I'll start by saying that each one of these things has truly shaped my life into what it is today. None of these were easy to accomplish, but they were all worth it. I have listed below what these "life hacks" are.
Exercising creates endorphins. Endorphins are the natural chemicals that make us feel good. They help us feel motivated too! They also reduce pain and help us feel energized during the day and relaxed when we need to relax.
When we use drugs and/or alcohol for long periods of time, our bodies become dependent on those things in order for us to "feel good". Because of this, when we stop drinking or using, we are unable to produce those feel good chemicals.
Immediately after learning this while I was in rehab, I took time out of each day to get my heart pumping. Soon after, it became noticeable of how important working out was for my mental health in my recovery.
2. Eating Healthy
Much like exercise, eating healthy is vital in order for us to feel good. 95% of our serotonin is produced from our gut.
If we put bad fuel into our vehicles, what do you think will eventually happen? Same goes for what we put into our bodies.
If we are loading ourselves with sugar, bad carbohydrates, bad fat, etc., we often get a rush of energy and then crash. It causes severe mood swings compared to if we are eating our trusted fruits and veggies.
Take a look at this article by the Harvard Health Blog, "Nutritional Psychiatry: Your brain on food"
This was another thing I learned while in treatment. I stopped eating the unhealthy foods and began shaping my diet around what was healthy and what wasn't.
My sleep schedule improved, my over all mood was more positive, I had more energy and slowly but surely, my cravings for sugar and bad carbohydrates dwindled away.
3. Eliminating Negativity/Adding Positivity
I learned the importance of filtering out what was going into my brain after working closely with a life coach.
Even after improving my overall health, I was still struggling with negativity. But I was determined to find a solution so I began paying more attention to my coach.
One of the first assignments I was tasked with was to go through my social media and unfollow everyone who posted negative content. A second task was to quit surrounding myself with negative people who talked poorly of others. Another huge task, was to stop watching major news networks period!
As tough as those things were to accept and to do, I soon realized how impactful those things were to my mental health.
Later on, I was given the assignments of writing out a gratitude list each morning and each night, writing out an elevator speech about myself, start talking highly about myself to myself and to do all of these things when I started thinking in a negative manner.
It took a while for me to get in the habit of doing these things, but trust me when I say that it paid off.
I went prom being an absolute pessimist to a complete optimist.
Everything around me seemed to improve; my relationships, my ability to knock out interviews, my confidence, my relaxation, etc.
4. Goal Setting
So for most of my life, I would not have been considered much of a "goal setter". I was more of a "take life as it comes" kind of guy. I really didn't know how to set long term goals.
If anyone were to ask me what I wanted to have in my life in the long term, I would have said, "Own a house, start a family, be able to retire." Then I would be asked how I planned on doing that. I would immediately feel thrown off and my mind would race. "Um, get a good job and start dating?" was my typical thought.
But again, after working closely with mentors and coaches, I found out some easy ways to set goals, break them down and figure out what I could do on a daily basis to work towards them. A great starting point is looking at a Goal Wheel such as this one...
This helped me brainstorm specific goals within each part of this wheel.
Once I had more specific goals, I would break them down and figure out what the realistic amount of time it would take to accomplish those things.
Once I had a goal time frame set, I could then break those goals down even more and figure out what I would need to do each day to move towards those goals.
If I couldn't figure out what a realistic date for that goal would be, I would reverse engineer everything and find out the realistic time frame by looking at what I could accomplish each day, then adding that progress up towards when that bigger goal could be accomplished by.
My life became more organized, I felt more confident about my future and I began meeting people with similar interests who helped me along my way.
This is essentially what I help people with today in my coaching practice.
5. Taking Action
Now this can be the toughest part of them all, but what transpires can truly be incredible.
My best words of advice is to start small.
Much like the snowball effect, taking action on a small thing can lead to momentum and taking action on bigger things as time goes.
For me, exercising for 10 short minutes each day was starting small. I began noticing positive changes because of that which excited me enough to start eating healthy too. I then started eliminating the negative things and people from my life and began surrounding my day with positivity and affirmations. Goal setting followed and major goal accomplishment was the icing on the cake!
The biggest motivator of all is noticing positive results from the work you put in. but the work you put in must come first. It may be uncomfortable in the beginning, but once you feel good after doing it, momentum can really start to build.
If you're starting from the beginning, consider reading this blog post a first step. You took action by reading something that was informative. Now the next step is up to you. Start building that momentum. You won't be sorry that you did!
Take care of yourself and the rest will follow.
Austin F. Cooper
Founder of Sober Evolution