Add Habits to Crowd Out Poor Behaviors

Lent is a season of sacrifice, but maybe it's time for a new spin. 

Most people look to give up chocolate or coffee or maybe even try to quit smoking. It's not to say that giving up something is not a good strategy for positive change. I'm just saying that it might be more worth your time and a deeper sacrifice to change lifestyle over the 40 day period by crowding out bad behaviors, not simply giving them up.

Healthy habits inherently push aside bad behaviors. When you're eating salad, you're not eating cookies. When you fill up on healthy soup, you're not reaching into the cubboards for a post-meal snack.

Instead of disease, let's spread a new pandemic of Chronic Wellness. 

What is Chronic Wellness?

Chronic wellness looks to maintain and promote health as opposed to treat, screen for, and manage disease conditions.

Chronic wellness cares more about how you are functioning from moment to moment as opposed to whether you're within or outside of "normal". This isn't pie-in-the-sky health advice, function is measureable.

Chronic disease practices watchful waiting until a disease process is present. Once present, we have created an entire system about diagnosing it, treating it, and then paying for that treatment.

The problem is disease does not care if you give it a label. Disease is a healthy adaptation of the body in response to stress you're putting on it. It is derived from patterns of behavior and rarely single events. 

  • Unhealthy stress leads to chronic disease.
  • Healthy stress such as exercise, will promote chronic wellness.

How Do You Catch Chronic Wellness?

You catch chronic wellness by identifying a goal and matching it with a larger value in life. For instance, maybe you lost a close family member when they were young from an unexpected heart attack. Maybe you see your grandparents struggle with mobility and self-care and you vow that you will not let the same fate affect you or your parents. Whatever your goal, it's time to cut through the noise of wellness, and break it down into its individual pieces.

Identify barriers to why you haven't been exercising? Maybe you feel you just don't have the time to workout because of your work schedule. Maybe you realize that the time constraint is just a perception, and not based in reality. Maybe what you really need to do is make it a goal to back a duffle bag with your gym gear so you have it when you get out of work, or before you go in. 

Maybe you're not eating healthy because you're too tempted to eat out a little too often during the week. This may be because of the perceived time it takes to plan a meal. So a small, yet effective goal may be to wash and pre-chop vegetables right when you get back from the grocery store - maybe you make a big pot of soup at the beginning of the week with last week's leftovers.

Don't believe me? Fine. But this is where chronic wellness begins its infection.

You see chronic wellness isn't about taking on major goals and accomplishing them like a Thursday night reality TV show, it's about identifying human barriers and working incrementally to bring habits into life.

Behavioral psychology shows that small goals build skillsets and psychological momentum to take on bigger goals.

Think big, act small.

A Viral Pandemic?

Chronic wellness is spreading fast. Look around. It's likely that you've seen 2-3 gyms open up in your area. You may have seen the "healthy" section at the grocery store double, or triple in size. You might have seen a Whole Foods open up in your neighborhood or a Trader Joe's.

Beyond commercial groceries, you're likely seeing farmer's markets and local farming initiatives like community supported agriculture begin to mainstream. Even urban farming is beginning to take root.

While the old ways of thinking still permeate our society, they are largely institutionally driven. With social media, institutional power structures are losing merit and their hold on information distribution. 

The power is being shifted to the small and lean, to the conscious and green, and in the echoing voice of the consumer.

Chronic Wellness is here to stay, invite it into your life this lent season.