Lifestyle Choices and a Plan

Part I: Identifying Ares in My Current Lifestyle That Need Improvement so That I Can Get Back to a Healthy Path

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Three areas to make improvements in my current lifestyle are: 1) the area of exercise, 2) the area of diet, and 3) the area of commitment to spirituality. Each of these areas is important in and of itself—but together they form a holistic approach to physical, mental and spiritual health that I feel, if embraced, can lead to the flourishing of health and positivity in my own life—which I would then expect to be able to transfer to the patients I serve. The more that one is satisfied and happy in one’s own life, the more likely that person is to provide quality care to one’s patients (Laschinger, 2008). Additionally, it has been well established that physical exercise and diet and two of the major cornerstones or foundations of a healthy lifestyle (Claas & Arnett, 2016; Cobb-Clark, Kassenboehmer & Schurer, 2014).

In the field of health psychology, which is what I seek to enter into, the areas of focus include the mental, emotional and social factors that impact a person’s health and wellness. By taking care of my own areas of health, I feel that I would best be in a position to help others, particularly the elderly population, address their own health issues. However, to care for others, I first have to care for myself—and that means addressing my own physical and psychological needs.


I am often quite busy in my life and as such I know how important it is to get enough rest so that I am revitalized to meet the demands of my very demanding schedule. It is also important to maintain a good schedule for physical exercise. I have a gym membership that I only rarely take advantage of and I would like to make my gym visits more of a regular part of my life. This will be discussed as part of my plan to get more into physical shape in the next session. Exercise helps with making rest feel more like rest. I find, for example, that if I try to relax after a very busy day it is difficult to do so. My mind continues to run over all the things I need to do for the week and even if I want to get to bed early I have a difficult time falling asleep. This is where exercise comes into play. I have found in my own experience that if I just get a brief workout in before I call it a day, I can relax when I get home and sleep easier. Exercise helps to put the body at rest, especially if a lot of tension builds up in the body over the course of a day or week—and yet, unfortunately, I find that I don’t do it enough, so that is why this is an area for me that I want to focus on.


I also want to focus on the area of diet. A healthy diet is so important when it comes to feeling good and having enough energy to get through the day. I tend to find that I look for quick fixes sometimes—instead of planning a well-thought-out meal for the day or a series of meals for the week, I will instead get fast food because it is quick and convenient. Too many Big Macs later and I feel out of shape, exhausted and sluggish. I don’t want this type of habit to become a main characteristic of my lifestyle so I want to start preparing a better diet for myself. A healthy diet can go a long way in establishing one’s strength and wellness (Muros, Cofre-Bolados, Arriscado, Zurita & Knox, 2017). I will have more to say about diet in the next section.


Finally, another area that I want to focus on is spirituality. Religion and spirituality have always been in the background of my life in some way or another, but when I become really busy this area tends to disappear into the backdrop and I can feel that my center is sliding. To maintain one’s center there has to be a kind of mental toughness that one develops over time. Spirituality and religion have helped me in the past to overcome obstacles and succeed in a variety of challenges. As I look forward to accomplishing this latest challenge of mine, I want to reaffirm my commitment to spirituality so that I can be mentally tough and ready to tackle the obstacles that I know will be coming my way.

Why I Have Strayed

I think that I have strayed from a path of health by losing focus on what is really important for good health. I have gotten bogged down by too many other cares and concerns. For example, in my family there is a lot happening—I have family members that are in need of care, and there are always the random financial issues that have to be addressed that typically add stress to life and distract from the things that help us maintain a path of health. To deal with issues, my family tends to try to find quick fix solutions.

For instance, to cope with stress, we might just turn on a movie at the end of the night. This is an easy response but not necessarily the right one: it is just an easy way to check out for a few hours. I feel that instead of checking out in this manner, it is more important to “check in,” so to speak—i.e., to take stock of one’s mental, physical and spiritual health by taking some personal time to assess what one is eating, whether one is getting enough exercise, and how one’s spiritual life is coming along. All of these areas are good for the mind and body, and that is why I want to spend more time bringing them back in as a major source of support in my life. After all, there is only so much pizza and cola one can eat while watching Netflix before one starts to realize that this is not the pathway to health.

My Motivation

My motivation to get back to a pathway of health is this: I want to achieve my nursing goal of obtaining a Master of Science degree in Health Psychology so that I can serve the elderly population. Having taken care of my parents over the years, I realize how important it is to serve this population: when they do not receive the right kind of care they can become withdrawn, isolated and depressed. Health psychology helps to address the issues of this underserved population by focusing on mental, behavioral and physical health issues that pertain to the elderly patient.

