Change is hard. Even when we are motivated and committed. When we are in denial or impatient it is excruciatingly difficult.
Change is not an outcome. It is a process. It is the before, during and after. It begins with the desire to stay comfortable rather than to change, to then choosing the discomfort that change brings, and then ultimately, to embracing the uncomfortable to the point that it becomes the new comfortable.
I often use bush regeneration as an analogy for changing to healthier habits. Bush regeneration is restoring bushland from a degraded area to a healthier community of native plants and animals. The restoration is not about planting a designer bush ecosystem that will look good for a while, but rather one that assists the natural growth of native plants and able to survive with minimal maintenance. Similarly, the reason we advocate for healthy habits is not to achieve a designer body, a number on the scale, or a particular BMI, but to have the health our body deserves.
Bush regeneration involves three broad phases:
Before any changes are made, time is spent planning and preparing the area. We look at what is of value and how to conserve it. There is more to this phase than planning the removal of weeds. This involves taking into account what is not endemic to the area and what is potentially harmful to the native plants. Apart from considering which plants to keep or remove, things such as soil health is also important.
Similarly, with lifestyle change, we look at habits. We need to start with an awareness of which habits need to be shed, as these may not support our health goals. Similarly, we are reminded of habits that will move us closer to our goals and we become adamant to nurture these. And just as soil health is vital to the success of bush regeneration, other underlying health issues may impact the changes we can expect.
- IMPLEMENTING CHANGE
Next, vegetation is cut down. Some controlled burning may even be involved. The area looks messy, damaged, destroyed. This is part of the process. This is conducive to the growth we seek. But during this phase, vegetation is extremely sensitive.
When we go through this phase of change, we make changes in a clunky kinda way. Our lives may look messy. We have success some days. Other times we may give in to our old habits. We feel wobbly, unsure. We too, like the regenerated landscape, feel vulnerable. And that’s OK. We need to be kind and compassionate with ourselves to see ourselves through this stage.
Lastly, regeneration occurs. It is a time of new life. Everything looks and feels alive. As well as the visible changes such as new shoots, an increase in biodiversity or a reduction in weeds, there are other changes that can’t be seen, like improved water quality and minimised soil erosion, which is equally important. Bushland can take up to 5 years to recover fully after a fire.
Changes to our eating habits may not be reflected in the mirror, or on the scale, but are significant in other silent, invisible ways – such as a reduction in reflux, improved blood sugars, or improved bone health.
Just as bush regeneration seeks to restore the natural landscape, we can benefit from a similar approach when seeking to create healthy habits for ourselves. And, like bush regeneration, it will take time to establish our newfound mindset, skills and habits.