I caught myself being obnoxious last week when I pulled out my phone to take a picture of my salad before I dug into it for lunch.
Surely someone in the restaurant noticed, rolled their eyes, and muttered something about our self-absorbed culture and obsession with documenting our lives. That’s fine, because I know something they might not: snapping pictures of the healthy things we do each day actually makes the world better.
Yes, the entire world! That is why I encourage my clients to take a picture each day of something they do that promotes health and well-being in their lives. In a healthy living group that I run online, we have adopted this habit as our challenge for the month of June. Each day folks post pictures of treadmill screens, sneakers on pavement, healthy meals, yoga mats, morning coffee, and more.
But I have to be honest and confess that suggesting this exercise is somewhat self-serving, because seeing the healthy things that other people inspires me to do something healthy, too. So I do, and I share it, and someone else is inspired. It’s a whole thing.
And, it’s proven. In its simplest form, positive psychology research shows us that happiness is the catalyst for success, not the result. When coupled with optimism, happiness fuels success. You can read more about it in, “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work,” by Shawn Achor, one of the designers and teachers of Harvard’s famous happiness course.
We also know that sometimes we have to create our own happiness, and we can do that by intentionally looking for the good in life and simply acknowledging the productive things we do each day. Even the little things count, like drinking more water, going for a ten-minute walk after work, turning our phones off when we’re with other people, and ordering the steamed vegetables instead of the french fries. Notice those things. And take a picture.
When you do, you’ll trigger a chain reaction of goodness. First, you will have the benefit of having done the healthy thing. Ding! Then, you will see evidence of having done it when you see the photo, which fuels a sense of pride and increases confidence that you can do more good stuff later. Ding ding! If you take the next step and share it with someone else, you further ingrain the habit as part of your lifestyle and personal identity. Ding ding ding! Three benefits in one healthy action - that’s a bargain!
While you’re basking in the glow of your healthy habits, an inventory of examples is being created in the background. Scroll through your photo roll once in a while for a highlight reel of how you’ve spent your time. You’ll see the evidence of a healthy life being lived by someone: you!
The best part is the impact that your actions have on others. How often have you been inspired by a photo, quote, or meme posted by a friend? Guess what? You are that for someone else, too. Your positive actions have an effect on your friends and family, paying it forward in a powerful way.
Author and pastor Mark Batterson is famous for saying, “show me your habits and I will show you your future.” It’s a great reminder of the observation that is often attributed to Aristotle but is actually a paraphrase of Aristotle written by Will Durant in his book, The Story of Philosophy, that, “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
I propose one more step: show yourself your healthy habits. Look at them when they happen, after they happen, and on the days when you convince yourself that they don’t happen. Especially on those days! Look them in the eye and give them a fist bump of appreciation.
And let the naysayers roll the eyes and mutter about how we’ve become a society obsessed with ourselves. You bet we have. Let’s use it for something good.