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Heeding the Warning Signs ... or Not

So, in searching for a topic this week, I wrestled with so many different ideas before this one smacked me in the face. Ever since I found out about Essential Oils, I have been striving to improve my health in every area - physical, mental, emotional, spiritual … Any way I can.

But have I been successful? Sort of. I definitely have made some big changes in my life to support my health - and have pushed that on my family members, too. And all of you, right? But I haven’t been 100% successful in my own struggles, and that has led me to look at why.

I have also been frustrated, too, that I have been preaching about all things natural, healthy, and non-toxic to whomever would listen (and many who would not listen), without having the slightest impact on them. WHY won’t they change? Don’t they know XYZ is bad for you? Why do they do that? Well, truth be told, I have some XYZs in my life that I have yet to overcome, so I decided to delve into the topic of why we continue to do harmful things in our life, when we know the ill-effects they could have. So why?

Well, I’m calling this topic Psychology 101. And we all know about the deep, dark hole we call a brain, right? Start trying to figure out our mentality on any subject and it leads to a bottomless pit or black hole of meaning. I think even the psychiatrists don’t know everything there is to know about our brains. Heck, we only use 10% of our brains, anyway, right? (No, that’s a myth - but I know a few individuals it may be true for!)

Here’s what I found on the topic, “why we don’t heed the warning signs.”

1. Belief:

  • First of all, there is the issue of whether or not we truly believe what we are told. If I told you that eating carrots every day would lead to toe fungus, you might hear that and think, “no way.” So, you’ve just determined that you don’t have to cut down on your carrot consumption because, well, that warning simply doesn’t make sense and you don’t believe.

2. Passion:

  • In this same scenario, perhaps your current behavior is that you absolutely adore carrots and you do eat them every day. When I tell you how your habit will affect you, you may show some concern at first, but ultimately, you do not change your behavior because, well, because your love of carrots outweighs the threat of toe fungus. (Hey, I’ll get an antifungal if that happens, right?)

3. Comfort:

  • The person in question is perfectly comfortable with their current lifestyle and doesn’t want to change. “I enjoy carrots. I don’t want to give that up. It feels good and I like it.” There is much weight in the things that make us comfortable in our lives. Even when there is danger or a threat of danger, it is uncomfortable to change, and so we avoid it.

4. Energy:

  • When we think about everything we will need to do in order to change our behavior, we are overwhelmed and simply decide the effort isn’t worth it. “If I don’t eat carrots everyday, I’ll have to find a new favorite vegetable and learn how to cook that. And maybe it will be more money, so I’ll have to budget for that. And what if takes more room in my fridge? So many things to consider!” So, we continue our current behavior with the hope that this side effect won’t happen. We don’t have the energy to make the change. (This may also be called laziness!)

5. Ignore:

  • If we don’t do anything, maybe this will go away. The thought might be, “Science is always changing, so if I don’t pay any attention to this, I bet in a few months they will discover it’s wrong. And then I would have given up my daily carrot consumption for nothing! In fact, they’ll probably find that eating carrots everyday cures cancer! So there!” We ignore the good advice. Ignorance is bliss, right?

6. Investment:

  • Perhaps the time, money, or resources you’ve put into something influences how you react to a warning. “I have installed a huge carrot garden, paid for agriculture classes on carrot growing techniques, and have a refrigerator full of carrots, plus several frozen bags, too! I’m not going to throw all that away for a little toe fungus!” Inaction or ignoring the warning signs is justified by energy, finances, or time.

7. Challenge:

  • The way you have always thought about something can affect your inability to act when a warning comes. A person may be highly educated about a topic, but never heard this particular bit of information and has a hard time connecting it to their previous learning. It just doesn’t make sense. “Wait a minute! I’ve always been told carrots are good for you - especially your eyes! How can they cause toe fungus?” This person may simply revert to their previous knowledge and refuse to accept the new information.

8. Anger:

  • Anger can play a part in a person’s inability to heed a warning. Especially if there have been other warnings previously. How did those warnings play out? Did the dangerous thing manifest itself? Or did you change your behavior for a warning that never played out and felt foolish? “I’m not going to do that again! Fool me once …” Some people just hate being told what to do and will do anything to the contrary - or just ignore good advice. Instead, they get mad that you even bothered to warn them.

9. Not Me:

  • In order to heed the advice of a potential issue, you have to understand that it CAN happen to you. That’s an enormous factor in the scheme of things. Like children - and especially teenagers, we like to think that we’re invincible and that nothing can hurt us. Certainly not something as tame as carrots. Ridiculous! It might affect some people, but they’re not like me!

10. Planning:

  • I already have a plan in place. Perhaps you have done your research about toe fungus and you are using Amish butter rubs to keep it at bay. You’re already using a natural remedy and don’t need to change midstream. “My butter rubs will keep me safe, so I can keep eating carrots.” One plan disturbs another, so you’ll choose the path of least resistance.

