Today I’m going to talk about personal challenges and the benefits and struggles of them along with how to choose which challenges to do. I call them challenges because I’m challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone to either be more productive with my time or develop healthier habits. Every month, Scot and I experiment with different challenges. Some of them are challenges that we repeat regularly while others are new.
Challenges can either be eliminating an activity or food or adding something positive into your life for a specified time period. Today I’ll share six ideas for challenges that we incorporate in our house.
21 Day Primal Eating Challenge
Scot and I just finished a 21 day primal eating challenge with a few friends. We all focused on eating only primal approved foods for 21 days. Primal approved foods are grass-fed/pasture raised (if you can find it) meat, wild caught fish, eggs from pasture raised chickens (if available), healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, etc.), nuts and seeds, and lots of vegetables. You basically want to cut out bread, grains, processed foods, dairy (temporarily for some), and unhealthy fats (vegetable oil, canola oil, soy oil, etc.). This is one of the first things I encourage all of my health coaching clients to do to jump start their primal health journey.
One key benefit of this challenge, since it tends to be low-carb, is reprogramming your genes to train your body to become a fat burner instead of a sugar/carb burner for energy. When you become a fat burner your body dips into your fat stores to use as energy to keep you moving and thinking clearly. Another benefit to this challenge is your fueling your body with high quality nutrient dense food to nourish your body and mind.
The challenge comes when you have a family event to go to or have prescheduled dinner planned with friends who are not focusing on eating a primal aligned diet. It can be difficult when there are limited food options for you on the menu. The number one thing I’ve learned from personal experience is to not get stressed out about eating something that is not primal. I’ve learned which foods are ok to eat occasionally and which foods I absolutely will not eat no matter what (processed cured lunch meat is one of them).
No-Spend Month Challenge
Every four or five months Scot and I will do a “no-spend” month in which we only spend money to satisfy our basic needs: food, water, and shelter. If we don’t need it to survive we don’t buy it. It’s very simple.
The number one benefit to this challenge is obvious: we save more money. The more money we have saved up, the closer we are to achieving our financial freedom goals. The number two benefit to this challenge is we spend our time differently. We focus our decision making energy on activities that will assist us with improving our health and wellness such as meal planning. Meal planning is crucial to the success of eating a clean primal aligned diet especially when our schedules are full.
Quality sleep is one of the most important variables of optimal health. With technology these days, it can be difficult to get a good nights sleep mostly because the screens and light bulbs that light up our night produce blue light which increases our cortisol levels and suppresses our melatonin levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that keeps us alert and awake. Melatonin lets our body know that it’s time to go sleep.
When our primal ancestors were winding down at night they would typically sit around a fire sharing stories or playing music. The orangish hues of fire has been imprinted in our genes for our bodies to produce melatonin to signal sleep time. So, wearing amber glasseshelps your body produce melatonin to enable you to relax and wind down to get good quality sleep.
The challenge is to wear amber glasses every night as soon as the sun goes down to block the blue light coming from screens and light bulbs and keep a journal on your quality of sleep. Write down how you feel when you wake up. Do you feel refreshed and ready for the day? Or do you feel sluggish?
No Alarm Clock Challenge
This challenge can be difficult since most people are accustomed to waking up to an alarm. Our primal ancestors would typically go to sleep a few hours after the sun went down and woke up around the time the sun came up. This programmed our genes to align our sleep with our natural circadian rhythm.
We rarely wake up to an alarm clock. If we do, we wake up to a sunrise alarm clock, the sounds of birds chirping, or a nice, mellow ring tone; not a jarring buzzing sound that creates the fight-or-flight response in our bodies. It’s a much more natural way to wake up.
When you go to bed within a few hours of the sun going down and wake up naturally feeling refreshed and energized, take note of how many hours you slept. This is most likely the number of hours you need to get an adequate night of sleep. This is one of the benefits of waking up naturally.
When I first started waking up without an alarm clock it did cause some anxiety when I did it the night before having to go to work. I was worried I wouldn’t wake up in time. Once I trained my body to wake up around 7:00am or 7:30am naturally I stopped worrying about whether or not I was going to wake up in time or not. I encourage you to try it on a night in which you don’t have to wake up at a certain time the next morning.
No Internet Challenge
The internet can be a very useful tool, but can also be a huge distraction if not used properly or used too much. Surfing the internet has never been enjoyable for me. If I’m on the internet it’s because I’m looking for something specific. Occasionally I will allow myself to be distracted by going down a rabbit hole of nonsense that isn’t related to the topic I’m researching at the moment.
Scot, on the other hand, enjoys browsing the internet, shopping or reading blog posts. This is one of the ways he likes to wind down and relax. We all need activities that get us out of our normal routine. It becomes a problem when all you’re doing is surfing the web and not getting outside to get exercise and sunshine, or you’re not having enough face-to-face interaction with your friends and family, and you’re not getting good sleep because you’re up late shopping on the internet for items you don’t necessarily need.
If this sounds like you, I challenge you to do a No Internet Challenge. Only use the internet if you absolutely need to (i.e. you need it for a work task). When you’re at home with your family turn off the internet and have meaningful conversation with friends and family or go for a walk. Replace your internet with more meaningful activities that will serve you better now and in the future.
No Movies or TV on “School Nights” Challenge
This is the challenge we do most often in our house. I love watching movies! It’s one of my top five activities that relaxes me. I really enjoy watching a great movie that makes me think or even a cheesy RomCom that takes me out of my current reality for a few hours.
Personally, though, the downfall to watching TV or movies every night is it interferes with my sleep. I’m more likely to stay up later than I normally would because after the movie or TV show is finished I still need to clean up dishes and get ready for bed.
We do challenges where we don’t watch TV or movies on nights when we have work the next morning, typically Sunday through Thursday nights. Y’know...”school nights”. Instead of watching a show, we’ll sit down across from each other at dinner, listen to music, and have a meaningful conversation. We enjoy our homemade primal meal and relax as we wind down for the evening. Our bodies digest food and absorb nutrients more efficiently when we are relaxed as we eat.
There are an infinite number of challenges you can do to improve your health and your life in general. Think about areas of your life in which you know you can do better and create a challenge around those. Brainstorm with a friend or family member (someone you trust) on challenges you can do together. You can hold each accountable each day and then celebrate at the end of the challenge, even if you didn’t complete the challenge 100%. The purpose is not to be perfect but to learn from it.
What challenge will you start with?
Thanks so much for reading!
Honey Bee Wellness
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