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Getting Schooled in Healthier Habits: Graduating to Greater Goals

By Martha Michael

Graduate your Health

Some of life’s most important milestones are formally commemorated. In the case of meeting educational goals, it’s typical to don a cap and gown and step across a stage to accept your diploma.

But when you want to raise your standards in other ways, such as improving your health, you still have the hard work component, but you don’t get the pomp and circumstance. There are times when it’s hard to see it through to completion and reap the results without attention to the process.

Stepping Up to Something Higher

Almost everyone falls short of goals and has a blog about the reasons we vow to make positive changes but have trouble sticking with resolutions.

For one thing, we’re products of a culture steeped in circumstances with instant gratification. We’re used to streaming our favorite shows, pulling into drive-thrus, and running into 24-hour markets. And in our homes, some of our most faithful servants are single-cup coffee machines and microwave ovens.

Another behavior that can keep you from advancing to the next level is the tendency to bite off more than you can chew. When you attempt to make sweeping changes in too many aspects of your life at once, it’s a leap that doesn’t always take you to the top. Many times, it’s too overwhelming and you end up taking two steps forward and three steps back.

Where fitness is concerned, it’s a common experience to commit to a workout for a couple of weeks and get discouraged when you haven’t met your target weight. And when life gets busy, you can slip up and fall short of your expectations, which can make you give up altogether. Think about how many New Year’s resolutions involving fitness go unresolved.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to accept that you only need to take one step at a time.

Climbing the Ladder of Success

One of the best tips to maintain forward momentum is to find a good reason to succeed -- making your actions part of a bigger plan. Having a larger goal may keep you from giving up when life gets challenging. For instance, you may take steps to lose weight -- eating right and exercising -- to fit into a dress for a special occasion.

It’s a way to add value to the lifestyle change you make which, in turn, makes it less likely you’ll abandon it.

It’s a good idea to examine what’s going into the improvements you intend to make. The Nerd Fitness blog says there are three parts to forming a habit:

  • Cue - The purpose that triggers the necessary changes
  • Routine - The steps you take
  • Reward - That gain from stepping forward

Your environment is a big factor in your movement toward healthier lifestyle choices and children have little power to affect theirs, says an article in Human Kinetics. They don’t purchase their own food, determine housing, choose neighborhoods, determine bedtimes or schedule appointments.

It helps to have the entire family involved.

“Parents should be encouraged not only to meet their basic obligations but also to become involved in school health programs, home learning activities, health policy, and advocacy,” the article says. “Health behavior change is a collaborative and empowering process.”

Social cognitive theory suggests that learning takes place in social settings, therefore children adopt health behaviors based on what they observe. In other words, a person’s health habits are reliant on the home environment, which means it’s important for parents to take a hard look at the example they’re setting.

Health-Boosting Steps to Success

Depending on what level you’re on when you decide to graduate to a higher level of healthy living, some of your decisions will involve adding positive behaviors, while others may call for eliminating bad habits.

Actions you want to minimize for the best health outcomes include:

  • Smoking tobacco
  • Excessive sitting
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Overspending
  • Overeating

Lifestyle choices that maximize your health include:

  • Adequate sleep
  • Fresh food
  • Social interaction
  • Exercise
  • Chiropractic care

Certain behaviors require daily decisions, such as your diet and sleep habits. For others, you can turn to your calendar -- putting in place a healthy number of events for your social and emotional needs and routine chiropractic care for physical wellness. Seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis has an umbrella effect; they not only assess musculoskeletal function and treat pain, a chiropractor is able to advise you in a range of areas affecting your health from daily habits to fitness goals.

No one goes to the head of the class without doing some work. And when you move from a lifestyle with health challenges to better function and longevity through making changes, you can be proud of your achievement -- even if no one else notices.

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