Most people would agree that the importance of good health cannot be overstated. Yet, health is typically evaluated as a function of it's relative absence. Diagnoses-- in both physical and mental health-- relate to the presence of some pernicious factors that currently impede health. Perhaps this is because, unlike other animals, human beings pursue lifestyles that contain health-threatening habits. They access relentless thoughts that tempt them to abuse themselves; then succumb to those cravings by acting them out. Moreover, in the course of negotiating their lives, humans encounter stressors that lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. These feelings, in turn, inhibit useful, productive behaviors. And faced with feeling stuck, people then believe the only remaining choice is further self-abuse!.
If you had just purchased a six million dollar thoroughbred, would you fill it full of alcohol and tobacco the night before a major race? Yet, with little or no provocation, we frequently turn to these and other health-defying substances and habits. In effect, human beings frequently believe that when they feel bad, the way to feel better is to make themselves feel worse temporarily...and then learn to enjoy the feeling! A major concern, in this regard, is how people can learn to manage health risks in order to lead healthier lives. The essence of healthy living involves not only the avoidance of bad health habits, but the acquisition and maintenance of good ones.
A particularly useful way to master any skill is to first find someone who already has, then learn how this was accomplished. Those who have successfully mastered living healthy lives are able to control the cravings that would otherwise threaten their health by "quieting" their bodies and minds. Quieting refers to dissociating from inner thoughts-- pictures, sounds, feelings-- that would ordinarily lead to engaging in health-threatening acts. It is a way of controlling cravings for things that are bad while simultaneously experiencing better choices. A by-product of inner quiet is a feeling of optimism for having experienced success at selecting good health instead of bad, and thus, a heightened sense of self-esteem. These, in turn, become resources which increase the likelihood of making better choices in the future. Thus, learning to live a healthy lifestyle involves two basic steps: turning off the noise and tuning in better choices. Selecting good health, though a choice, is a process that may require both time and professional encouragement. However, here are a couple of suggestions for getting started.
"Quieting" or dissociating internally may be accomplished accordingly: 1- Relax the musculature of your body. This will help replace negative, tempting, counterproductive thoughts with useful, healthy ones. Make yourself comfortable, close your eyes, breathe slowly, steadily from your diaphragm-- not your chest. Imagine your- self becoming heavier and warmer. Think, "I am a heavy, hollow rock...quiet, hollow, heavy." 2- Access positive visualizations. Begin by imagining familiar objects or activities in your life. Involve as many visual qualities as possible-- color, shape, brightness, movement. Then while relaxing, visualize personal or career choices. Imagine confidently, successfully engaging in good dietary habits, eating slowly, in moderation, and avoiding tempting foods high in fat and cholesterol. Listen to your inner voice acknowledging the better choice as feelings of satisfaction and comfort arise within you. Picture yourself exercising-- walking, swimming, running, weight-training-- at least three times per week. Tune into the sounds of yourself breathing more easily. Wrap one hand behind the other wrist and take your pulse while resting both elbows on your abdomen. Breathe diaphragmatically so those elbows move with each breath. Try to match your heart- rate to your healthy, slowed breathing. While relaxing with feelings of comfort and strength, see hear and feel yourself negotiating your daily activities calmly, thoughtfully, avoiding, wherever possible, stressful feelings; and smoke and alcohol.