Want to feel more zen? Try ditching the dogmas

“I need to quit alcohol/caffeine/dairy/[fill in accordingly]”. “I must get up earlier / train every morning / get a new job / declutter my house / only eat ‘clean’…” How many times a day do you reprimand yourself for not doing the things you “should”, or bully yourself into doing the things you “must”? Be it the new diet that will keep that weight off for good, or the exercise regime that will make you feel and look ten years younger – whatever the promise it is we make to ourselves, why do we still slip and fall back into our old ways after a while? And then the guilt creeps in… So what on earth is going on, and why can’t we just do it?

There’s no need to beat ourselves up over our ‘failure’ to replicate someone else’s formula for wellness. If something is starting with a “must” or “should” or “need to”, our heart’s probably not in it. Maybe what our failure is really saying is to care less about what anyone else tells us we ‘should’ be doing and more about what our own intuition is guiding us towards?

  1. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ path to health and happiness

Who wouldn’t want to be their healthiest, most vibrant and joyful self? On our quest to make that happen, we often look to others for advice. And while we can learn a lot from wellness experts and healthy living gurus, we must stay tuned into our own intuition too to get the best (and happiest) results.

It’s easy to be swept up by someone’s enthusiasm when they’ve discovered something that works well for them. And oh how we love to believe that if we can just manage to follow steps A, B and C in the exact same way, we’ll get the same results – that ‘all or nothing’ is the way forward. But we’re not all the same. And trying to stick to a strict set of rules is, more often than not, a recipe for disappointment and frustration.

  1. What’s right for you?

Have you ever tried to stick to a new diet or fitness plan but felt miserable in the process, or quit just after you thought “this is the one!”? Try tuning into what’s going on within. Make a list of anything in your life that you think you ‘should’ do or ‘have to’ achieve. Then take each sentence and say it out loud.

How did each statement feel? Good, or not so good? If you cross out the ‘I should’ and replace it with ‘I want to’ does the statement still ring true? Follow up each statement with ‘because’ and see what else comes up. Try applying this mindful attention while eating and excercising too, “does this feel good for me?”

Everything in moderation… including moderation!

Hopefully, by asking our true selves a few questions, we can see more clearly what we truly want (and what’s external mental clutter). And maybe we’ll choose to carry on but at the same time start to let go of the pressure to be perfect and the associated guilt. We don’t need to do something 100% all day every day for it to have a positive effect in our lives.

  1. Go ‘flexi’ on everything

What if we looked at any recommended plan just as a starting point? What if we believed that it was ok to experiment, adjust and shift things along the way to find out what works for us in each moment? What’s right for us one day, may not be the next day.

If you start to feel deprived or resentful …stop. We’re not just physical bodies (and certainly not robots). We’re holistic beings, and sometimes ‘breaking the rules’ may be what we need in that moment to nourish a different part of ourselves. (And thankfully, indulging in an occasional treat or sleeping in one morning isn’t going to erase everything we’ve done up to that point.) When we remain flexible and open-minded and let ourselves be both imperfect and continuously evolving human-beings, we’re more likely to be kind to ourselves and to remember to keep joy at the heart of it all. (And isn’t feeling better what we’ve been aiming for all along anyway?)