So you’ve decided you want to get healthier. What are the first steps you think you need to take? If you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking about eating more fruits and vegetables, cutting down on sugar and alcohol, getting more sleep, exercising more consistently, and upping your water intake.
All these things are great habits that will undoubtedly improve your health. But if you’re serious about getting healthy, there’s a huge and vital step you’ve missed out: your mindset. Everything we do, all the big and small decisions we make every day, begin with our brains. That’s why your mind is the first place to look as you embark on a healthier, happier life.
WHAT IS MINDSET AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
In a nutshell, your mindset is a set of beliefs you hold about the world and about yourself. A person’s mindset can be positive, negative, or a mixture of the two. Your mindset is a very powerful thing, and has an impact on how you feel, the way you think, and the way you behave.
A positive mindset is likely to lead to healthier behaviors, stronger self esteem, and even a longer lifespan. A negative mindset, on the other hand, comes with a greater risk of mental health struggles such as depression and anxiety.
HOW TO BUILD A HEALTHIER LIFE WITH YOUR MINDSET
Now you know why your mindset is so important, how can you go about cultivating a positive one that will help transform your health? Here are four of our top tips to help you on your way to feeling great, starting with your brain.
KNOW YOUR “WHY”
Knowing that you want to get healthier matters, but knowing why is even more important. Identify the reason behind your goals, and use that as a North Star to guide your actions and habits.
For example, perhaps you want to get fit so that you have more energy to play with your children. Or practice yoga every day in order to reduce back pain. Or train for a marathon to raise money for your favorite charity.
Your “why” is extremely personal, and it’s what will drive you forward when things get difficult.
According to Carol S. Dweck, a psychologist and the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, some people have a fixed mindset and others have a growth mindset. With a fixed mindset, you believe that certain qualities (such as abilities or personality traits) are innate and immoveable. With a growth mindset, you believe that skills can be cultivated and that hard work and effort are more important than natural ability.
Actively choosing to build a growth mindset means accepting your own imperfections and embracing the idea that you’re on a path of growing and learning. What matters isn’t doing everything perfectly. What matters is doing your best and making small, consistent steps forward.
LOVE THE PROCESS
When it comes to health and fitness, the biggest mistake people make is thinking in terms of temporary fixes. The problem with these extreme measures is that they’re unnatural and unsustainable. That’s why most people who go on short-term crash diets ultimately regain the weight back and more besides.
Instead, try to understand health as a lifelong journey and not a single destination. If you hate what you’re doing, you won’t stick with it. So instead of forcing yourself to eat fruits and vegetables you don’t like because you believe they’re healthy, try lots of different fresh foods until you find the ones you love. The same goes for exercise. If you hate running, don’t run—try swimming, hiking, dancing, or cycling instead.
Looking after your health should be a joy, not a punishment.
CONNECT WITH OTHER PEOPLE
Building a positive mindset and a healthier, happier life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s vital to connect with other people who can support and uplift you in your journey.
This might include joining a sports club or team, or enlisting a friend as an accountability partner. It might include talking to your partner or family about your goals and challenges. It might also include working with professionals, such as a dietician, a personal trainer, or even a therapist.
The strongest and most resilient people know that the key to living positively is not to try to do everything alone. So do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it—and remember to offer the same support to others in return.
MINDSET + ACTION = LASTING CHANGE
Of course, mindset isn’t magic by itself. It has to be accompanied by action if you want to make lasting change. The great thing about a positive mindset is that it makes you more likely to take those healthy actions and stick with those healthy habits. And small habits, done consistently, are what leads to lasting change.