When people tell me about their current wellness plan, they often tell me about what they should be doing. I should… run more, sit at the computer less, eat more fiber, eat less junk, get out with friends more, sleep less, sleep more, stress less, get to church more, complain less, meditate more…and so forth. I’m sure you can, more or less, fill in your own shoulds. I started wondering how authenticity, as in, being who you are, could help us with wellness behaviors.
We know that repressing how you feel is not good for your health. Similarly, trying to do things that you really don’t want to do is probably not going to be great for your health. It may also be why some things you put in your wellness plan are so difficult to achieve.
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I'm not suggesting that you embrace your inner couch potato if you don’t exercise enough, or eat whatever feels right to you if you have a weight problem. I am suggesting that you look at what you’re trying to do and ask yourself if it feels authentic to you. I know, to some exercise never feels authentic. To others passing up the dessert never feels authentic. This leaves us in a bind unless we re-think authenticity.
I’m suggesting a different way to view authenticity. If you love to run, run. If you don’t love to run, find something else aerobic. If you don’t love to lift weights, don’t do it. But maybe you’d love lifting you own weight. You could try yoga. These are decisions you must make about your wellness plan based on your true feelings. Ask yourself what decisions you might make to honor your feelings, or truths.
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Some people love to sleep more. Some love to sleep less. Some prefer staying up and reading or watching movies. But sleep is necessary and it’s good to honor the amount of sleep you need to function well the next day. So you may need a rule about reading before sleeping that involves keeping an eye on the clock. It would honor your truth about your need for sleep, and perhaps compromise on your reading and movie truths. You can go through the truth or compromise exercise on everything that’s tough in your wellness plan.
Your wellness plan must have rules or routines about eating, exercise, sleep, stress management, socializing, spirituality and work. You have to ask yourself what your truths are about your needs in these areas. You have to think about what behaviors would meet those needs in an authentic way. You’ll find that trying wellness behaviors that meet your needs, and are also authentically you, is going to be a lot easier, more or less, than following the shoulds.