Habits of a Healthy Mind

11.30.17 |

Lasting, vibrant health starts with your mind

Optimal wellbeing does not begin with a crash diet or an intense exercise program. Lasting, vibrant health starts with your mind, the command center of all the choices you make throughout your life that have an impact on how you look, how you feel, and how long you live. Nutrition and movement are important, but the habits that drive your healthy behaviors are rooted in the way you think and in the way you process the world around you.

When the Habits of Health System first launched, this was a groundbreaking idea. At the time, the medical industry was hellbent on reacting to disease (rather than preventing it), and the wellness industry was slinging milkshakes and starvation cleanses.

Today, the health field as a whole is starting to catch up. There are plenty of laggards, but the research supporting the Habits of Health approach is getting harder and harder to ignore.

When we start a journey to optimal health by first looking at the brain—taking into account what happens when we are faced with two options, healthy or unhealthy—the entire process of creating health changes, from what we do day to day to what tools we use to support our journey. The best nutrition plan in the world can’t help you if in a moment of stress you automatically reach for a candy bar.

An effective program needs to not only teach you how to reprogram your habits (the driving force behind most choices) but also make those choices easier. In OPTAVIA’s case, we use convenient and simple pre-made meals backed by an extensive network of support and education.

A key first step is learning to recognize when you have a choice instead of letting a habit autopilot your way to an unhealthy behavior. Once you see the choice, you can start to reprogram how you react in those situations, training yourself to make the healthy behavior automatic, replacing the Habit of Disease with a Habit of Health. We cover this full process in Stop. Challenge. Choose. The first step—stopping when you recognize a choice—is a common challenge, and many people find it difficult to face.

How do you become more mindful of the choices you’re making?

Well, first of all, recognize that it works. Mindfulness is not a fad. A systematic review of 19 mindfulness studies spanning 1,160 participants found that mindfulness for weight loss is resoundingly effective. When you know the potential of mindfulness, that will help you invest more time into practicing mindful behaviors. Here’s what you should start doing next:

  1. Reflect on your day and the choices you made. Whether you keep a journal or take 5 minutes to pause and think, looking at choices in hindsight will help you to recognize them in the moment the next time that habit is triggered.
  2. Plan ahead to make healthy choices. If you know that certain situations lead you to make unhealthy choices, develop a plan for what you will do next time so that you can enter the moment prepared.
  3. Talk to your health coach. Behavior support is another powerful way to enhance your Habits of Health. With a health coach in your corner, you can get advice and ask for help when you feel overwhelmed.
  4. Try mindfulness meditation. Meditation being a spiritual activity is a common misconception. Yes, it can be part of a religious practice, but simply taking a few minutes to close your eyes and focus on your breathing is a healthy practice that anyone can incorporate into their lifestyle.

Is mindfulness already a part of your Habits of Health? What works for you, and where could you use a hand?