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Can’t we just enjoy life?

Here's a great letter I read in last week's The week magazine:

To The Daily Telegraph

"Have we become a nation beset by ulterior motives? The aim of playing golf appears to be that it “can add years to your lifespan”, rather than to meet friends and enjoy a game.

Today, a walk seems incomplete without a pedometer and pulse monitor, and demands a gait more suited to going into battle, rather than enjoying the fresh air and scenery. We are told to learn a foreign language “to beat dementia”. Children are encouraged to learn a musical instrument because it “improves hand-eye coordination”. Youngsters fill their spare time with voluntary work “to get into uni”. Even my local tandoori restaurant has a notice in the window claiming that “spices prevent cancer”. Whatever happened to taking up activities for enjoyment?"

Ros Groves, Watford, Hertfordshire

I think Ros Groves from Watford has got it right. I've found with many clients that choosing one aspect of health improvement (and finding ways to enjoy the benefits from that improvement immediately) is the surest way to long term habit change. Once one good habit is established enjoyably, another can be tackled. Before you know it, your life is healthier and you barely even notice the change.

This desire for the ulterior motive all comes from pious good feelings created by our smug approach to delayed gratification. We're trained that waiting for things makes them more worthy and studies such as the Marshmallow Test research back this up. It proved that children who could wait longer for a bigger reward (two marshmallows instead of one) became happier and more successful as adults. This thought process that anything worthwhile will be hard work is often the biggest impediment to change.

I'm not doubting the research and all big things in life require tenacity. It's just that there's no need to make mountains out of marshmallows. Taking out a mortgage is delayed gratification. So is saving up for a holiday. Eating breakfast and remembering to take a banana to work (so you don't make yourself sleepy and bilious snacking on cake) is just the easiest way to maintain concentration, finish your workload and get home on the earlier bus. To congratulate yourself on eating your 5 a day is surely beneath you when compared to the greater benefit of increased focus and/or free time? By all means, look back and enjoy the accomplishments of making positive change in your life but big up the immediate benefits right now just as the ex smoker saves up the cigarette money as an incentive to remain smoke free.

Find one thing you can do right now where by taking the healthy approach you will make everything you do today easier. Revel in your easier day. Do it again tomorrow. And so on. Job done.

Enjoy Good Health!

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