strive to establish a way of eating that suits your health and doesn’t make you feel deprived and an exercise routine that is both consistent and enjoyable. Feelings of deprivation with food—or anything else, usually leads to a spiral of negative emotional consequences. We must also be realistic with exercise and face the fact that the U.S. culture has become sedentary and everyone needs to increase physical activity and exercise to minimize physical and mental health consequences.
Motivation can be a catalyst to overcoming unhealthy patterns. The strongest source of motivation comes from within. Take time every day to slow down and reflect. Thinking about your “why” on a regular basis can help with motivation.
Another way to overcome unhealthy patterns is to better understand the patterns and routines you follow. Pinpoint what point in the cycle or what specifically triggers unhealthy patterns. A better understanding can help you recognize the pattern in the future and give you the ability to change the narrative. A change at any point of the cycle is the opportunity to establish a new, healthier cycle. For example, if you tend to eat unhealthy foods when you arrive home from work, and you recognize that eating is linked to work-related stress, take a few minutes to unwind after work. Excuse yourself, change your clothing, and take a few moments to transition to the home environment. You will feel less stressed and will likely have the ability to overcome cravings for unhealthy snacks before dinner.
Talking to a friend or accountability partner can also provide the support necessary for change. We often make the mistake of failing to reach out for help when help is needed. If you feel you have exhausted all other efforts, never be afraid to reach out to a professional. Professionals in your area are equipped to help you to overcome unhealthy patterns and to establish new, healthier patterns of thinking and behaving. Always remember that you have the power to change and the best time to start is now!