While we're all cooped up at home, I've been thinking about the sunsets over the Santa Catalina Mountains. And one question keeps coming up: "What is your intention?"
Back in February, before all the COVID-19 shutdowns, several of us from Stansberry led a group of subscribers on an Immersion Week at Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort in Tucson, Arizona.
We had one main goal for our Immersion Week: Empower our subscribers to take control of their health in the same way we encourage them to take control of their finances. Canyon Ranch provided us with the perfect outlet for that.
Lately, with all of the stress building up from continued shutdowns and 24/7 media coverage of the COVID-19 crisis, it's easy to lose sight of what really matters. That's why today I wanted to revisit one of the most important lessons I learned at the Ranch.
The idea for Immersion Week started with Steve Sjuggerud. His time at the Ranch a few years ago helped Steve completely change his life – he lost weight and got his foot pain under control for the first time in years.
He credits most of that to Dr. Param Dedhia, one of the Ranch's best physicians. Dr. Dedhia is a Johns Hopkins-trained physician and currently serves as the Weight Loss program leader and the director of Sleep Medicine at Canyon Ranch.
When several members of the Stansberry staff first arrived at the Ranch for our week-long Immersion, they met with Dr. Dedhia. He asked them a single question: "What is your intention here?"
Intention is a big theme at the Ranch, and it should be one we carry with us into our everyday lives.
Setting an intention creates focus. With that focus, you can form a plan and then put it into action. The head of Spiritual Wellness, Dr. Stephanie Ludwig quoted Emerson: "A good intention clothes itself with sudden power."
Taking care of your mental and spiritual health often gets overlooked... but it's vital to your success in making lifestyle changes. Right now more than ever, we need to focus on taking care of our whole selves, and that starts with taking care of our mental health. Just because we're all shut away in our homes, it doesn't mean we can't still set intentions to live healthier, happier lives.
Now, I've written before about habit formation. That includes reminders, routine, and reward. But I left off the first step to find motivation. That's something one of our subscribers voiced during the opening meet-and-greet panel. To paraphrase:
We all know what to do. But we don't know how to start. It's like there are two different buckets, and we can't connect them.
He's absolutely right. Knowing what to do often isn't the problem... motivation is.
That's where mindfulness comes in.
Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis allows us to tap into greater self-awareness and teaches us how to be less reactive to stressors. That awareness is the first step in starting a new practice:
I want you to fill out the above image by asking yourself these questions:
What is my goal? Are you trying to lose weight? Do you want to eat better? Are you trying to get more active? Are you trying to de-stress?
Why am I doing this? Do you want to live longer? Do you want to have more energy to keep up with the grandkids? Do you miss traveling and want to get in better shape for that?
How will I do this? How will I change my diet – can I start with adding some anti-inflammatory foods every day? How much time can I make each day to get out and be active?
When you make a new investment, I always say to write down what you bought, why you bought it, and what your plan is (e.g., sell at a certain price, hold for the long term, etc.). It's the same with your health and wellness plan.
Raising awareness of what you want and why you want it will lead you to answer how you'll get there. If you haven't already, start a meditative practice. If traditional meditation is too much, consider another activity. Journaling, listening to music, sitting in the sun for a few quiet minutes – there are plenty of ways to calm your mind and reflect on your day. Expressing gratitude, in particular, lowers stress and reduces anxiety. Less worry means a greater ability to move on and make changes.
Ranch nutritionist Lisa Powell said it best: "Start small and build your momentum." That's true for changing any lifestyle habit. Don't try one of those all-or-nothing diets. Don't try to go from sedentary to hours of grueling workouts every week. Making small, meaningful changes will lead to bigger and better changes. That goes for nutrition, exercise, sleep, meditation, and any other habit you want to start.
I hope you incorporate these lessons into your daily life and create healthy habits to improve your health. And especially practice stress management, as the COVID-19 crisis and recession have tested all of our resolve. I wrote about four other lessons I learned at Canyon Ranch, which you can read in my March issue of Retirement Millionaire. Check it out here.
What We're Reading...
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
May 5, 2020