We choose not only mental health but our physical health as well. We choose our backaches. We choose our headaches. We choose our tiredness. We choose our allergies.
The body achieves what the mind believes. Telling myself, at the first sign of a slight pain, “I feel a headache coming in” usually results in a headache. “My stomach is upset” results in a trip to the bathroom. Instead, maybe a little ginger ale and a little rest…I might be able to avoid the stomach issues.
Are you aware of how many decisions you make in a typical day? I bet it’s a lot higher than you think. We make choices every hour, from what to wear, what to eat, how to handle a conversation, what birthday gift to buy dad, plus other choices you’re not even aware of. A Cornell University study found that people made 220 more food-related decisions than they had estimated.
We may suffer from decision fatigue. Basically, the more decisions we make, the less likely we are to make good ones including, of course, fitness and nutrition. After working all day, and making dozens of work-related decisions, you know you should go to the gym and eat a healthy dinner. Instead, you decide to watch Netflix and order a pizza.
It’s true that choices are most difficult for those who fear the outcome of their choices. Big decisions, like marriage or changing jobs, require a lot of pondering. Most small decisions will not make a big difference in the end. Where you find yourself agonizing is very often the window to the real issue, disguised as a difficult choice.
One tool to help you make right decisions is to make your daily decisions the night before. Decide to work out tomorrow morning, and don’t wait to make that decision when the alarm goes off tomorrow morning at 6:00. Your brain will definitely choose to spend extra time in bed! The same holds true for packing a healthy lunch and preparing for the next night’s dinner. If you make those daily choices ahead of time, you’re more likely to complete them.
When we’re consumed with daily worries and to-do lists, it’s not easy to find the clarity and focus to make important decisions. For me, I try to set aside periods of mindfulness through meditation or relaxation techniques. According to research published in Psychological Science, just 15 minutes of daily-focused breathing meditation can help you harness the cognitive energy to make smart choices. Meditating while walking can help get rid of brain clutter and relieve stress, allowing better decisions to be made.
It’s important to turn your decisions into commitments. When you decide to cook meals at home four nights a week, commit to it. Instead of deciding to work out every other morning, just decide that you’ll do that every week, and commit to it.
If you find yourself stuck on making a mundane decision (should I wear the pink running shoes or the white running shoes?), ask yourself if the decision will ultimately affect your health, happiness, or goals. If the answer is no, just move on. You’ll want to spend valuable mental energy on more important decisions.
If you want to try meditating, you can do it for as little as a minute at a time. You can find some helpful exercises when you download an app called CALM. Put this app on your phone and you’ll thank me later.