We are constantly consuming. We consume information, products, food and messages from others and society. In fact, a recent study calculated that Americans took in five times as much information every day as they did in 1986-the equivalent of 174 newspapers. Yikes! We see women in magazines, poreless and photoshopped to produce an idea of perfection. We see advertisements for a fad diet promising happiness if we only make 12 payments of $49.99 and vow to eat like a platypus for the rest of our lives. Then when we don’t add up to these ideals, or perhaps we break our commitment to eat like a platypus, we feel like we are not enough. We rationalize that we must be a failure, unable to better our lives and frustrated with ourselves and our bodies. Sadly, we don’t question what made us feel that way in the first place: an unreal expectation.
Everything we consume becomes a part of us: a part of our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and the world around us, and our bodies. Some of the elements that we consume are nourishing, some questionable and some just downright harmful to our well-being. Ultimately, it is our job to wade through it all and learn to be selective of what we consume by listening to our bodies, our feelings and our minds. We can take back our power to choose because the truth is that we do have many choices about what we consume and how. Of course, we cannot control that every few miles there is a McDonald’s which seems to entice us into ordering a double cheeseburger just by glancing at the golden arches; nor that major news stations broadcast the most sensational and usually devastating news. But, we can control how we intentionally choose to live our lives by defining who we are, what we value and what we will say “no” or “yes” to.
There many things we can do to enhance our lives and make choices that reflect what’s best for us. To do this we need awareness, a plan, the commitment and support. In this blog post, we offer eight ways to nourish yourself and your life so that you can begin to live intentionally, feel good and cultivate a sense of wholeness.
‘I Want to Break Free’: Eight Tips for Breaking Free and Making Intentional Choices
Set an Intention
Setting an intention or setting a goal allows our brains a chance to get creative and create a pathway to success. Once the pathway to success becomes more clear, it’s time to commit to taking action, be accountable to another for reaching our goals and provide our accountability buddy with regular updates. A health coach at the Center for Healthy Living on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus is most definitely an accountability partner and can be your “guide on the side” as you set attainable goals.
Nourish Your Body
Commit to consuming more fruits, vegetables and water. If you’re feeling really fancy, go organic! Organic food contains lower amounts of pesticides, is fresher due to lack of preservatives and organic meats and milks are higher in certain nutrients. To start, make it a goal to have at least one fruit in the morning and one colorful vegetable (sorry, white potatoes!) at lunch and dinner. The more colorful a food naturally is, the more vitamins and antioxidants it contains. Your body will thank you!
Commit to consuming positive media. Listen to uplifting music, a motivational CD or your favorite inspiring podcast on the way to work. Also, consider reducing your time on social media sites like Facebook as it can cause you more mental drain than good according to a recent study. Have a good laugh by watching funny animal videos or this kid who just wants his mom to listen.
Meditation gets a bad rep due to its iconic popularity in the 60s and 70s thanks to The Beatles. However, meditation as a practical means for relaxing and calming our nerves is on the rise and now being noticed for its health benefits. There are many different kinds of meditation and ways to do it, but all that is required to meditate is you and an intention to notice physical sensations as they occur for a set period of time.
To practice, find a quiet room where you can have five minutes to yourself. Sit or lay in a comfortable position with your back straight, set a timer and close your eyes. Focus on your breath by noticing the air entering and leaving your nostrils or by becoming aware of the way your chest and stomach rises and falls. It’s really that simple! The most common misconception about meditation is that in order to be successful, we must not think about anything and have a “blank” mind. However, our only job during meditation is to come back to the breath when we notice our mind is running the show.
If this type of meditation doesn’t fit your personality try a voice-guided meditation which can walk you through each step. FragrantHeart.com is a great place to get free voice-guided meditations.
Connect with Others
Connecting with others in a meaningful way can increase happiness, reduce stress and help you to live longer. That means you, too, introverts! Schedule time in advance to call, text or share a meal with a friend or loved one. Volunteering is another great way to connect with others while using your time in a meaningful way. Signing up for a class or club can also be a great way to meet new people and make new friends.
Drink More Water
Drinking enough water per day should make your urine clear or light yellow. Recommendations for daily water intake amounts differ, but one way to estimate how much you may need is by dividing your weight in pounds in half and then using that number as the amount of ounces to drink per day (150 pounds / 2 = 75 ounces per day). If you are nowhere near that amount, then don’t fret! Just increase your daily intake by one glass or one bottle of water until you are ready to increase again or consistently have clear or light yellow urine.
Be Financially Aware
Feeling in control of your finances can greatly reduce your stress levels and help you manage unexpected life events and fees. Purdue’s retirement partner, Fidelity, can help you save money and plan for retirement in a variety of ways. For instance, you can get your personal finance picture, do a budget checkup, find out where you stand for retirement as well as learn how to build fun into your spending plan!
Being in nature can reenergize us and help reduce stress by “clearing our minds.” According to Colorado State University, nature allows the brain to relieve itself of excess activity and produces feelings of “relaxed wakefulness” which may explain why the race for the corner office with a view is so appealing!
To sum up, don’t leave your life up to chance and be swept away by the latest trend or ideal. Become an intentional consumer and commit to providing yourself the best life possible by creating a plan, gaining support and committing to the process of change. Get excited and get back to the basics! The life you want is on the other side of “I can do it!” It’s your life, now make it happen.
Blog post written by Katie, a member of the One to One Wellness Health Coaching Team at The Center for Healthy Living on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus.