I read a great article recently titled, Self-Disciplined People Are Happier (and Not as Deprived as You Think) and I loved it. As a fitness trainer, some people automatically assume I’m a health freak. They believe I only eat green plant food, spend my entire waking hours in spandex torching the calories, and that I never eat dessert … Basically, people think being disciplined means being deprived. And they sure as heck wouldn’t want to live that way.
If you want to live a little healthier, eat healthier, and exercise more, but you aren’t about to sign up to live on deprivation street—where it’s all about what they can’t do, I’m here to tell you that you can make the switch from deprived to disciplined! You can still love food and love eating! Disciplined shouldn’t mean deprived. Disciplined can mean healthy choices and can translate to a happy life—for YOU.
Self-discipline is really about self-empowerment. You’re in charge. You call the shots. And it feels awesome! Here’s how you move away from deprivation and shift toward discipline.
Allow self-discipline to empower you.
The study mentioned in Time’s article shows that people who show high self-control feel good and that translates to a better mood. As the article suggests, “self-discipline can make you happier not only in the long run but also in the moment.” When you feel like you are the CEO of your life, you feel good. Period. On the flip side, if you are trapped in a cycle of overeating, self-loathing, regret, and defeat, you are going to feel lousy. You can get off the cycle of stress and overeating and more stress when you take control. Every time you make a decision that’s aligned with your fitness goals, you feel more joy and more personal empowerment. (You know, the exact opposite of how you feel when you tell someone you are going to lose weight and then you eat your way through a bag of chips after a bad day.)
You’ve got this. All you have to do to take charge of your decisions is to take charge. You are going to love the way it makes you feel. I guarantee your happiness factor will go up—especially when you do what you say you are going to do—from workouts to that delicious salad you said you’d have for lunch. (And yes salads can be delicious…ask for the dressing on the side and save yourself a few hundred calories!)
Create an environment that supports you.
Self-discipline doesn’t have to be about how much temptation you resist, it can be about how smart you are about creating an environment that supports you. Do you hang around others who want to get fit? Do you have friends and family supporting you and your goals? Do you buy foods that support your goals? Do you have an accountability partner or a group fitness class you love? Have you found an exercise you love and can’t live without? As the article smartly concludes, it isn’t that self-disciplined people are masters at resisting temptation, they might just be better at avoiding temptation in the first place. How smart is that?
Use your goals as your compass.
Without goals, how do you know where you are headed? Goals identify where you want to go, and they can keep you on track. You can always make minor adjustments to get back on track. You can establish your own rules and boundaries to keep you aligned with your goals. Take me for example. Yes, I do like dessert. Ice cream is my favorite and I have it sometimes, but most of the time I pick a healthier alternative so ice cream becomes a treat, not a staple.
Since I do have a sweet tooth, I have healthy recipes I can make to satisfy my sweet tooth without surrendering my healthy lifestyle. I also enjoy a glass of wine when out with my friends or on the weekends. To keep me on track, I follow an 80/20 percent rule where I try and make sure that 80 percent—a big majority—of my decisions fall into the healthy lifestyle camp, giving me 20 percent wiggle room for treats or the crazy busy travel day when a workout isn’t possible. And Yes, I do miss a workout on occasion. But I stick to my rules. I never got more than two days in a row without a workout and I view treats as a once in a while thing, not an everyday thing. My guidelines are about maintaining self-discipline. Never do I feel deprived.
Set your life up for success.
With self-discipline, you are on your own side. You aren’t at war with yourself and you begin to learn the decisions you need to repeatedly make for success. When you make those self-disciplined decisions and see the positive results, guess what? You are writing your very own success plan for success! It’s rewarding to feel in control of your fitness and know you are contributing to your health. In a word, self-discipline makes you … HAPPY.