I reason that if I am going to be someone who helps bring health and wellness to others, I first have to ensure that I am bringing it to myself. That is my major motivation in this endeavor. I am inspired by my experiences in assisting my parents and I want to continue to hold that as my inspiration because whenever I think about that time it always makes me grateful that I have my health and was able to provide care for them. But if I lose my health, I am not going to be of any use to anyone. That thought alone makes me want to get off the couch and onto the treadmill, make out a meal plan, and do a 15-minute meditation in the morning to start my day off right.

To summarize, the areas I want to focus on are increasing my physical exercise to at least 3 times per week; plan a healthy diet so that I am no longer stopping for a quick drive-thru meal at a fast food restaurant, and spend time concentrating on spirituality so that I have the mental agility and confidence to be self-actualizing. I feel that these three areas are important to focus on to ensure the continuation of my success in my career. I now need to develop a plan to help me address the needs I have identified with respect to these areas.

Part II: My Plan to Address These Lifestyle Areas and Get Back to More Healthy Living

The Three-Part Process

My plan to address these three areas will consist of 1) meditating in the morning to get my spiritual life in order; 2) preparing a meal plan for each week so as to avoid fast food and an unhealthy diet; and 3) exercising three nights per week at the gym for a half-hour.

Henderson and Ellison (2015) show that spirituality can help individuals improve their mental health. Meditation can be a good way to reduce stress and to help people improve their focus. Deep breathing and self-soothing helps to improve cognition and release tension from the body. But more importantly, by practicing these exercises and taking the rituals of religion seriously one can achieve a state of self-actualization like that which sits at the top of the hierarchy of needs in Maslow’s (1943) theory of human motivation. Henderson and Ellison also not that people who engage in these exercises “develop beliefs and gain confidence about their own competence and ability to exercise control over their own affairs, when they have had experience in doing so. By contrast, persons who lack such experiences are unlikely to cultivate feelings of mastery and efficacy” (p. 956). This will be motivation in my plan to meditate each morning for 15 minutes to start my day off right.

Treatment Plan for Meditating

For meditation material I will focus on a variety of sources that that I can find on the Internet that help with meditations. These can be easily acquired and only require brief reading, which can be accomplished in about 5 minutes. So after waking, getting the coffee going, checking my messages, I will go into the downstairs den, do my 5 minute prep reading online, and then do a 15 minute meditation. It is important that his be a routine that I can do every morning so that it becomes a habit—but it is also important that it not be too much, because if it is too overwhelming or too much of a change, it won’t last and I won’t follow through on it. 15 minutes following a 5 minute reading will only require me to get out of bed 20 minutes earlier each day. I think this is a small price to pay for getting back to a healthy path and meditation, I feel, is the best way to start my days off right. So this makes perfect sense and should not be difficult to achieve.

Treatment Plan for Dieting

For diet planning, this could prove more difficult—but it is necessary. I am too used to eating out, so this one is going to require me to make a meal plan, do shopping, and plan ahead extensively. However, I know that that is going to be too much and because I am already so busy, I know the habit won’t stick. Fortunately, there is an alternative. Instead of doing the shopping myself, I can order pre-planned meals from Blue Apron that will arrive in the mail. These are not pre-cooked meals or pre-packaged meals. Rather, they are simply meals that have the ingredients already put together in a basket with instructions on how to prepare the meal and cook it. This is a convenient solution to my problem of eating out so often. And the meals are very healthy as that is one of the company’s selling points.

Knowing that I will have a home-cooked meal at home that does not require me to do any planning or shopping for ingredients will really take a load off and allow me to focus on other things. All this will require me to do is come home, prep the meal and cook it. I can order five of these throughout the week and do a small shopping trip to cover weekend meals. For weekends, I can make a pot luck dinner that will serve for Saturday and Sunday. The Blue Apron will solve my motivation problem for getting out and picking up dinner items—the company will do that part for me, so that problem is solved five nights a week. Pot lucks are not hard and I actually enjoy doing them, as it really is all about just throwing what’s in the fridge into a pot and cooking it up. So the motivation for this part of the plan will be relatively simple as well.

