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We Don’t Ask Ourselves This Question About Healthy Habits Enough

May 20, 2019

We ask ourselves tons of questions about how to support our health every day.

What should I eat for breakfast? Should I go to yoga or boot camp? Should I try a meditation app?

Sometimes the questions on a given day pile up, or we’re faced with a choice to do something that isn’t optimal for us (do I have the cupcake at my coworker’s baby shower or not?). In these instances our healthy routine can become a cause of stress.

Know Your “Why”

That’s the moment to remind ourselves of the one question we don’t ask enough: Why are we doing it in the first place?

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day details of workouts, food, sleep, and everything else, and forget the why. The trouble is, when we forget the why, the other questions become more difficult to navigate.

Here are some of the whys to keeping up healthy habits, in no particular order:

  • Preventing disease
  • Keeping colds and flu away
  • Slowing the aging process
  • Looking great in our clothes
  • Feeling a sense of accomplishment at meeting goals (e.g., running a half marathon or being able to do pull-ups)
  • Having the energy to kick butt at life, be present with our loved ones, and have as much fun as possible

These are our whys; feel free to use this list, use some of it, or throw it out altogether and make your own. Just make sure the reasons are real for you, and stay away from comparisons to others (e.g., I should have a body like [insert air-brushed celebrity here]) or overly general reasons (like, “it’s good for me”).

The Importance of Your “Why”

When you give yourself a set of meaningful reasons why you make the effort to have a healthy lifestyle, you give yourself true motivation for doing it. In the absence of that, all the things you do just pile up on your to-do list and become chores. We don’t know about you, but we have enough “have-tos” in our lives, thanks. But when you remind yourself of the why, it becomes less of a hassle to cook vegetables, to get yourself to that barre class, to carve out 15 minutes to meditate. There’s a reward—actually, several.

The why can also help you stress less when you make a choice that isn’t optimal for your health. Let’s go back to that cupcake example. Picture this: Your whole office is gathered in a conference room for a coworker’s baby shower, and someone has brought in cupcakes. Do you eat one?

When you remember the why, you win no matter what choice you make. Let’s say you have the cupcake. Look at the goals above—is one cupcake going to prevent you from reaching any of them? We’re not talking about a binge or a cupcake every day; it’s one cupcake at a party. If you feel that one cupcake won’t keep you from your whys, you can enjoy it and move on. On the flipside, if you do think that, for whatever reason, having the cupcake will work counter to your whys in a real way, then refusing the cupcake is less painful, because there’s a concrete reason, not just, “Oh, I shouldn’t.”

We’d love to hear what your whys are, if you feel like sharing. Write to us and tell us about it—we may feature yours on social media or in a follow-up story.

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