11. Right is Might:

  • A person’s way of thinking is challenged when a new piece of information comes along. They have to save face. They don’t want to admit they don’t know everything or could possibly be wrong on a topic, so they choose not to believe it. “I think I am right. If I look any deeper, I may be wrong.” So, they choose to ignore the warning.

12. What ifs:

  • Some people will overthink the whole issue and play it out to the furthest extreme, which leads them to believe, “What if I take action and then I am wrong?” So, because there is the tiniest chance that this information may not be true (in their mind), they choose to not act because they want to be on the right side - and inactivity is easier than change.

13. Fear:

  • What if, after all the time and effort you put into changing, the worst still happens? Or what if making that change will affect some other part of your life. Your husband LOVES carrots and if you stop serving them, there will be trouble. We hold onto our fears - rational or otherwise - and that fear can make us petrified to act in any way.

14. Faith:

  • If God wanted me to change, He wouldn’t have made me like this. Well, sorry. That’s just a cop-out. God gives us free will to make our own decisions. (Isn’t that why so much of the world is in trouble these days?) We have the power within us to make positive changes in our lives, and I would think that when we do, God smiles.

15. Self-confidence:

  • This last point is crazy on target. Some of us are paralyzed with inaction because we simply lack the self-confidence to act. “I’m not going to even try that because I know I will fail, and then I’ll look silly. People will make fun of me. I’ll fall on my face.” It’s another type of fear, but it boils down to being just another lame excuse for not heeding the warning and making a change that will, ultimately, make a better you.

16. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t

  • This last profile came up as we chatted in Zoom on Saturday. Some people are resistant to take action when faced with the warning signs because they determine that the action required is inconsequential. No matter what you do, you’ll still have problems - and particularly, the problem that you are getting a warning about. So, it doesn’t matter if you change your lifestyle, you’re still going to get toe fungus.

Now, I present all of this to you because I am guilty of some, if not all of these. I have made big changes in my life, but I continue to be thwarted by my own inability to change on some other issues. Why am I fat? Numbers 3, 4, & 10 come into play. I want to change, but I’m so comfortable in my life that making that change would make me uncomfortable. Yeah, I’m also lazy. It’s so much more work to eat healthy. And yes, I already have a plan (that I don’t always follow), so let me just keep working on that … And the cycle begins. And I have another set of numbers for why I don’t exercise as much as I should.

Think about the warning signs from years past. How long was cigarette smoking a popular habit - even socially acceptable and trendy - before we finally understood the ramifications? Saccharin? Round-up? LA Smog? We don’t know what we don’t know until we know it. (Talk about psychological double talk!) But it’s true. Until we ascertain a piece of information and assimilate it fully - with facts and details that confirm authenticity, we are resistant to changing our behavior.

So, it doesn’t surprise me that people don’t want to change. Maybe they can’t. Maybe they just need more evidence before they take the first step. I will continue to talk about healthy living and natural remedies for the rest of my life. I’m that passionate that our lifestyle in the United States needs a lot of attention, and eventually, people will come on board. Not because of what I say, but because it is inevitable that change is required in order for us to survive.

Another part of change is action steps. We can’t just change our behaviors overnight. It took years to perfect our current lifestyle, so changes won’t happen until we mindfully plan out the steps we need to take to acquire that change. Big behavioral changes need a big goal, and probably several smaller goals, along with specific actions steps. And, you will need to be able to measure your progress, so account for that as well. (Google SMART Goals!) If the change is worth making, then make a plan to achieve it successfully.

Dr. Amy Montanez sums it up nicely.

“So much of this boils down to not wanting to change. We all seek homeostasis. So heeding warnings is hard work, people. It requires a willingness to change, a willingness to be changed, a willingness to trust that we are capable of change, a willingness to be proactive, a willingness to engage in conflict, a willingness to be influenced by others, a willingness to be wrong, a willingness to learn. All these hard things we don’t want to do. But then we have to because we didn’t heed the warnings.”

I’m going to work harder to accommodate everything I’ve read or learned, and start making the necessary changes for a healthier lifestyle. It will be work, as much of the behavior I currently have is the result of habits - bad ones! Changing bad habits to good will take time and effort, and lots of repetitive behavior. But I do believe in the power of these perhaps overused statements, and I will continue to work on improving me, and making my quality of life the best it can be.

  1. You are what you eat.

  2. When you know better, do better.

  3. Move it or lose it.

  4. All disease begins in the gut.

  5. Express gratitude, every day.

What are you working on changing? What are your struggles? Excuses? Do you have a special mantra or philosophy to make it easier? Write to me in the comments and let’s continue the conversation and support each other!

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