Boil a Frog, Not Yourself
Recently I read about how to boil a frog. In case you were wondering - you cook them alive. If you place it in water that is already boiling it will jump out immediately. Instead, you place them in a pot of cool water, and slowly, incrementally, turn up the temperature. The frog’s internal temperature adapts to the rising heat of the water, and it does not recognize that it is on its way to death. This is often used as a metaphor about how humans, like frogs, adapt to small dangers in their lives. They let these dangers build up little by little and only notice when the threat is too large and too late to overcome.
But what if we flipped the script?
What if we could nourish ourselves to life, instead of boiling ourselves to death?
These questions came to me on a recent vacation I took on the Mediterranean sea. With the sun kissing my skin, breathing in the ocean air, and holding my fiance’s comforting hand beside me, I realized I was feeling the happiest I have in my entire life. I thought “how did I get here? Just two years ago I was the most depressed and anxious I had ever been. In fact just a few months ago I was still having regular breakdowns, panic attacks, and had to take frequent days off of work for my mental health...what suddenly shifted?” Upon reflecting, I realized that the abundance of happiness I was feeling was not sudden at all. It was a build up of small, but positive, incremental steps I had taken towards loving myself. Unlike the frog who is slowly boiled to death, I had slowly risen to happiness, love, and joy.
So the question then is this-how can we each apply this in our own lives? How can we all decrease the dangers in our lives, and increase the self-love to achieve authentic joy?
The solution is to build our positive habits little by little until the dangers that are slowly killing us have no more space in our lives to destroy us. These dangers might be unhealthy eating habits, a sedentary lifestyle, negative self talk, mental health issues, etc. They are different for each person, but each have the capability to hold us back from living to our full potential.
While it is crucial to acknowledge the habits, beliefs, or situations that do not serve us, it is even more important to not get stuck on them. Instead, it is vital to recognize how we can positively change for the better. Only then can we work to introduce more loving habits, beliefs, and situations into our lives that force any negativity or danger to ease out. So, Instead of turning up the temperature of danger in our lives, let’s focus on building up our positive habits and traits little by little... until one day it seems as though we are magically happier, healthier, and more vibrant human beings.
Here are four steps to get started:
1) Pick one thing to start with that does not require a huge time commitment
This could be stretching for two minutes in the morning, flossing your teeth, drinking an extra glass of water, cooking one healthy meal a week, eating an apple after dinner instead of desert, working out for five minutes once a week, or taking one deep breath when you wake up. Notice how these suggestions are different than many goals we often set for ourselves and expect to adapt to right away (i.e. exercising for an hour every day, quitting sugar completely, or meditating for 20 minutes twice a day.) Remember how the frog jumps out of water if it is already boiling. The same concept applies here. If we go all in right away it is more likely that we will not be able to sustain the habit, and we will abandon ship.
2) Increase the habit when it feels like second nature
This means, that when you perform the chosen habit without thinking about it too deeply, you are ready to increase its intensity. Let’s say for instance that you chose to perform one deep breath in the morning, the next increment could be adding one or two more deep breaths. If you chose to cook one healthy meal a week, you can experiment with two. Keep repeating this step as you get more comfortable with the habit. You will soon notice that you have worked up to cooking an entire week’s worth of healthy meals, or that your three deep breaths in the morning turns into ten minutes of meditation. Believe me, miracles will happen. As you master each level of one habit, you will gain more confidence in adding more positive habits!
3) Use what’s available to you immediately
You don’t need a gym to start working out. You don’t need to shop at Whole Foods to start eating healthy. I once lived in a room that was slightly larger than the length of my body (5’2.5'') and was the width of two desks put together. But it was enough space for a yoga mat and I got into the best shape I had ever been in. Why? Because all I had to do was roll out of bed instead of paying money and taking a bus to the nearest gym an hour away. Similarly, I used to do all my grocery shopping at Wal-Mart, and at the time I ate 100% plant-based. Not only was Whole Foods out of my budget, it wasn’t even an option because the town I was living in was a food desert. That didn’t stop me from buying the fruits and veggies that were available to me even if they weren’t ethically produced and organic. Remember, your situation doesn’t have to be perfect to begin. Look around you, look at yourself in the mirror. Your body in and of itself is the greatest tool to begin manifesting positive habits. Start there- it’s free and available at all times.
4) Remember that progress is not linear
Progress works in fits and stops. There will be weeks where you perform your chosen habit every single day without fail, and you feel on top of the world. Then there will be those days you get sick, or injured, or you’re on vacation and forget about it completely. It’s ok. Take a deep breath and remember that one setback does not erase the positive things you have already started. Keep going. Momentum takes time, but once you start, you already finished the hardest part.
So my beautiful friends what do you say? Instead of boiling ourselves to death, let’s nourish ourselves to life. Remember- we are humans, not frogs. We have unlimited agency and choice to be the directors of our lives.