You had a bad day and you’re feeling depressed. You decide to "make yourself feel better" with some cookies or cake instead of a workout at the gym. You may feel better for the moment but feel worse after the deed is done. Is it the food that’s sabotaging your health or is it the belief that the food will make you feel better? The fact is that it’s the words and pictures in your mind that determine the actions of your body.
Your current thought process has been in effect for a long time. The word "diet" makes you think DEPRIVATION. "Exercise" makes you think TORTURE. We all make the mistake of trying to change the behavior before we change the beliefs behind it. Did you know we think about 60,000 thoughts a day? Guess how many of those thoughts are the same as from the day before? If you guessed 98 percent, you’re right! We keep repeating the same thoughts and than the same resulting behaviors day after day. To break that pattern will take a strategy.
- Thought + Decision = Behavior
- To change the Behavior, you need to change the Thought.
Building Better Behaviors
Every time you choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator or to take a walk before you go to work, you are building your positive association with health and exercise. You are strengthening your ability to make more positive decisions. Human motive is driven by the desire to avoid pain or to gain pleasure. Are your actions based more on one than the other? It is up to you to set up your thought process and belief system to create the most powerful result. You must know that YOU are in charge of your body! YOU decide what you eat and when you eat!
If these patterns of thinking are so ingrained, can they be changed? Yes! You can train your mind to believe anything, especially when it has significant benefits like healthy eating and exercise does. Advertisers train you to believe things that aren’t even good for you. Some people have been trained to think that cigarettes are sexy. Some people have been trained to think that alcohol will make you uninhibited. And some people have been trained to think that a Ferrari will get them lots of women. How hard can it be to train your mind that good eating and exercise are enjoyable? It’s even easier because it’s true. You instinctively know that exercise and healthful eating are good for you.
Your self talk is a strong indicator of your behaviour. It is in fact your reality. Take some time to listen to the talk that goes on inside your head. Your positive self-talk gives you strength and direction. Your negative self talk is a form of abuse. Just as your self talk may sabotage your quest for a healthy body, it may also be used to help you achieve it. Most people let their minds lead them. Instead, you must lead your mind. You must make the decision that your self talk will reinforce the positive behaviours that you want to make. With positive reinforcement, these behaviours will become your lifestyle. You must believe that if you can control your thoughts, you can control your life. Listen to the words you use, both out of your mouth and in your head. Do they empower you?
- "I will try"… say "I will"
- "I have to"… say "I choose to"
- "I think"… say "I can"
Learn to interrupt the negative voice in your head with a positive, empowering one. Sometimes a certain thought will consistently spiral into a negative result. For instance, you want a glass of wine, which always turns into three, which than turns into eating without care. It is important to PUT A STOP to that original thought so it doesn’t follow its natural path. Remember, if you keep doing the same thing, you will keep getting the same result. So, if you’ve tried to stop the thought before and it hasn’t worked, you need to try a new way to stop it. Yell, clap, try an activity. Keep doing something new until you succeed. Your action is the direct result of the decision you have made with yourself. Decide what you are going to do!
To Create the Future, You Must Address the Past
At some time or another, we have all tried and than failed at a healthy lifestyle. If you say you’re going on a diet every Monday and every week you fail, you better find out why you’re not succeeding before you set that goal again next Monday. Whatever obstacles got in your way before are going to be there again. The question is how is this time going to be any different than the last?
Life stressors are what usually get in the way of good intentions when it comes to good eating and exercise. One strategy for dealing with those stressors is to come up with a Counter Argument for every excuse. I tell my clients that unless the world has flooded, there is no excuse they can give me for not exercising (within reason of course). They can’t tell me they don’t have time or they are too tired. A great exercise to do when you’re just getting started with an exercise program is to put together a list of Counter Arguments for every excuse. I’ll get you started:
|I’m too tired.
||I’m tired because I’m not exercising. I am guaranteed to feel better and have more energy after I exercise.
|I don’t have time.
||I have the same 24 hours as everyone else who does exercise
|It’s too hard.
||It’s easy to exercise now when I’m healthy. It will be a lot harder to exercise when I have no choice (i.e., after an injury).
|I’m not in the mood.
||I have never exercised and regretted that I made the choice to do it. I will feel good and be happy when I’m done.
The Power of Visualization
Clients often tell me they can’t visualize. Well, we all visualize every day. You are visualizing any time you picture places or things in your mind. The challenge is to be able to direct your visualization. You need to see the results of your self talk to make it most effective. Words are just words until they become beliefs and powerful, emotion-filled pictures. You need to condition your mind so you associate things in a way that makes you feel and behave the way you want to, instead of the way you do not want to feel or behave.
Most of us play the same tapes over and over in our head, but we don’t have any control over it. The trick is to practice controlling your visualization.
- Picture yourself stronger.
- Picture how you would feel if you had the body you wanted.
- Picture yourself as an athlete.
- Picture how you would breathe if you had optimal health.
We can decide what we want to see happen and to practice making it happen. Without practice, our mind leads the way. With practice, you lead the mind.
Once you believe in the power of the mind, you can control your destiny. Just being aware of your own thoughts will bring light to your behavior. So, LISTEN to your self talk. EVALUATE it and GUIDE yourself to the most positive outcome. You can practice positive self talk and visualization every day. Approach everything with an I CAN attitude, and it will become your REALITY. Like any other tool, positive self talk and visualization will reap no benefits if not used. Invest the time and energy into your mind, and the results with your body will soon follow.