This past week, I was talking to a friend who had just broken up with his long-time girlfriend. It was a relationship he had expected to bring him marriage, children, and long-lasting happiness, so you can see how traumatic it was to find out it was over so fast.
He was understandably depressed about it and asked me what he should do to feel better. I asked him what he was doing day-to day, and he said, “Really not too much. Been smoking a lot, drinking, not working out like I used to. Staying up late just cause I can’t get to sleep.”
It hit me that this is a very normal and irrational thing we tend to do when we’re having trouble in life. Our mind is in pain so we punish our body to bring it down to the same level. I’m not sure if that’s the exact reason abusing your health happens during emotional struggle, but it does seem like there is an odd comfort in having that kind of congruence between your body and your mind.
I told him that if he wanted to feel better, he should get to sleep, start eating right, including two vegetables a day for the next two weeks, and start working out regularly. Understandably, he felt a lot of resistance to that.
I asked him, “Suppose you were really healthy, happy, successful, and for some reason, wanted to feel really bad… What would you do to make that happen?” He pondered that a bit, and I continued, “You’d probably start cutting your sleep hours, quit working out, start eating unhealthy stuff, and drink and smoke a lot.” He agreed, and it was clear he was doing the exact thing you would do if you didn’t want to feel good.
I told him that if he wanted to have a mourning period for his relationship, that was perfectly ok, and that he could take a few weeks to feel bad if he wanted to, but that it was always available for him to feel good again sooner. In the end, it’s just a personal choice.
It reminded me about something I’d heard from Dan Kennedy and Sean Stephenson, put in different ways. Dan Kennedy calls it “behavior congruence.” In his words, it’s “If you want to be rich, act like a rich person already does. If you want to be in great shape, act like a person in great shape already does.” The people I know that are in great shape hit the gym regularly and watch their diet. Contrary to what you might think, they don’t act like they’re at the “finish line” already and slack off. So if you just model those behaviors of people who are fit, your body will close the gap.
Sean Stephenson said that when he’s not in a good state, he makes a list of ten things he’s doing when life is going perfectly. Some of them include minor things like being clean-shaven, and others include meditating for X amount a day, visualizing his goals, and exercising. If he just starts doing what’s on the list, things pick up.
So it’s really a pretty simple three part process.
1) Decide if you really want to be healthy/happy/rich, and if you don’t, that’s a perfectly respectable decision.
2) Ask yourself what habits people have that are already in that state. If you’ve already been in that state yourself, ask yourself what you were doing differently then.
3) Take on those behaviors in your life.
You’ll be really surprised how fast your circumstances can change just by cutting a few things and adding a few things to your life.
When you feel resistance to doing these things, it means your body feels a incongruence in where your mind is focused and where your body is. Your ego wants to have everything congruent, so something has to give. If you persist in positive habits, the rest of you has to come along eventually. Just don’t let the aching parts of you (body or mind), bring down the rest.