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It's Official. I Have Recovered.

Shannon Harvey

I had the most amazing news last Friday. After a routine blood test, my doctor told me there was no sign of autoimmune disease in my body.  

It’s been ten years since a specialist doctor told me that he suspected I had Lupus and for a long time I thought the only way forward was to take medication that wouldn’t be able to cure me, but merely suppress the symptoms. Over time doctors gave the illness different labels including Sjrogens syndrome, connective tissue disorder and Fibromyalgia.  

Even though I’ve just made a film about how the latest science from the world’s most respected institutions shows that if we change our mind we can change our health, and even though I write a weekly blog about mind body medicine, the news truly blew me away. This stuff actually works.  

My news this week has made me realize that although a doctor has given me the ‘all clear’, this is no reason to suddenly stop doing the things I’ve done to recover. I know that if I stop practicing mindfulness, meditating and yoga or start eating junk food, having late nights and prioritizing work over connecting with my loved ones, I will get sick again.  

I’ve written previously about how I see my recovery as a result of my health evolution rather than a health revolution.  Over a number of years I have slowly introduced lifestyle changes that have ultimately led to my wellness. But I’m also aware that the dawn of December has heralded the start of the Silly Season. Over the next few months my usual wellness routine is going to be compromised with festive decadence and a lot of traveling. So my research project this week was to find out if a couple of months of throwing caution to the wind could break the good habits I've established and impact my health.  

Researchers agree that that the secret to healthy habit formation is to repeat an action consistently, in the same context. I find I'm more inclined to meditate after I've practiced yoga.  I associate the feeling of a warm, stretched, balanced body with a strong desire to be still and focused. 

But my concern was about disrupting newly formed habits if I let a few things slide over the holidays.   According to this recent study the good news is that breaking our routine once does not significantly impact the habit formation process, although people who were very inconsistent in performing the behavior did not succeed in making habits. This study from 2005 however found that lapses did have important consequences. The researchers defined a lapse as not performing their habit for a week. When these findings sit side-by-side it suggests that missing one opportunity does not make a difference, but missing a week’s worth of opportunities makes a big difference.  

I’m calling it my New Year Evolution.

My conclusion from this is that I'm going to need to be quite diligent over the next few months. I'll be away from home and my usual habitual triggers. While I won't be worrying about a few days missed here and there,  I won't be able to just throw all caution to the wind and make up for it later with new year resolutions of restraint and guilty pledges.  Instead of week-long indulgences and blowouts, I’m resolving to keep evolving. I’ll be focusing on maintaining healthy habits throughout December and January as well as adding in a few new ones.  

I've been faced with similar challenge before. While I was on our premiere tour screening the film I was in six time zones in four weeks. It was a hectic schedule and there was a lot riding on the release.  If ever I was going to get sick again it would have been then. But I decided to get the help of yoga studios in every new city I visited. While I was in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, I practiced at YogaWorks studios and I loved it. So I was thrilled to discover they have online classes called MyYogaWorks. With all the traveling I’ll be doing during the holidays, it will be a great resource. I will have no excuses not to stick to my New Years Evolution.  

 (Also just flagging that there’s no financial incentive for me to be plugging MyYogaWorks) Comment below if you're joining me. I'd love to hear from you.

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