OPINION: Support is key to making those big life changes

Published:
8:30 PM May 22, 2022



The other day, a particular Tweet caught my eye. It was from a woman I didn’t know, who posted that she was in her 40s, weighed over 22 stone and was about to hit the gym for the first time.

I thought about how brave she was – and I was heartened by the number of people whose messages in response to her were encouraging and helpful.

I can’t imagine how difficult it will be as she struggles to really improve her fitness. But if she sticks with it, the combination of weight loss and increased physical activity could not only improve her mood and health, but also save her life. It will be a lot of work, but I hope she continues to send messages about it and that she receives good support – because it is an invaluable ingredient to help us when we try to modify ourselves.

Another topic that people often post about is their struggle with alcoholism. I always praise people who write for being sober for a while, whether it’s 10 days or 10 years.

I have a close relative who had a serious drinking problem. Luckily he quit the habit four decades ago, but I remember how incredibly difficult it was for him. He, like everyone I know who has successfully quit drinking, did so with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is no coincidence that the sense of community and brotherhood that people derive from AA is a huge factor in their recovery.

I’ve talked about kindness before in this column because I think it’s vital for all of us to try to imagine what life is like for other people who are hurting and do our best to respond with encouragement. and sympathy – especially when they anticipate changes. Beyond helping them, I strongly believe that when we offer support to others, it enriches our own lives.

I also believe it helps us to encourage each other more. Very often we think we can’t change because we think we’re too old, helpless, hopeless, or weak. But by being kinder to others, including strangers, we often learn to be kinder and more compassionate to ourselves – and that can give us a huge boost and a feeling worth caring about. .

Make the changes we know we should – whether it’s losing weight, improving our fitness, reducing our alcohol consumption, improving a relationship, changing jobs, decluttering our homes or whatever – can seem overwhelming.

But when we have the support of others, it seems less difficult. So, in addition to sharing your progress on social media, it can be hugely beneficial to talk in “real life” to people you trust, like, and can rely on. This is especially important when the going gets tough, which it will, and we all have to accept that.

Some people have the idea that there is a shortcut that, if they knew about it, would make things easier. Alas, they delude themselves. The truth is, magic wands, miracles, and sweet options are desperately rare!

I remembered this fact not long ago.

I had written in this article about my recent “big” birthday. Lots of readers got in touch, and one of them was an old friend I haven’t seen in ages as she now lives overseas.

She commented on my pic and wrote, ‘Looks good. What is your secret?’

I laughed; if only there was one.

Sometimes people want to believe that if they could do something extraordinarily simple, like swallow a spoonful of apple cider vinegar and honey every morning, the years would pass.

Now, it is possible that such a strategy can help. Granted, it probably wouldn’t hurt. But it’s certainly not a recipe for eternal youth, otherwise we would all know it.

So, I told my friend, what I learned about positive aging is that it’s very complex, but some of the basics are:

  • eat healthy
  • get a lot more exercise than we think we need
  • do things that make us feel useful – whatever our age
  • have a goal every day

Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s what she wanted to hear. She replied, “My God, that looks hard.”

In fact, it’s not difficult once you get started. But it takes effort, as changes always do. But making things happen and working to improve our lives can be remarkably energizing – and it makes us glad we persevered.

So ultimately, is there anything you could do today that would be a first step towards the changes you want? I bet there is – even if it’s tiny. There’s no better time to start than now.