There is an ever elusive balance that we as a society long for. A balanced diet, a balanced workout plan, balancing work vs personal, a balance between serious and fun … this list goes on.

When I’m working I’m thinking of all the things I should be doing differently as a mother. When I’m playing with my son I’m thinking of all the housework I should be doing. When I’m spending time with my friends I’m thinking of time neglected with my husband. When I lay down at night I worry that I didn’t do enough … of anything. Sound familiar? Read on. 

Social media is a societal phenomenon; we are constantly connected to the ones we love and constantly connected with how much more everyone does, has, and loves. We’ve become overloaded with guilt. We even attempt to use this guilt as a tool of motivation. You think to yourself “I’m so disgusted with myself I have to lose weight” or maybe even someone else suggested you should feel guilty or ashamed of yourself in hopes that it would motivate you to change.

Good intentioned or not, the scientific data shows that it only makes things worse. A 2013 study from Florida State University found that guilt and shaming INCREASES a person’s risk of becoming and remaining overweight. I see it all the time, over and over again, someone slips up, skips a workout, falls of the wagon and eats poorly and they guilt and shame themselves into a vicious cycle of more bad behaviors. 

The truth is this: if we believe something about ourselves, we are wired to engage in behaviors that are consistent with that belief. Your way hasn’t work so why not try my way? Let go of the guilt. You do not have to complete something perfectly to have done it. Don’t skip one workout and give up until next Monday. Don’t treat yourself to a dessert or not-so-healthy meal and then keep eating poorly just because you think you “ruined” that day. Do not think that you are going to change your entire life and all of your bad habits tomorrow morning. 

Try this instead: develop good habits by practicing them instead of one single act to be done perfectly every time. The opportunities to practice good habits are countless. And boy do they need practice. You aren’t going to get it right every time but if you focus on your habits as projects and not tasks you will develop healthy habits.

Habit One: Practice changing the way you think.

Eliminate self defeating questions/statements: “I have a slow metabolism”; “I like food too much, it won’t work”, Why can’t I just look like that?” And replace them with empowering questions/statements: “What can I do today that will help me get closer to my goal?”; “How great am I going to feel after I finish?!”; “Look what I can do today that I couldn’t a year/month/week ago!”

Habit Two: When you slip up, just keep going.

Giving up on your goals because you slipped up is like slashing your other tires because one went flat. Let go of the guilt and move on.

Habit Three: Give yourself a break.

You don’t have to know it all, do it all or be it all. When you are sick, tired and rundown give yourself the permission to rest and recover. 

Habit Four: Invest in yourself.

Whether it’s time or money, do not feel guilty about investing in something that is going to better your life. Whether it’s a gym, a class or a trainer. Your children, your family and your wallet will benefit from you investing in yourself. 

Practice, practice, practice!