They say it takes about three weeks to turn a behavior into a habit. Those three weeks felt like forever when I was trying to create a healthy lifestyle. When I came across this quote, what struck me is that I was stuck in a pattern of bad habits.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
A permanent ileostomy at 21-years-old changed my life forever. Negative body image and low self-confidence lead to sadness and depression. It took me many years to learn that it's important to take care of my mind and body, and I'm still learning. These five habits have helped me in doing more, enjoying more, and keep me feeling good each day.
1. I started drinking more water.
Staying hydrated is sometimes a challenge due to how quickly fluids can pass through my body with an ileostomy. If I’m the least bit dehydrated, it affects everything; the ostomy appliance doesn’t adhere properly, my energy level is low, food doesn’t digest well, and the list goes on. So, the first thing I do each morning is head straight to the kitchen and drink two cups of water — directly out of a measuring cup! That way I know it's at least two cups, otherwise I’d probably drink less. Once I started this morning routine, it's been easier to continue drinking plenty of refreshing water throughout the day.
2. I set aside time each day for meditation.
This was one of the hardest rituals to incorporate because I have an active mind. I didn’t have a clue how to begin, so I started out by attending a weekly classes for guidance. I learned that meditation can be done with eyes open or closed. It can be done silently or guided. It can be done while walking mindfully, lying down, or sitting. For me, it's really about focusing on breathing. Sometime my daily practice is only 5-10 minutes, but the longer the better. The best app on my phone is Headspace. I only wish I knew about mediation 23 years ago when I first had ostomy surgery because I know it would’ve helped calm my anxiety.
3. I take a walk every single day.
I'm not the workout or outdoorsy type. Actually, I’ve grown to enjoy sitting and resting as much as possible. While that’s okay sometimes, daily physical activity keeps food moving through my body which helps prevents ileostomy blockages. I set aside at least 30 minutes each day to walk, and call it "me time" to let go of the worries of the world. With walking, my attention is focused on the enjoyment of exercising rather than the physical strength required for a workout.
4. I eat something healthy at every meal.
One of the biggest energy zappers I've found is poor food choice. I used to follow a strict “convenience” diet, which meant I didn’t cook and ate fast food a lot. The highly processed and high-fat junk food I was eating had very little (if any) nutritional value, and afterwards I felt like taking a nap. Now my body welcomes healthy organic food. For me, fresh food always digests better than processed food. Improving my diet was one of the quickest ways I started feeling better.
5. I write down what I am grateful for each day.
Journaling isn't new for me, but this year it's daily. Each morning I write down a few things I'm grateful for and why. It’s been a really valuable habit which helps me appreciate the little things that make the day special. Keeping a journal has also helped me become more aware, more present, and accept myself the way I am today.
Here's what I wrote the other day: I am grateful for having ostomy supplies because I know there are people in the world who don't have any.
I made a conscious effort to change my old ways and what I believed about myself. I think it’s really important to take the time to discover which habits support and sustain us. If you could pick just one or two habits to create in the next few days – habits that will have a positive impact on your life – what would they be?