Treatment Plan for Exercising

For exercise, my plan will be to set aside a half-hour three nights a week—Monday, Wednesday and Friday to hit the gym near my house. I enjoy riding the bikes there and also using a few of the other exercise machines. This will be something I do after work before heading home. If I go home first and then have to leave to go to the gym, I know I won’t be successful. Once I am in, I like to be in for the night. So my motivation here will be somewhat difficult. I am not sure that negative motivation will really do the trick—i.e., I can tell myself I better hit the gym on the way home or else I won’t get there, but I am not sure how well that will work.

Back-up Plan

After giving it some thought, a back-up plan for the gym workout will be to phone a friend—literally. Everyone needs a support system in place whenever they are trying to overcome some challenge and adopt a behavior that will facilitate their healthy development. My support system for this back-up plan will consist of my friend, who is fond of cycling. She lives in the neighborhood and I can plan on cycling with her three nights a week if I fail to hit the gym. Our neighborhood has trails for cyclers so this would not be difficult to do, and it is something that we could plan on doing together—that way I can be held accountable. No one at the gym is going to hold me accountable, but my friend will if I tell her we are on for three nights of cycling per week. This back-up will serve my gym plan, and getting to spend time with my friend will serve as my motivation, as I have long wanted to get a cycling group going in my neighborhood. So maybe we will be able to get others to join us as well.

How the Plan Works with Health Psychology

Together these three behavioral intentions will help to improve my own health psychology by allowing me to focus on my mental and physical sides of life. My personal health psychology is important because I need it to be strong if I want to serve others—and meditating, eating healthy foods, and getting exercise is the best way I know to get my lifestyle back on a healthy path. I can implement this plan without too much hassle and there is not much for of it not sticking because the changes are small enough to not be excessively burdensome. The only real difficulty will be getting to the gym, but my back-up plan will ensure that I at least get some cycling in three nights a week—so that will take care of the physical exercise side of things.

A healthy mind and body is best achieved by a routine of exercise, diet and meditation, based on what a number of researchers have found (Class & Arnett, 2016; Cobb-Clark et al., 2014; Henderson & Ellison, 2015). My plan will help me to improve my health, start eating right, and get back to improving my spiritual life. All of these areas will provide a holistic approach to health that will support me as I work towards achieving my academic and career goals.

One Area That Could Appeal to Others

I think the area and treatment plan that might have appeal to others would be the morning meditation. This would be the simplest and easiest treatment plan—especially for the elderly—and it would also be one that would help to improve cognitive abilities and keep people from feeling depressed (Henderson & Ellison, 2015). I would also be most comfortable sharing this part of my treatment plan with others as I have found that most people are open to the idea of meditation because they feel it gives them many spiritual and mental benefits. Plus, it is a great way to reduce stress and start the day off right.

However, meditations do not have to be conducted in the morning—that is just when I prefer to do them; so I would advise someone who wants to take part in this treatment to pick a time that they like best and get into a routine of setting aside 20 minutes each day at that designated time to engage in some meditation. I would also advise them to select meditation subjects that are meaningful for them. Some links to meditation sites on the Internet could be supplied by me and I would be comfortable helping others to find different sites if they were interested in other topics than what I provided. The key would be to find access to meditation topics that would be of particular usefulness for them as they would be the ones doing the meditation. It would also be worthwhile to do a demonstration of meditation with the person in case the individual was not familiar with the process of meditation or how it is conducted. I would begin by explaining that meditation is different from contemplation, which one does without the aid of any reading material. Some people might prefer contemplation more for this reason, but contemplation is really an advanced form of meditation and one that people should only engage in if they are experienced in summoning to their minds something to focus on and then allowing the spirit to move them as they free their minds of all distractions.

For beginners, I would recommend giving it some practice first and then seeing how they like it. It can be daunting and a difficult habit to pick up unless one is committed to it. 15 minutes of meditation each day might not seem like a lot—but unless one has good meditation material that is truly interesting to the person, 15 minutes can quickly turn into a hassle. That is why I say the meditation material should be selected carefully so that one does not lose interest in it right away.


The benefits of meditation, exercise and diet have been identified by numerous researchers over time, and I view them as good ways to get my own life back on a healthy path. These areas are ones that I have been slipping in recent years, and I realize that if I am going to be promoting health and wellness among the elderly population it is important for me to really embody and embrace the ideas that I want to spread. I also realize that this goal will require me to be physically, mentally and spiritually in shape—and that is the other reason I have selected these areas: by focusing on them, I will be able to maintain the energy and positivity that will be needed to face an academic and job-related hurdles along the way.



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