What Is “Consistent Wellness?”
In the wellness industry, “consistency” is often portrayed as a matter of being strong or determined enough to reach one’s fitness and wellness goals. Luckily, psychology more attainable details that consistency is related to behavior, and the smaller the action to adapt the behavior, the better: “To take advantage of behavioral consistency…make an initial commitment to an activity to engage in. [It should be] low-stakes and easy to make.”
Consistent wellness, then, emerges from small-scale yet concerted actions over time and can thus feel less daunting to attempt. For instance, “When the Fitbit mobile app is first launched, it asks users to state their fitness goals. Once these goals have been entered, they act as a commitment and are displayed on the user’s dashboard, together with the user’s progress toward the goals. This visual representation [is a] reminder of the user’s commitment to these goals and makes it more likely that they will be accomplished” (Fessenden, 2018).
The reason more simplistic efforts toward consistent wellness work better, in the long run, is because our brains are essentially wired to take the path of least resistance. To survive, we need to be quick at protecting ourselves, gathering and saving resources, and making informed decisions. Not much time can be spent—from a psychological standpoint—being spontaneous. As advocated by some of the first few texts in our Holistic Nutritionist Certification as well, many additional systems work to keep our bodies in relative equilibrium, which is part of the nature of evolutionary adaptation.
As an additional layer, with the seasons, comes a certain degree of variability that challenges the behavioral consistency we become accustomed to. In other words, what may have worked for a fit and healthy summer may not function and/or even be possible during the winter months.
To harness the power of wellness consistency that truly lasts throughout the seasons, here are five ways to take it one step at a time:
Make the Changing Seasons Work for Your Wellness
Incorporate Ayurveda into your lifestyle
Ayurveda is meant to work with your body and constitution across seasons. In the article “Can Ayurveda practices really improve digestion,” one learns how “Life balance and a healthy diet represent two of the most significant concepts proposed by Ayurveda. Certain factors disturb the balance of the body, causing both physical and emotional stress. Interestingly enough, our diet and the food choices that we make fall within that category.” As seasons shift, Ayurveda can help to maintain internal calm and stability.
Create S.M.A.R.T. goals
The S.M.A.R.T. goals acronym stands for Specific, Measured, Achievable, Relevant, and Timed. When applying this acronym to fitness and wellness, it is important to keep in mind that aspects like “measurable” and “timed” vary from person to person. In most cases, goals that may be measurable but not necessarily improve overall life fulfillment (like weight loss solely for the sake of becoming thin instead of naturally losing weight in preparing for an athletic event) and ones that may quote too little or too much time won’t work. In “12 Tips for Success in Achieving Your Fitness and Health Goals,” the author emphasizes goals like determining purpose, pacing oneself, getting a health coach, and finding a supportive community. All of these goals can be applied to the S.M.A.R.T. method for greater specificity as well as the likelihood of success.
Here’s a very helpful goals idea from one of our personal training graduates:
“And exercise contributes to commitment to long-term positive changes and social support as well. I would encourage a positive food substitution practice, removing trigger foods from the pantry/fridge, and replacing those with accessible, healthier choices (like a bowl of fruit on the counter instead of a box of Oreos sitting visibly). Furthermore, I suggest using a paper calendar on the wall or SmartPhone app to monitor daily water intake, setting a goal for the week, a daily marking off of the amount of water consumed, and journal-noting how the body feels day by day or week by week.” – Elise Brion
Learn to trust yourself
Trust, or more specifically empathy, is the number one factor in client retention as well as retaining your own inner reliability. Neuroscientifically, the ventral striatum (human reward processing/positive emotions) and medial frontal cortex (perceiving another’s mental state/comprehensive external awareness) are activated when close connection—even within oneself—yields positive social value. A great resource for quickly and cohesively understanding trust (read: empathy or vulnerability) is B.R.A.V.I.N.G. With greater self-trust, one is increasingly capable of implementing the very consistency they dream about, plan, and then try out. The more consistent that person can be in their wellness goals, the more self-trust builds over time, and this can be used to take health up to even higher levels!
Organization, convenience, and value
According to “Yoga in America By The Numbers” by Yoga Journal Live, the top three reasons we go to exercise classes (as one piece of evidence pointing at consistent wellness) are organization, convenience, and value:
- Am I setting up and taking care of my movement space/outfit/belongings in a way that feels consistent and inviting?
- Am I taking time to practice thoughtful self-care that supports my appearance and hygiene?
- Am I engaging in my wellness activities in a way that is exciting yet efficient?
- Are my wellness goals both doable and fulfilling?
Stress: yet another reason to embody consistent wellness
Among the top three reasons students and clients engage specifically in physical wellness initiatives, to begin with is to reduce stress (with other reasons relating to flexibility and general fitness/conditioning). Living with less stress is both a reason to adopt a more consistently well lifestyle as well as a byproduct of doing so. In “6 Healthy Ways to Help Your Clients Cope with Stress and Anxiety,” negative effects of chronic stress are listed as follows:
- Stomach and digestive issues
- High blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Lowered libido
- Sleep problems
- Panic attacks
When focusing on sustaining wellness no matter the season, it is also essential to consider how different seasons create different stress triggers and how to proficiently handle them by creating a manageable, seasonally based fitness and/or wellness plan.
Understanding the seasons further
One barrier to being consistent throughout the year is truly understanding how the seasons work. Karen Olson of Experience Life identifies five elements pertaining to the seasons: wood for spring, fire for summer, earth for later in the summer (almost fall), metal for autumn, and water during winter. Based upon this holistic view of there being five distinct seasons, she makes these wellness recommendations and others:
- Spring: Eat more raw foods and establish a movement routine.
- Early summer: Do cardio and stay socially active.
- Late summer: Eat mindfully and get some rest.
- Autumn: Eat root vegetables and grains. Also, add or continue weights in your workouts.
- Winter: Consume warm foods and move your body fluidly.
In parallel, putting the mind into its seasonal context will offer even greater support. With awareness as that support, consider how seasonal changes can affect your mood and adjust accordingly.
It is an accomplishment in itself to establish behavioral consistency, which sometimes requires changing behavior, in the pursuit of consistent wellness. Due to how much our behavior relies on sameness, it can be even harder to be consistent as the season’s change.
The idea is to be as consistent as possible in the face of changes in weather, mood, responsibilities, holidays, and other factors that become more relevant during the year’s transition periods.
It turns out being as consistent as possible doesn’t mean the whole year needs to look the same. You can create different goals for different seasons. Simultaneously, consistency will help you get through change beyond just one season.