I’m writing this on July 4th, as I sit in a local coffee shop in Charlestown. I’m inspired by thoughts of the meaning of today; this idea of claiming “independence.” Certainly, the challenges we had as a new country in 1776 were very different than the challenges we face today. The challenges we faced as individuals were different as well.
But the theme of “claiming independence” is a common one. You can call it “breaking free” or “breaking an unhealthy habit” but the idea is the same. You take a stand. You draw a line in the sand. You decide that you’ve had enough and this is it.
Here are some things that might inspire you to claim independence from:
- Worrying about money: The events of the past few years in the economy have changed how many of us think about money. Gone are the times when you’d spend without thinking and gone are the days of job security. This can create panic and anxiety around money. Rather than worrying, take action. Make a plan, talk to a financial advisor, start an automatic savings account. You’ll feel better because you’re taking control.
- Getting on the scale every day: Our weight changes every day and with varying activities. Any runner knows that after even a short run, your weight will be less. Many of us use weight as a way to set our moods and it can make us feel good or bad. If you’re trying to lose weight, weigh yourself weekly to see what progress you’ve made. If you feel good about your weight now, use it as another factor of your overall health but try to hold off on weighing yourself every day.
- Letting comments and posts on social media affect your moods: Ah, Facebook and Twitter! What did we ever do without them? Yes, they are here to stay but watch your moods as you’re using them. Ever feel hurt by a post or comment? Ever obsess about the context of someone’s “check-in” or picture? While Facebook is great for staying in touch with friends as well as making new ones, resist the urge to take things personally or too seriously.
- Taking things personally: Along with the comment above about social media, try to avoid taking things personally in general. The wonderful book, “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz explains this concept in details. Basically, everything people do is about them and not about you. Once you realize that, you’ll be free to move through life with less stress and drama.
- Television, especially the news: I’ve been on a news moratorium (via television) since May 1st and I can’t tell you how much more relaxing my mornings (in particular) are. I read news on line when I want to and remarkably, avoiding the screaming voices of newscasters is a large part of what has decreased my stress. But, along with news, decrease your television time in general and add in some other activities of value. Reading, writing or journaling, spending time outdoors and with family and friends are all great alternatives.
- Unhealthy relationships: Be aware of your energy level and feelings when you’re with certain people. If you notice you feel tired, frustrated, angry, hurt or anxious when you’re done with a visit, it’s time to re-evaluate that relationship. It’s for your health.
- Processed food and fast food: These days, there is so much information about the unhealthy affects of fast food and processed food, many people have an automatic “guilt meter” that goes off when they eat anything like this. Sure, sometimes it can’t be helped; you’re at the airport or on a cross-country trip and the only thing available is a drive-thru. But, other than those circumstances, be aware of what you eat and see its affect on how you feel. The better you eat, the better you’ll feel and look.
- Exercise obsession: The good news is we now have more ways to exercise than ever before. The not-so-good-news is it’s creating a trend of exercise obsession. If you feel guilty on a day when you’re not running, taking a yoga class, at the gym or sweating in any other way, then you might want to re-evaluate your relationship with exercise. Exercise is way to stay healthy and love your body. It’s not meant to be a punishment for what you eat, how you look or what your ego says about your body. If you think you’re headed in this direction, take a few days off and see how you feel.
- Negativity: We all know that person that is always positive. We’re friends with them, we’re connected to them on Facebook and see their daily posts where they trumpet the good news of the day. While you might be irritated by people who seem to always be upbeat, think about the alternative. If you consider yourself someone who always sees the glass as half full, make an effort to look at things the other way. It might take some effort in the beginning, but having a positive outlook on life can improve your health.
- Inactivity: While we don’t want to be obsessed with exercise, we do need to move. We also need to move often. How often is up to you, but take a moment to evaluate your level of inactivity and if you think it’s a bit high, start replacing those times of TV or web surfing with moving!
Use the theme of July 4th to set a tone for the rest of your year!