How many decisions do you make in a day? I’m not talking just about the big, obvious decisions like whether to apply for a new job or where to go on vacation. I’m talking about the small, almost imperceptible, day-to-day decisions that affect your health:
Should I have a piece of candy from the bowl on my co-worker’s desk?
Should I increase the rate on the treadmill for the last 0.1 mile?
Should I have pickles on my sandwich?
I’m not here to tell you what choices to make in the face of decisions like these – either way you choose could be appropriate depending on what the rest of your day or the rest of your week has been like, and which choices will support your mental and social health, as well (check out my article on total well-being here).
I am here to provide you with encouragement. The constant decisions we all make on a daily basis take their toll. Research has indicated that the more decisions a person makes, the more likely they are to experience “decision fatigue” and find themselves giving in to temptation. You can use this information to your advantage.
Recognize that the more decisions you make, the harder it will be to continue making good choices. If you are aware of the role decision fatigue may be playing in your health, you will be more able to counteract the effect when you see it popping up in your decisions.
Turn off autopilot. Be mindful of each decision you make that affects your health. Be mentally present in each decision. “Going with the flow” may lead you to making a poor choice or continuing a behavior that you have been wanting or trying to change.
Set yourself up for success. You can make good decisions easier for yourself by making adjustments to your environment. For example, pack a gym bag to take with you in the morning and go straight to the gym after work to pre-empt the decision whether to leave your house again after you get home. Try packing a healthy snack (great examples here) so that you have a better option available in that afternoon slump besides the vending machine at work.
Flex your decision-making muscle. You’ll be making many of the same decisions repeatedly. When you buy bread at the store, you will have to decide between white and whole-grain bread every single time. The more you make the decisions to buy the whole-grain bread, the easier that decision becomes until it doesn’t really seem like a decision anymore, but more of a habit.
Use a mantra. Come up with a mantra – a short, meaningful phrase – to coach yourself through those tough decisions and keep working toward your health goals. It doesn’t matter if come up with your own or borrow one – it just needs to be meaningful and motivational for you. My personal mantra is, “Getting better, getting stronger.” It helps me through both health decisions and tough workouts.
You have to make health decisions every single day. Even though it may become easier to make those decisions, you have to be mindful and make the best choice for your overall health that you can each time a decision comes up. One choice about one decision will not make or break your health, because health is a lifelong journey, not a moment in time.
Tierney J. Do you suffer from decision fatigue? The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0. Published August 17, 2011. Accessed February 21, 2015.
Anderson J. Think yourself fit! SparkPeople. http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=1012. Accessed February 21, 2015.