Updated: Jan 8, 2022
These steps have changed my life!
A couple of months ago I shared my struggles with addictive behaviors (Aug 15 blog AGE ELEVEN: ADDICT) which became my primary coping device as an anxious, shy, introvert. I have this innate draw toward extreme activities, whether drinking, eating, working, exercise, or gum (more on that later).
Though on the surface some of these are healthy and desirable, all have proven destructive in giving me temporary highs and depressing lows.
But this is not a sad story with an unhappy ending. NO, through my personal growth and help from my support group of family and coaches, I've become more self-aware and now embrace myself - my introversion, my shyness, my talents and my dreams.
Aided by my 2018 retirement and the lower stress and more available time afforded to my own journey, I've successfully introduced a radical idea...MODERATION! And it's been the key to my healthier lifestyle. It enables me to be happy without the burden of destructive extremes. So whether social drinking, eating, writing, or exercise, I'm incorporating mindfulness into my daily practice.
Here's my 9 tips to incorporate moderation into your lifestyle:
1 REMEMBER the extreme highs and lows and accept that the extreme highs require too high a cost for many of us. It's not a matter of "giving up" things but of "gaining control".
2 SET GOALS - what are your priorities? Don't set unreasonable goals or irrelevant goals. Don't set too many goals. In my July 29th GOALS blog I focus on:
a) health- eating, exercise, self-awareness
b) family- meaningful time with each family member
c) writing- to develop my skills to put my truth on paper and publish
d) financial- to set long term guardrails to ensure we spend within plan so I don't stress
3 RECOGNIZE the signs of extremes; eg, ratcheting up running time/speed, binge eating without thought, setting writing goals that sacrifice my other goals (health, family)
4 PAUSE before those potential triggers to think and plan...am I really hungry, for what? What exercise do I really want to do today? Will I finish this task wanting more?
5 TIMEOUT in the middle of activities to ask myself - am I still hungry, am I still enjoying this exercise, or do I want to stop or switch to something else?
6 REVIEW after an activity. Do I feel in control? Did I have fun exercising or writing? Did I finish wanting more? If not, what would I do differently?
7 CELEBRATE moderation like I used to celebrate extremes. For me, it's never a problem going to the gym. It's harder for me to limit to 60 minutes 5-6 days per week instead of 90 minutes 7 days a week. But I know, this is not healthy or sustainable. Being mindful enough to moderate those circumstances is great reason to celebrate!
8 BE KIND to myself. No one is perfect. Slipping up at a meal or two or a day or two is human. My slippery slope tends to happen because I beat myself up. Use these situations as learning points to improve.
9 REFLECT not just on the meal or day, but on a larger chunk of time - quarterly and annually. How am I doing on my goals? More than likely, I've accomplished a lot more than I realize on a daily basis (the same principle as "not seeing the forest for the trees").
Originally, I though moderation meant BORING. But a year later, I'm happier, fitter, more in control, about to publish, enjoying more quality time with the family, and planning on a climb up Kilimanjaro in 2020 with my daughter, Maddie! Pretty EXCITING stuff!
One of my last bastions of extremism was my gum chewing. Over the years I've always enjoyed a stick of gum. In 2016, my new boss chewed gum constantly to help kick his smoking habit. That gave me license to chew during work days as well. Soon, I was chewing 2-4 pieces at a time and 20-30 pieces a day!
I recognized this was another variation of my extremism. I tried to rationalize stopping by calorie (5/piece or 150/day) or cost (2 packs/day=$3/day or over $1,000/year), but I couldn't muster the fortitude until I forgot to buy my normal stash of ten packs before our summer vacation. So on the plane I decided this was my chance. I fought off urges to stock-up throughout our two weeks. It may seem trivial compared to cigarettes or food or alcohol, but quitting was very difficult.