Seven Questions to Consider When Making Positive Lifestyle Changes
Most people make the decision to make positive lifestyle changes throughout the year. Most people though fail at the first hurdle, with good intentions giving way to a variety of other factors.
Across the UK, one of the most popular positive lifestyle changes currently being adopted (or attempted) by the masses is healthier eating. For some, this means completely and permanently excluding all animal-based products. For others, it simply means cutting down on meat and eating more fruits and vegetables.
In both instances, these are the kinds of lifestyle changes that also support the greater good. Better treatment for animals, a massively reduced carbon footprint and a direct contribution to a sustainable future. But even when you’re fully aware of the good you’re doing - both for yourself and for the environment - you could still find yourself falling back into habits in no time at all.
The Key to Making Positive Lifestyle Changes Stick
As for why it is that positive lifestyle changes are often short lived, reasons vary from one person to the next. Nevertheless, the key for making positive lifestyle changes stick is more or less the same for everyone.
It’s a case of taking the time to reflect on the whole thing, and asking yourself a series of important questions. In doing so, you will quickly work out whether your planned positive lifestyle changes are sustainable, or if the whole thing needs a rethink.
Here’s what you should be asking yourself before making any major alterations to your lifestyle, with positive intent in mind:
1. Who am I doing this for?
First and foremost, there’s one person and one person only that should be at the heart of your good intentions - you. There’s something undeniably admirable about making the decision to give up meat or adopt entirely different eating habits as a show of respect for someone else. For example, a partner who’s vegan and has been attempting to persuade you to give up meat for years - ultimately convincing you to do so at some point.
Unfortunately, attempting to make major lifestyle changes purely or predominantly for someone else is a recipe for disaster. If you’re not doing it for yourself, it means it is something you don’t actually want to do. In which case, it’s not going to be a pleasant experience and is unlikely to prove sustainable.
Making the decision to make positive lifestyle changes should be purely personal in nature, irrespective of the broader benefits of doing so.
2. Why exactly am I doing it?
You should be able to pinpoint a precise and defined reason why you have made the decision to change your lifestyle. As touched upon above, going plant-based is almost always motivated by one or more of the same three things - improved health, sustainability and animal welfare. But unless these are causes you absolutely believe in, it again is unlikely to prove sustainable long-term.
Convincing yourself that your cause is justified could mean taking the time to conduct some rudimentary research. If you’d like to play your part in combating climate change, look into just how devastating the impact of animal agriculture is. If it’s all about your own personal health and wellbeing, take the time to study the potential benefits of reducing your consumption of animal products.
It’s not a case of talking yourself around or persuading yourself to do something you don’t really want to do. It’s simply a case of reminding yourself why you’re doing it and emphasising the importance of doing so.
3. What are my goals?
Having vague objectives in mind when making positive lifestyle choices isn’t the way to go. Simply deciding to cut down on meat, eat more vegetables, lose weight or ‘get healthy’ doesn’t give you anything concrete to work towards. It can be far more productive, motivating and inspiring to set your sights on something specific.
For example, you could set a goal of cutting meat out of one day each week for the next seven consecutive weeks, until a point where you’re eating no meat at all. Or perhaps, aim to reduce your consumption of animal products by at least 50% within the next couple of months. If weight loss is your goal, set a realistic target you can achieve with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
The goals you set should be inspiring, personal to you, realistic, achievable and tied to a deadline. They should also pave the way for well-deserved rewards, if and when you achieve them.
4. Is it realistic and sustainable?
Whether or not your goals are realistic and your intended lifestyle change is sustainable will be determined by a variety of factors. Your general lifestyle, the people you spend your time with, your health and medical history - even your profession.
If you’ve been living a predominantly sedentary lifestyle thus far, aiming to hit the gym for 2 hours each day starting next week is not a realistic goal. If your job regularly puts you in places and predicaments where consuming animal-based product is inevitable, convincing yourself to go 100% vegan could prove counterproductive.
Should you reach the realisation that your goals are unrealistic or unsustainable, this doesn’t mean they should be abandoned entirely. It may simply be a case of tweaking them, acknowledging the fact that even a modest lifestyle change could be better than no lifestyle change at all.
5. What are the main difficulties I’m likely to face?
And more importantly, am I equipped to handle them? When it comes to making positive lifestyle changes involving dietary habits, the vast majority of difficulties tend to be social in nature. At home, you can surround yourself with only the finest foods and ingredients that fall firmly within your new comfort zone. Add a bunch of friends into the mix (or a night out in any capacity) and you’re suddenly bombarded with temptation.
Not to mention, the inevitability of peer pressure from those who aren’t exactly supportive of your goals.
To pretend that challenges like these aren’t going to happen is to set yourself up for an unpleasant surprise. Depending on your lifestyle and how active you are socially, the initial transition could prove to be a non-stop battle against those looking to steer you off the straight and narrow. The more realistic you are about these inevitable eventualities, the easier it becomes to deal with them when they occur.
6. Would a temporary change work better for me?
It’s often the permanence of planned positive lifestyle changes that makes them a daunting prospect. Making the decision to never eat a single animal product again until the day you die is a pretty major decision. As is telling yourself you’ll never eat gluten again out of choice, only consume organic products and so on.
If the prospect of radically changing the way you live your life for life is a little overwhelming, why not consider a temporary lifestyle change? There are two benefits to this - the first of which being the less terrifying nature of a time-limited project. If you see what you’re doing as an experiment that will play out over the course of say six months, it’s way easier to get to grips with than a permanent lifestyle change.
Secondly, you’ll probably find that at some point during this time-limited project, you reach a point where you really do not want to go back to your old ways. You’ll feel better, look better and enjoy better quality of life, so why would you go back?
7. How do I intend to reward myself?
Last but not least, the joy of successfully making positive lifestyle changes is enough of a reward in its own right. So too is the prospect of feeling good, looking good and getting more enjoyment out of each and every day. Nevertheless, it can still be useful to promise yourself something more tangible, as a reward for making your positive habits stick.
For example, you could treat yourself to a well-deserved holiday after successfully abstaining from meat for six months. Or perhaps a more modest weekend break for reducing your consumption of animal-based products by 75% over the course of several weeks.
It’s a case of not only a concrete objective to work towards, but something to reward yourself with when it happens. If it’s something you genuinely want, it’s more likely to be something that motivates you to stick to your guns and make your positive lifestyle change a success.