What motivates change?

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In my practice, I am always fascinated and curious about the concept of change. What is it that makes some clients reluctant to change, and others not? I find individuals at both ends of the spectrum and many of them occupying shades in between. Some have suffered from debilitating health conditions, yet have no desire to let go of unhealthy habits. Yet others are so passionate and motivated that they often feel the strong push to change everyone around them. Why is this?

As a Naturopathic practitioner, I have the great honor of asking questions, real questions, that inquire into the deepest parts of human existence. Granted permission from some of my dearest clients, I would like to share with you some of their experiences, and what motivated them to come and see me for Naturopathic Consultation.

That thing that motivates people to change is so very individual AND UNIQUE.
Let’s look at some of the factors that motivate people to choose A HEALTHIER PATH.

THE LOVE OF FAMILY motivates some to change. One woman I asked, who was diagnosed with cancer and had a 2 – 5% success rate with conventional medical therapy, knew that these odds were unacceptable as she gazed upon her three-month-old son and husband. Maybe it was the “fear factor,” she admits, but overwhelmingly, it was the love and commitment she felt towards her family – the desire to see her son graduate and to grow old with her husband – that really inspired her to start eating healthier and to take the healthier path that would grant her a higher success rate and a better quality of life.

PAIN AND ILLNESS motivates others to change. Once you make the switch from a junk food diet to a whole foods diet, you will find that “cheating” is no longer an option, nor is it even desirable. Taste buds change, cravings dissipate and, with the right changes, you begin to feel alive again. Gastrointestinal illness, diarrhea, stomach cramping, bloating, lower back pain, nausea and lethargy become regulating forces that say, “Ah-ah-ah… are you so sure you want to go back to eating garbage and feeling miserable?” You’ll quickly find that regret melts away, and the positive whole body effects of eating and living in a healthful manner bring about mental clarity, joy and vigour that outweigh the occasional short lived craving.

COMPASSION is another motivating factor. When a mother had two of her children diagnosed with autism and sensory processing disorder, she understood immediately that she would do anything she could to heal them. She discovered that healing miracles take place daily for children with autism, when placed on the appropriate diet and health treatments. We can’t save the world, but we can make a difference – one person at a time.

DISDAIN FOR DRUGS inspires people to change when their backs are up against the wall. Many people don’t like the idea of ingesting chemicals and toxins for the rest of their lives. One woman, who suffered from debilitating migraines, opted for a lifestyle and diet change rather than learning how to inject herself with daily medication.

DREAMS AND GOALS can sometimes be powerful motivators for change. One diabetic woman dreamed that her doctor said she had three years left to live, if she didn’t change her lifestyle, eat healthier and quit smoking. With a young daughter, this dream was enough to shake her into action, prompting her to seek out information on natural healing. While she wasn’t able to reach all of her goals, the changes she made added another 25+ years onto her life.

CHALLENGES push competitive people toward change. Athletes love to defy the odds. A-Type personalities love when someone says they can’t do something, because it drives them to overcome the odds and prove their critics wrong every time. This was the case for a mother who gave birth to a son who had brain damage, autism and later developed a drug addiction. Doctors told her to give up and start looking for a group home, but she was determined to find a better solution. She knew that if you expect nothing, you get nothing in return. They turned their focus to food and found the answers to their most pressing challenges.

LEARNING EXPERIENCES are some of the most powerful forces of change. For instance, one woman lost a child to cancer and witnessed her mother suffer from schizophrenia / depression / arthritis / diabetes / Parkinson’s / cancer. She chose not to live her life that way. Science demonstrates that we can work towards improving our genetic lot in life- individuals can make healthier choices to manage our internal chemistry and carve out a healthier path than did generations before us. Other people truly enjoy the journey of learning. One mother recounts her story of searching for natural treatments for autism, finding solace in the discovery of alternative avenues for treatment outside of the traditional route most are blindly following.

