A wellness coach can help you stretch your mind, Margaret Moore says
You can then learn to coach yourself, Moore says
Editor’s Note: Margaret Moore is founder and CEO of Wellcoaches Corp., which trains health and wellness coaches in collaboration with the American College of Sports Medicine. Moore is co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate. She teaches coaching psychology at Harvard University Extension School. Moore is co-author of the “Coaching Psychology Manual,” “Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life” and “Organize Your Emotions, Optimize Your Life.”
The spring season reminds us of Mother Nature’s drive to thrive. However, most humans are not thriving.
Research on well-being concludes that about 20% of adults have a strong sense of purpose and are fully satisfied with their lives; less than 10% strongly believe their lives are ideal. Instead most people are stressed out and burned out. All of this stress harms biological function and increases susceptibility to chronic diseases.
To make matters worse, most people feel too depleted, mentally and physically, to create a healthy way of life that would make them feel better. Less than 5% of adults engage in the health behaviors that prevent diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
People are not exercising regularly, maintaining healthy weight or enjoying plentiful fruits and veggies. Not only do people feel lousy, but they also are dealing with chronic diseases that cost them financially.
While your doctor and nurse practitioner want you to thrive, sadly they don’t have time to help. Other dedicated professionals are well-trained to zoom in on one area such as fitness, nutrition or weight. However, they don’t always zoom out first to understand and navigate the complex web of your life complicating your pursuit of good health goals.
Albert Einstein once observed: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” We can’t improve health when we are in a stressed-out state. Instead, cultivating a thriving mind is necessary to attain a healthy body. Combining a whole-life focus with scientifically validated techniques to change your mind is the work of well-trained, certified health and wellness coaches. Their work is now backed by more than 200 scientific studies.
Here are some tactics we health coaches use to get you thriving:
Imagine a life of thriving
A first coaching step is envisioning yourself engaged in a life of thriving. A personal vision is like setting a compass. It sets the direction and purpose for your mind-changing adventure. Perhaps you imagine a day where you are calm and energized, enjoying instead of dreading the overflow of work projects – attending beautifully and creatively to one task at a time.
You are feeling grateful for what is good and what you have, rather than being stuck in a chronic state of criticism or self-doubt. You make time most days for physical activity that feels good, and you are cooking and savoring delicious and healthy meals with your family most evenings.
Stretch your mind
Poet and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. said in the 1800s that a “mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” The heart of a good coaching session is the mind-stretching part. It’s a creative process whereby your coach helps you experience an insight, an “aha moment.” It could be a shift in perspective or discovery of a blind spot. Over time these small shifts add up to a whole new mindset, and you outgrow your old one.
Harvard neurologist Alvaro Pascual-Leone explains that the brain can grow new pathways – about 1 millimeter a day. Over time those pathways enable new habits that make a big difference. Exercise calms you down. Good food energizes your brain so you can focus without distraction and you see more good than bad in yourself and others.
While your mind stretches, so do your capacities. Your new neural pathways allow you to become more creative. You find strengths and resources that were underemployed. You leverage positive feelings to balance your stress and, voilà, you get more done, more quickly, with more enjoyment.
Learn to coach yourself
Best of all, what you learn from a wellness coach is how to coach yourself. You learn how to become a personal visionary. You bring the vision down to earth with small daily experiments that lead you to discover your personal formula – the most effective mix of habits. You learn how to change your own mind, 1 millimeter at a time.
Now is the right time to engage a wellness coach to help boost you from merely surviving to thriving. The cost is similar to a personal fitness trainer or dietitian, many of whom also offer wellness coaching. Ask if your employer offers health and wellness coaching services.
As Hillel, an ancient Jewish sage, once noted, “If not now, when?” Go for now.
The expertise of health and wellness coaches is now codified into national standards recently launched by a national board for certifying health and wellness coaches. Congress recently passed a health and wellness coach resolution and may soon deem health and wellness coaching an allowable medical expense for health savings accounts. You can find a wellness coach at Wellcoaches or at Duke Integrative Medicine.