Measure What Matters: How to Create a Sustainable Wellness Plan
We are busy people. From sunup to sundown (and sometimes beyond), many of us are on the go with little extra breathing room. In a single day, we can be a parent, partner, and professional; we can play the role of a chef, maid, caregiver, dog walker, chauffeur, friend, therapist, and life coach. It is this level of busyness, which is often accompanied by some stress, that makes trendy, strict diets, fitness routines, and wellness plans that offer fast results so appealing. But are they really maintainable?
Is it better to be hangry all the time, physically exhausted from too much high-intensity interval training, and constantly battling disappointment because you once again fell off the wellness wagon? We may be going about this all wrong. It’s time we shift the narrative and measure what really matters.
How to Measure What Matters
Our wellness plan should be as dynamic and adaptable as we are. It should be customized to our individual uniqueness, which includes interests, preferences, and goals. It shouldn’t be filled with ”no’s,” “don’ts”, and “can’ts.” Wellness isn’t about guilt, failure, punishment, extreme restrictions, or ardent rules. There needs to be some wiggle room and flexibility. When we try to adhere to a plan that is so detailed and inflexible, we are setting ourselves up for frustration and possibly failure.
What really matters, first and foremost, is that you are willing to try and make changes in your lifestyle that will benefit your health in both the short and long term. Creating new habits takes time, and what works for someone else might not work for you. The key to a sustainable and successful wellness plan is moderation and customization. This is not to say that different types of diets and fitness plans that are already defined should be avoided, but rather that you don’t have to pick a singular and strict approach. Getting healthy shouldn’t feel like a chore or something you dread doing because to sustain your health in the long run, you are going to need to ultimately maintain these healthy lifestyle practices (allowing for changes as your life evolves, of course) from here on out.
What matters most, in the end, is your health and happiness. How you obtain and maintain health and happiness is a personal pursuit.
5 Tips for Creating a Successful and Sustainable Wellness Plan
Decide What Matters to You
What are your wellness goals, both short and long-term? Having an idea of what you want to work toward will help you better create an actionable plan to achieve those goals. It is helpful to jot down some milestones you’d like to see yourself reach. Setting small and regular milestones will also help you stay on track and have the opportunity to celebrate your wins along the way (which will further motivate you to keep going).
Measure Your Baseline
You can start by measuring your physical baseline, which can include metrics such as weight, waistline, and current clothing size. Your physical baseline should also include an assessment of factors such as the regularity of your digestion, the condition of your skin, how often you feel any pain, discomfort, or bloating, and what your sleep cycle looks like. Establishing your mental baseline is significant too. Taking note of how often you feel anxious, tired, and stressed, as well as ranking your ability to handle challenges and stay on task, is important in order to be able to notice and note changes as you begin implementing your new wellness plan. To really get a current snapshot of your biological health, an at-home health intelligence test kit can provide those insightful metrics so that you can make comparisons and chart progress along the way.
As changes are often subtle, a baseline will help you better notice those subtle changes, which in turn can inspire more motivation to continue forward. On the flip side, having a baseline can also help you notice any negative changes or lack of changes, which will help you make necessary adjustments to your wellness plan.
Focus on the Wins
Many of us are our worst critics—but have you ever stopped to wonder why this is? Believe it or not, we are hardwired to allocate more focus on the negatives than the positives. This adaption was helpful back when we were hunter-gathers and needed to remember how to avoid dangerous situations and solve challenging problems in order to survive (i.e., what to do when you encounter a certain type of predator). The negativity bias helped us pay attention to, learn from, and use negative information to our advantage. (2) While this bias still serves a purpose, it also can cause us to focus more on negatives that aren’t directly linked to our survival.
Fortunately, you can rewire your brain to pay more attention to the positives than the negatives. This shift is advantageous to more successful outcomes on your wellness journey. Training your brain to focus more on the wins than the failures will eventually become second nature; it just takes practice. And this practice comes in the form of reminding yourself to focus on all successes. The more you acknowledge and celebrate your wins, the easier it will become in time.
It is inevitable that on your wellness journey, you will slip up, make a mistake, backtrack or fall off track; that is totally okay and completely human. No one’s journey is perfect; in fact, imperfection is acceptable. Instead of focusing on any failures, you might have, use them as learning opportunities. And when you achieve a win (big or small), celebrate it!
Ask Yourself, “How Can I Keep This Up Long Term?”
When deciding on a nutrition or fitness plan, or even a new habit, it is essential to ask yourself, “Can I keep this up long term?” If the answer is a hard no or even probably not, it would be wise to reframe the question to “How can I keep this up long term?” What resources and support (time, people, new information, etc.) do I need to make this a life changing moment and not another failed effort to make self improvement changes that stick. Examine what you are thinking about doing in terms of sustainability.
Setting inspiring goals and then establishing realistic expectations is important when creating a wellness plan that you intend to maintain. It is also fine, though, to undergo a series of trials and errors to find what works for you. According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to cement a new habit or practice. (3) So, patience and perseverance is key.
There is no better time than the present to start prioritizing your health. And with the holidays right around the corner, getting started now will help set you up for success through the end of this year and into the next. One more piece of advice, as you begin this new chapter of wellness, start small and really work on enjoying the journey. All those little wins will add up quickly. Acknowledge and create a celebration of each win in your own way as you go. There is no need to rush as there is no finish line—wellness is a lifelong and ever-evolving journey.
Science of improvement: Establishing measures: IHI. Institute for Healthcare Improvement. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2022, from https://www.ihi.org/resources/Pages/HowtoImprove/ScienceofImprovementEstablishingMeasures.aspx
Norris , C. J. (n.d.). The negativity bias, revisited: Evidence from neuroscience measures and an individual differences approach. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved September 18, 2022, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17470919.2019.1696225
Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2009, July 16). How are habits formed: Modelling Habit Formation ... - wiley online library. Wiley Online Library. Retrieved September 18, 2022, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ejsp.674