HEALTH AND LIFE GOALS help us change course oftentimes. One woman didn’t want allergies, irritable bowel syndrome and incompetent health practitioners to stand in the way of her fertility and her goals of having children. She began to research and empower herself. In the end, she was glad that she had charted her own healthy course, finally fulfilling her beautiful dream of motherhood.

THE FLIP SIDE OF THINGS: RELUCTANCE TO CHANGE
Several recent studies indicate that people with the highest stakes are often the most reluctant to change, according to Valerie Ulene of the L.A. Times. In 2007, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis reported that of 1,200 obese men and women, the average individual lost 0.2 percent body weight following a heart attack (which is 1 pound for a 220 pound person). A 2008 study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology by Canadian researchers reported that less than 20 percent of 9,000 Cancer survivors were getting in their 5 servings of fruit and vegetables each day and only 50 percent were exercising. Didn’t these people get the memo?
•    People who quit smoking after their first heart attack are 37% less likely to suffer another.
•    Heart attack patients who begin exercising are 30% less likely to die at an earlier age.
•    Women with breast cancer who engage in physical activity improve survival rates by 50%.

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES TO CHANGE
Even though the merits of change are widely publicized, sometimes the path isn’t so easy. Change can be difficult for some people because there is no set manual for making a lifestyle shift. Individuals often need guidance to make the changes that most suit their needs. Furthermore, patience is key, as results don’t often appear overnight. Many people ask me how long a particular supplement, herb or eating plan will take to work. It’s as if they would like their symptoms to be erased with the wave of a magic wand. Unfortunately, we have become accustomed to a magic bullet approach. Sometimes this does happen, and sometimes it takes sustained time, effort and patience for the outcome they want. It usually takes a lifetime to build up to the place we are today, so how can we expect to erase the effects overnight? It’s all too easy to get discouraged and fall back to old habits, but given some time, patience, effort and work in a healthy direction, you are bound to experience fantastic results.

For others, it’s a matter of information. One study found that only 1 in 4 cancer survivors had received directives to exercise and only 30 percent received nutritional counseling. Less than half had been asked about their smoking habits. How can these crucial and often determining factors be overlooked? We must demand another standard of care.

WHAT DO YOU NEED IN ORDER TO MAKE CHANGE HAPPEN?

To make change happen, people must first realize that the benefits outweigh the effort involved. The journey has a beneficial purpose in and of itself and making healthy choices is often very enjoyable as you begin to feel more energized. Don’t just jump right into the most extreme changes. In fact, prepare for big changes by making small modifications, adjustments and taking reasonable steps, one at a time. For example, a person wishing to lose weight will likely experience greater success instilling long lasting change by simply cutting back and reducing desserts first, as opposed to quitting them cold turkey, eating nothing but salads and working out at the gym five days a week, only to fall back into apathy. Once the gradual foundational changes are in place, then full-fledged change can occur, and these changes become part of a healthy lifestyle. Remember never to feel limited or deprived. We find an abundance of delicious food and medicine in the natural world.

SPARKING YOUR PASSION FOR CHANGE
Change involves choosing the right alternative at the right time. For many women, this alternative is Naturopathic medicine, holistic health and self-empowerment. This science purports that everything we need exists in nature. It is merely up to us to discover it, explore it and implement its wisdom. Holistic healing targets the root cause of our maladies at a cellular level, rather than going through other types of therapy that simply alleviate symptoms temporarily. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with an illness, you’re caring for a loved one who suffers, or you are simply interested in living a healthier, more fulfilling life, Naturopathy can show you the way.

Remember, life is about the journey – not the destination – so begin yours today!

Works Cited
Ulene, Valerie. “Why are unhealthy people so reluctant to change their lifestyles?” Los Angeles Times. N.p. 23 May. 2009. Web.   15 June 2011. (http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/23/health/la-he-the-md-change-illness-20110523)

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