Making healthy choices for a healthy lifestyle

Aug 24, 2014

It is a familiar occurrence.  You get home from work with plans to go for a run or head to the gym, but you decide that you are too tired and end up watching television instead.  Why is it that you watch television even though you know that exercising would be a much more productive and healthy use of your time?

This week on “Take Care,” B.J. Gallagher discusses the reasons why we do not always do what is best for us and how we can make positive changes to our lifestyles.  Gallagher is a sociologist and author of the book “Why Don’t I Do the Things I Know Are Good for Me?” 

Click 'Read More' to hear our interview with B.J. Gallagher.

Gallagher says that the main contributors to poor lifestyle choices are low self-esteem and a negative self-image.  Believe it or not, your parents can have a significant influence on how you view yourself.

When a parent is critical of their child, that child internalizes those criticisms and carries them into adulthood.    

“We’re all programmed with these messages from our well-meaning parents and they often leave scars,” says Gallagher.

Part of our response to these criticisms and other stressors is to develop self-soothing practices.  As kids, these can include sucking on your thumb or playing with your hair.  Later on in our lives the habits change.  Eating sugary or fatty foods is a common form of self-soothing in adults.

In soothing ourselves, we are choosing to do what is easiest or most comfortable.  In the context of the post-work workout, watching television is much easier than going for a three-mile run.

The question, then, is how can we change our behavior to live healthier lives?  Gallagher says that the science of neural-plasticity has revealed that our brains can be reprogrammed.  Those ingrained behaviors or tendencies that we picked up during childhood can be corrected. 

“Begin by just watching.  Watching your thoughts [and] watching your behaviors,” says Gallagher.

Once you have identified the triggers of your negative thoughts, Gallagher says you should be aware of them and try to keep them from developing.  Prevention of negative thinking can come in a variety of forms.  Positive self-talk and support groups are helpful resources.

If you exercise by yourself, finding someone to exercise with and exercising regularly can be strong motivators.

“Surround yourself with people who are up to the kinds of things you want to be up to,” Gallagher says.

Gallagher also says that “it’s really easy to fall off the wagon.” However, by creating connections with the right people and surrounding yourself with people going through similar experiences will make it much easier to overcome those sometimes cripplingly negative thoughts and get off the couch.