Three Breaths to a Healthier You
When most people think of weight loss, they immediately picture crash diets and crazy workout routines—like all-juice cleanses and lots of tractor tire flipping. And you can’t blame them. For a vast majority of the health & wellness “industry,” these are the sorts of products and programs they sell. They are flashy and come with big eye-catching promises.
The Habits of Health include nutrition and movement—because they are absolutely important—but while we work on reaching a healthy weight we also work to transform your thinking and decision making. If your plan to achieve your health goals does not address your Habits of a Healthy Mind, reaching optimal wellbeing and keeping the weight off will be difficult.
All of the healthy behaviors that you need on your journey to optimal wellbeing hinge on your habits, and changing your habits means consistently making new, healthier choices until your Habits of Disease become Habits of Health.
Last week, we looked at a new study that found a few seconds of reflection can increase your chances of making a healthier choice. But those extra moments of pause aren’t enough to guarantee your success. What else can you do?
Well, let’s revisit the idea of Stop. Challenge. Choose. We’ve used variations of this method for a long time to help clients and patients recognize when they were entering a habit loop—usually by helping them identify the trigger that makes them crave a candy bar or makes them want to spend an entire day watching television—and then giving them tools and processes that they can use to reprogram Habits of Disease into Habits of Health.
If you succeed at pausing before you make a choice, which we talked about at length in last week’s blog post, your next step is to challenge your thinking and the choices you are about to make so that you can make the decision that supports your health goals.
One of the greatest tools in your arsenal is your ability to breathe. Anecdotally, humans have been telling people in stressful situations to “just breathe” for as long as we can remember, but we now know from a growing body of research that taking slow, thoughtful breaths lowers your stress levels, which in turn makes it easier for you to make healthy choices.
For example, mindfulness meditation accomplishes this, and no, you do not need to fold your legs and chant to meditate. A few seconds of slow breathing and careful reflection is an admirable place to start. Even more recent research on mice suggests that the very act of deep breathing promotes calmness. While humans are much different than mice, these early findings align with previous research and with our experiences in the field.
As you work to make healthier choices in your life, whether you are choosing healthy foods or a new workout or considering how you react to a stressful situation, one of the easiest ways to start building Habits of a Healthy Mind is quite simply to breathe.
Before you make a choice, take 3 deep breathes. That’s it. That’s all you need to do to get started. Just breathe.