What is your health style?

Make habit change easier with an attitude change.

“How do you define your health style?” If you were to try to explain it to someone, how would you describe it? Business casual? Sloth to turtle speed? Fit on the inside, not so much on the outside? Olympian?

I asked this question in a Facebook Live broadcast a couple of weeks ago hoping to start a conversation around people’s definitions and honing in on some groups or categories of styles. What I discovered is that “that” question gave people pause or confusion, or more likely, lack of clarity by my question. Perhaps it had never been contemplated by my audience or they were over thinking the answer into the realm of genetics, bio-markers or something. So, I ask you dear reader, what is your health style? How do you define it?

We know what health is, right? A level of function; we make decisions to function more efficiently or we face a lower degree of functionality due to illness, disease, or our own personal choices. Correct? Health is subjective and influenced by a plethora of factors. But we have a general working interpretation of health and we know it is something we can positively or negatively influence.

What is style? Fashion? What is my health fashion? Is style a brand? Like the Tiffany and Co. blue box or the bowtie emblem of a Chevrolet vehicle? Is that style? Is it a pattern and cadence in tone like the classical music of Giuseppe Verdi? Is it the distinctive features created by one’s skill and eye, like that of art deco artist Erte or mid-century modern furniture designer Charles Eames? Is style an attitude like that of the perfectly straight back of an equestrian dressage rider or the rhythmic hop bounce of a street wise hip hop dancer?

The answer is yes! AND, style is….

How do you keep your car? Do you wash it weekly by hand? Do you take your trash out of it every time you exit or do you (like me) throw it on the passenger floorboards until its quite embarrassing? Is your style to do your nails every week, professionally or by yourself? Do you sit upright at a table or bent over on your elbows? Do you eat in front of the TV with fork in one hand and cell phone in the other? The manner in which you behave and conduct yourself from the moment you wake until the moment you sleep are your personal style. Even while you sleep you have a style.

I wanted to write this article is because I feel like we have pigeonholed the word “style” to mean only something closer to “presentation” only. I think that we have lost sight of the fact that style is more closely related to attitude. And why does this relate to our health?

Image courtesy of Unsplash

It is easy to change our attitude! And more importantly, no one controls or governs our attitude.

If we break it down even further there is a fine line between a style and a habit when it comes to our personal space and self-care. We learn in different ways and one of those ways is motor memory. Throwing my water bottles on the passenger side floor boards, a repeated behavior has become a habit, even when there is a passenger sitting right there. But when viewed as my “style,” my attitude, well then, I don’t want my passenger to have their space infringed upon by my water bottle collection and I don’t want to be judged as a slob.

Style, attitude, and habit have something in common. They are all rooted in behavior. Behavior is a big scary word and sounds negative and academic and complex. We should only deal with behavior in the therapist’s office, laying on a couch, behind closed doors. And behaviors, especially health behavior, is influenced and constrained by cultural and social norms.

Habits are hard to break. In fact, that word often linked to habits is negative itself, “break.” Habits are closely linked to our brains wiring, I think of it as grooves on a record album that the tiny little needle follows. The adaptability of our brain to reformat those grooves and play a whole new song, is, well, very hard.

But style? That sounds more manageable. I can change my style like I change my scarf. And a scarf is just a small thing, but it will change my entire outward presence. Maybe I can change my style from sweet tea to unsweetened tea. I will be a non-sweet tea drinker. If I take a view my longevity I want my heart to be strong (in love of course) and never miss a beat, I don’t want to have a heart attack like other family members. If that is what I want then I shall say “no thank you” to salt.

My entire point is that if we view things in a simple format, don’t focus on the big scary words, or dwell on all the hard work of breaking habits. If we view ourselves as little defining moments, movements, choices, and actions. If we can accept that we actually have more control over our destiny that we think by recognizing our inward and outward styles (attitude), It doesn’t seem quite so insurmountable. So again, dear reader. What is your health style? And how would you like to stylize it today?

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