Why Don’t We Do the Things We Know to Be Good for Us?

I’m currently reaping the benefits of a low sugar month which I am doing in conjunction with my ’30 Day Habits’ group which I run in Facebook. I have a clearer head, better sleep, I’ve leaned up a little and my running feels better.

 

I have done this many times in my life, I’ve managed to break the sugar addiction and I always feel better for it. But then I go back.

Why is that?! Everything about life is better when I’m eating less sugar. Not only is my energy better, but I am more productive, calmer, my mood improves and I am a better communicator with those around me.

Why wouldn’t I want to be like this always?

The same goes for other habits of health. Exercise, stretching, meditation and a good night’s sleep are all essential for optimal health and they make life feel good. But as with the diet, the good routine of these things comes and goes.

This is something that has fascinated me both in my life and in that of my patients.

We all know what’s good for us, so why don’t we do it?

After years of wondering, I think I have finally found the answer. It goes deep into how our brain developed.

Over the millennia, our brain’s primary focus has been to protect us from danger. Anything that seemed tough or scary was to be avoided, and this simple philosophy kept us alive.

The problem is, the predators of the plains, the famine, the poisonous mushrooms and the neighbouring warrior tribe are all distant remnants of our history.

Yet that deep part of our brain still kicks in if we perceive something to be difficult or scary.

Our mind will always favour the easy option.

If the thought of setting the alarm to get to the gym before work sends a shiver down your spine, despite knowing you’ll feel great after, the primal brain will say, ‘nah, I’ll hit snooze, I’m much more comfortable in bed, thank you’.

If eating the low sugar diet initially gives you hunger pangs and cravings (which normally last a couple of weeks), then your mind will start whispering for you to reach for the biscuit tin.

If you want to be more flexible but haven’t stretched for months, your first time will hurt! And you guessed it, staying on the sofa instead of getting the yoga mat out can easily win the battle.

So what’s the point of this story? What can we do if our primal brain has such a hold over us?

Well, I personally find that just knowing this has helped me start new healthy habits

When I feel the discomfort of a sugar craving or the alarm going off for an early workout, I notice the thoughts that follow.

I pay attention to the voices that say “go buy some chocolate”, or “hit snooze, missing one workout won’t matter”, and once I’ve noted them, I ignore them. I think, ‘ah, that’s just the primal brain trying to hold me back’.

I embrace the discomfort and do the ‘thing’ anyway. I always feel better for it!

I have gone slightly off piste today as I usually discuss the topic of pain and injury, which is something we are specialists at treating in the clinic. But habits of health are also a passion of mine, so I hope this post has helped you with a strategy to kickstart the habit you know will make a difference in your life.

We love to chat, so if you have any thoughts about the habits of health, or if you have any questions about pain or injury, get in touch at [email protected] or check out our Facebook and YouTube pages.

Have a healthy month!

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Using Habits to Avoid Pain

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant

 

In my job as an osteopath, in the last ten years I have had the pleasure of treating people from all walks of life. I have treated professional athletes and some of the fittest people in the country, and then those who are far less healthy.

I have come to realise that there is no difference between the very healthy and the very unhealthy. The only thing that separates them is their habits.

When we want to change something about ourselves, it’s very easy to look at people that do what you want to do and think, ‘if only I had the discipline they do’, but that’s a myth.

It has been shown that discipline and willpower are finite resources. It doesn’t matter who you are, they run out eventually, so relying on them to be healthy won’t get you very far.

It is far better to create the habits of health. Habits are not finite, they are a subconscious part of our day (when was the last time you moaned about having to brush your teeth at night, for example?).

 

Another little myth around habits is that they take 21 days to make. I even used this number in the first few years of my career. Science has shown it to be wrong though; on average it takes 66 days to create a habit. So if you aim for a good three months you should make the habit stick.

The reason I am writing about this now is that I have observed a shift in peoples’ behaviour in the last few months, a good shift. With all the good weather we have had I have noticed people have been cycling more, walking more, getting out in the garden more and just generally moving more.

As I sit here writing, looking out into my garden, the Virginia Creeper has turned a deep, luscious red and it is being bombarded with a heavy autumnal rain. A few days ago, I finalised the plans for Christmas with my family. Autumn and winter are coming!

We are at a cross-road where it’s possible to let the good habits of summer slip. When the days get shorter and the weather worsens, it’s so easy to take the car instead of the bike, or sit watching sport on the telly instead of dig up the garden.

 

Obviously, through the seasons our habits change, but be conscious that you swap a movement-based habit for another movement-based one. If you’ve loved cycling this summer, why not get a turbo-trainer at home or join a spinning class? If you’ve felt proud of your efforts in the garden this summer, rather than hibernate during the winter, why not get your teeth into a DIY project?

You see, movement is strongly correlated to how much pain we feel. Those that move more have lower incidence of pain and they recover more quickly when they have it.

The summer has gifted us with a few months of beautiful weather, so you should have your 66 days to build a habit covered. Your body will be wanting to continue to move regularly. It thrives in movement.

Be conscious and figure out a way to continue moving all through the winter months. Get creative and have fun with it! This is an opportunity to carry good health forwards to next year.

In the clinic we see all sorts of injuries, and people often think it is doing  things that caused the problem, but injuries are made more likely by not doing  things like moving regularly and exercising.

Keep up your good health by focusing on making movement a habit and your body will thank you for it!

As always, if pain or injury is preventing you from living the mobile life you want, we are here to help. Get in touch at [email protected] or 01245 522360. We also give regular exercise videos on our Facebook and YouTube channel.