There are way too many things I need to do on a daily basis to stay ahead of Meniere’s disease.
I eat a healthy diet most of the time, but key lime pie is delicious and usually hard for me to turn down. I know exercise relieves my brain fog, but sometimes I end up watching TV instead. And meditation is never as fun as Facebook.
But after five years of living with Meniere’s disease, I’ve found that the only difference between the things I do for my health and the things I don’t do but should, is consistency.
And consistency can be difficult. It takes discipline, time, and energy to turn a healthy activity into a habit, especially when you are first starting out.
The good news is I have found ways to make it easier.
You can take simple steps to be more consistent with your treatment and health, too.
Find your wellness triggers:
When you live with a complicated illness like Meniere’s disease, it’s hard to figure out what actions are making a difference in how you feel. There are just too many variables.
The solution is to keep track of your health as closely as possible so you can analyze the data and find the patterns.
The Mind Over Meniere’s Symptom Trigger Tool can help you keep track of the right data.
And while it’s important to know what triggers your symptoms, it’s only half the battle. It’s also important to know your wellness triggers – the things that make you feel better. The Symptom Trigger Tool can help you find them.
We only have so much energy to spend on a given day. We obviously can’t consistently do everything, so we need to be selective. It’s important to focus the energy you do have on the activities that have the biggest impact on your health.
Once you identify the things that make you feel better, you can start to create specific goals to improve your health.
Set clear and simple health goals:
When setting goals, it’s important to be as clear as possible.
For example, let’s say you want to start meditating. It’s a good goal to have and it will help you manage your stress levels. But setting a goal to meditate every day is not specific enough. It leaves you with too many options. If you have to make a decision every day on how you’re going to meditate, you may end up deciding not to.
Instead, be as descriptive as possible when setting goals:
“I will meditate for 10 minutes every morning as soon as I wake up.”
“I will walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes every day.
“I will eat an apple or a banana for desert instead of ice cream.”
Studies show that willpower is not an infinite resource. On a daily basis, we have a limited amount of energy to make decisions. As that energy is used, our ability to make good decisions is compromised. It’s known as “Decision Fatigue.”
But by setting clear and specific health goals, you reduce the number of decisions you have to make on any given day, and you are more likely to act.
It’s the first step to being consistent with your health and treatment goals.
Don’t Break the Chain – A Consistency Hack:
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that it’s so much easier to do the things that are good for my health when I do them every day. Time and time again I have found this to be the case.
Take exercise for example. It can be difficult at first especially if you are limited by your symptoms, but as time goes on, it gets easier and easier, until suddenly it’s a part of your routine.
But that initial hurdle can be enough to stop you in your tracks.
As I mentioned last week, the good news is that you can hack the process and trick yourself into building momentum with a simple technique called “Don’t Break the Chain.” It can boost your motivation and consistency in a big way.
The technique was originally popularized by Jerry Seinfeld, who claimed the practice helped him consistently write new jokes every single day.
All you have to do is write down your goals, and cross out each day on a calendar that you complete them. It gives you a clear visual of your progress – one that will keep you motivated. The goal is to build a chain of successful days. As you see the days add up, you will feel an internal pressure to keep going. You won’t want to break the chain by skipping a day.
I created a simple PDF for you to print out to make this as easy as possible for you
Recruit your family and friends as allies:
When trying to be consistent with a healthy habit, it can really help to have the people you care about hold you accountable, especially early on.
In the beginning, it usually takes a lot of effort to start taking action toward your goals.
The best way to do this is to publicly announce your health goals to your family and friends.
They will be there to support you, and when you feel tired and don’t have the motivation to keep going, your friends and family will be there to lift you back up.
It also has the added psychological benefit of social pressure. You are more likely to take action when your friends and family are expecting it. Peer pressure can be a good thing.
Ask them to check in with you from time to time. Maybe some of them will even join you in making positive changes.
Either way, consistency is much easier to achieve when your family and friends are on board.
Stakes and Rewards:
One final technique that can help you quickly become more consistent with your goals is to set a reward for success, a consequence for failure, or both.
In any case, having money on the line can be a powerful motivator.
In his best-selling book, “The Four Hour Chef”, Tim Ferris explains, “Answer me this: would you work harder to earn $100 or avoid losing $100? The smiley optimist says the former, but if research from the Center for Experimental Social Science at New York University is any indication, fear of loss is the home-run winner.”
Tim suggests that one good way to create stakes, is with StickK.com.
Stickk is a website that allows you to create what they call commitment contracts. If you fail to reach your goal, StickK will automatically let your Facebook friends know. It’s like an automated accountability system.
But StickK also lets you up the ante with financial contracts. You can put money on the line. Money that will be donated to an Anti-Charity if you don’t achieve your goals. (An Anti-Charity is any organization that strongly goes against your value system – one you would never donate to. For me, it would be something like the Westboro Baptist Church.)
It may sound extreme, but it works, and not just a little bit. Tim explains, “Based on StickK’s goal completion percentages from 2008–2011, we find that the success rate with no stakes is 33.5%. Once we add stakes like an anti-charity, that success rate more than doubles to 72.8%!”
The good news is, that once you have established a daily practice or habit, it’s much easier to keep going. The more momentum you are able to build, the less energy you will need to spend taking action.
And all of these techniques can help you get the ball rolling.
I struggled quite a bit early on, but I soon realized that once I was in the habit of doing something for my health every day, it just became a part of my routine. I didn’t have to think about it anymore.
Always remember: Meniere’s disease will not define you. It cannot and will not ever be bigger than your dreams.
I encourage you to start today. Find at least one thing you can do for your health and Meniere’s disease treatment, and take action.
You might just find it’s easier than you thought!