The 17th annual National Women's Health Week kicks off on Mother's Day, May 8, and is celebrated until May 14, 2016. The goal is to empower women to make their health a priority.
What better time than now to celebrate women's health and commit to making a change for the better?
Some small changes you could explore during this time could be to add more produce to your grocery shopping list and basket, spend more time outdoors and less time in front of the screen, join a fun exercise class, take a cooking class, start a morning gratitude routine, or make that doctor's appointment you've been ignoring for a while.
If you find yourself stuck between what you want to do and actually doing it, these five tips can help propel you out of idle and into action.
Start small and build as you go. Start with molehills, not mountains. Realistic goals are key for success, but often we want change to happen yesterday. Feelings of urgency and desperation, however, often lead to unrealistic action plans and set us up for failure. Think progress, not perfection. Slow and steady wins the race.
How do you know if your action plan is realistic? Simple. If you feel overwhelmed, dial it back and rethink the plan.
Be mindful. Most of us go about our days on auto-pilot, doing what we usually do out of pure habit. That means we aren't truly aware of what we're thinking or even doing. The practice of mindfulness, or of being present to our immediate experience without judgment, allows us to focus on the who, what, where, when, why of our behaviors. That helps us figure out what really needs changing.
One way to practice mindfulness is to regularly tune into your breathing. It's an easy way to be in the here and now. This breathing meditation video can help you learn to focus on your breathing.
Practice talking to yourself positively. Often we speak to ourselves harshly in an attempt to motivate ourselves. But instead, negative self-talk keeps us stuck. Why? Desperate thoughts lead to desperate feelings, which can drive impulsive and unsupportive actions. If your self-talk defaults to bashing yourself, then it's time to change your tactic.
Research shows we are what we think. Every thought has the power to change our biochemistry and hormones by creating new neural pathways in the brain. This fact is either freeing or daunting, depending on how you look at it, but the good news is that we can change our minds - literally.
Replace negativity with compassion. Practice positive thoughts, such as 'I may not have met my goal today, but I'm moving in the right direction,' or any other affirmation that feels comforting and authentic. This simple strategy can begin to shift the lens with which we see ourselves, which is key for getting unstuck.
Welcome a new way. When the desire for change beckons, we may focus on what we don't want to let go of, instead of focusing on all the good that will be gained. It's helpful to list the pros and cons of what you want to change. Hopefully the pros outweigh the cons, but even if they don't, seeing them written on paper will materialize them and can help motivate you.
Reach out. When we're stuck, we often shy away from others due to shame, fear of being a burden, or simply not having the energy to reach out. But it's important to get the support you need for making that first (or second or tenth) step out of idle.
An ally who encourages you can be very helpful along the way. Think about whom you can reach out to - whether it's a friend, family member or professional.
Use these five simple steps as reminders to commit to your own health during Women's Health Week, the month of May, and even the entire year.
As George Bernard Shaw so bluntly put it,
"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
Embrace the change, and celebrate the beauty of being a woman one small change at a time.
Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD is president and co-owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a women's retreat for healthy weight & well-being that pioneered the non-diet approach to health and healthy weights over 40 years ago.