Okay, I'll admit that I'm a creature of habit -- it generally works for me. But looking back, I can identify a few notable times that highlight the need for change. For example, when I turned 30 and realized I was dating the same (unavailable and poorly-suited-to-me) man over and over for the past 10 years... a story for another time though.
Change is essential to your growth and health. At this point in my life, I know that I don't want to just get by; most of the time, my patients don't either. Exploring your habits is a great (sometimes tough) first step. To me, patterns and habits are things that we've been practicing and gotten good at. Because they're so ingrained in our lives, it's hard to see the negative results.
Rather than advocating a quick fix, I encourage patients to change lifestyle patterns that will improve their health, vitality, and energy. You name it and it's fair game for us to work on -- food, sleep, stress, work habits, alcohol, exercise. Rather than thinking you have to stop doing something, think of change as a new way of doing something. If a habit is not working, begin practicing a new pattern. We all know this can be frustrating. I've lost sight of a goal and lapsed back to my old behavior more than a few times. Don't get discouraged though! Think of a mistake as a reminder that you need more practice.
I recently saw a patient who was struggling with her weight. She loved cooking. Every night while making dinner, she drank a bottle of wine. This sounded like a lot to me, so I looked up the calorie count. The average bottle of wine has about 750 calories -- that's half to a third of the recommended daily amount for women. My patient was trying hard to lose weight but was unknowingly sabotaging her efforts.
We were at an impasse. My patient was deeply distressed that she hadn't realized the root of her problem but also upset about giving up her nightly ritual. In my experience, it doesn't work to just tell a patient to stop -- you need to collaborate. We explored the reason behind the pattern. Was it the feeling she had when drinking? Was it just a habit? Was she stressed and felt that wine relaxed her?
Bottom line: cooking and drinking was a habit with a negative effect. Eventually she decided that the ritual wasn't worth the negative impact om her health. Over the first month, she weaned down to one glass a night. By the second month, she had lost 10 pounds and was sleeping better. Were there nights when she drank more than a glass? Sure. But her overall her effective practice was improving.
I encourage you to explore your daily habits -- anything from what you're eating or who you're dating. Are you making conscious choices or just going along for the ride? Figuring this out and making one small change can set you on the right path. A positive, inquisitive mentality is the beginning of a domino effect on your life. Push over the first domino and see what happens to your health, energy and confidence. You'll be glad you did!
Yoga offers a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/yoga-heart-health_b_900621.html" target="_hplink">myriad of wellness benefits:</a> flexibility, balance, centeredness, strength, mindfulness and others. Yoga is a great option for aging bodies, as it promotes working within your own comfort zone. Postures and sequences range from gentle and relaxing to more intensive for advanced yogis.
Another way to promote flexibility and overall health is incorporating some simple stretches into your daily routine, be it at home, at the gym or even outdoors. Stretching prevents injury, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/24/yoga-stretching-back-pain_n_1029014.html" target="_hplink">can relieve back pain</a> and boosts energy. Note: It's important to stretch properly to avoid injury. Check out some good <a href="http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/healthtool-basic-stretches" target="_hplink">examples of stretches here</a> and these <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/08/stretching-mistakes_n_892444.html#s304603&title=Not_Doing_It" target="_hplink">common stretching mistakes</a>.
Biking is a great low-impact, cardiovascular workout, not to mention it's a lot of fun. There are a few ways to incorporate biking into your routine. Joy rides in your free time are always a good option -- alone or with a group. You could consider joining a local bike group or riding to nearby destinations instead of taking the car. <a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/456032-stationary-bikes-and-health-benefits/" target="_hplink">Stationary bikes</a> also have great health benefits. Already a cycler? Here's how to get <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/30/6-ways-to-get-more-benefi_n_868670.html#s285033&title=Get_in_tune" target="_hplink">more benefit from your bike ride</a>.
One of the most <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/walking/HQ01612" target="_hplink">beneficial exercises</a> is something humans have been doing for centuries: walking. Simple modifications to your routine, like parking further away and walking the extra distance or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can really add up to boost your overall health. For an even greater benefit, take brisk walks that get your heart rate up.
<a href="http://pilates.about.com/od/whatispilates/a/WhatIsPilates.htm" target="_hplink">Pilates</a> is another low-impact exercise that's ideal for aging bodies. It's similar to yoga but puts more emphasis on gaining control and balance of the body by strengthening the core muscles. Pilates can be done in a class or at home with a video or other guide. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/paola-bassanese/keep-fit-with-classical-p_b_987756.html" target="_hplink">This piece</a> offers a great run-down of the activity, along with images of some classic pilates stretches and workouts.
Tennis is a classic sport, well-loved for being fun and <a href="http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/exercise/tennis.aspx" target="_hplink">great for you</a>. It's a strong aerobic workout and helps keep you agile, especially important as you get older. Tennis is also a very social activity -- great for the body, mind and spirit!
Swimming is easy on the body and is also one of the most comprehensive workouts, hitting <a href="http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/fitness-basics-swimming-is-for-everyone" target="_hplink">all the major muscle groups</a>: shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips and glutes. If you're getting serious about swimming, it's important to learn proper techniques, but even free-styling in the local pool or outdoors in the summer is a great way to exercise.
Dancing is one of those activities that doesn't feel like working out, but is an incredible <a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/91589-fitness-benefits-dance/" target="_hplink">aerobic exercise</a>. It's a good option for those that want more physical activity but don't like the gym or in the winter when it's harder to get outdoors. There are a bunch of styles to choose from: ballroom dancing, contra dancing, salsa, ballet, tap, country and others.
As the body ages, running and jogging can take a toll on the joints, knees or back and potentially cause injury. An elliptical cross-training machine is an alternative to running, which still gets your heart rate up but at a <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/elliptical-machines/AN01620" target="_hplink">lower impact</a>.
You can take a simple walk to the next level by bringing weights along to build strength in your arms and boost the cardio benefits. Strength-building techniques like pushups, squats and lunges are easy to do at home or can be squeezed into buckets of free time throughout the day.