We can be tough on ourselves. As a naturopathic doctor, I hear it all the time: “I know I need to be drinking more water.” “I should be going to bed earlier.” “I haven’t been doing my exercises.” Taking care of oneself and of our loved ones on top of our busy schedules can be overwhelming. But often, it is perfectionism that gets in the way of our progress.
“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”
Recently, Miranda* came to my naturopathic office. She works at home and sits in front of the computer all day, and is also a wife and mother of a toddler. She struggles to find time to exercise, cook healthy meals, and go to bed on time. But she is exhausted and struggling to find balance in her day, as most mothers and caregivers often are, as they sacrifice their free time and health to take care of others. Believing that you are not doing enough (or not good enough) to maintain a healthy lifestyle increases stress, ultimately leads to self-sabotage and unhappiness.
Focusing on small healthy habits can make enormous impacts on our health and well-being. A recent study from the University of Michigan showed that eating a serving of nuts can help you gain an extra 26 minutes of healthy life, while eating a hot dog could cost you 36 minutes of healthy life.
Miranda struggles with the all-or-nothing perspective to health. Either everything has to be perfect in her diet, exercise routine, and sleep to feel good about herself, or it doesn’t happen at all. Having a balanced approach to health also means taking the pressure and stress of doing it all. Enjoying a sense of accomplishment can come from a peaceful night’s rest or a brisk walk with a friend.
Focusing on our small wins, we can accomplish far more and achieve greater happiness.