We’ve located the best health information in the world and we’ve even tested it on ourselves and experienced positive results and yet most of us bounce back to unhealthy habits time and time again.
Why is it that people find it so hard to make change?
Well, the physical aspect of changing a habit of course, but most of us have proven we can break a bad habit when the stakes are high enough. The problem, we’ve found, is mostly in our heads!
You’ve got to believe it to see it!
We have found that people often don’t believe that change is possible. And that’s because they are stuck in the same actions-thoughts-feelings-actions loop, but they don’t know it. For example, you have a bad conversation with someone, then you feel sorry for yourself and disappointed and you pick up a cookie and eat it (thinking it will make you feel better). Soon after that, you have another thought like “I have no self-control” and that is followed by another feeling, regret. Here comes the next action: “Might as well have some ice cream.” From there, the thoughts and feelings get even worse. The problem is that nobody is tracing their actions back to their thoughts. Everyone is waiting to “feel like” eating healthy, in order to start taking the right actions. That could take a very long time.
How to Catch Your Thoughts
Thoughts are mighty elusive but they aren’t uncatchable if you are on a mission. Remember, if you can separate yourself from your thoughts, you’ll gain an amazing power in your life. We do a very specific exercise with clients to help them log and analyze their thought patterns. There is no substitute for writing things down. The awareness causes startling results. Most people find they only have a handful of really negative thought themes, and once they are clearly nailed, better logic is easier to apply.You can make a game of catching your most common patterns in action–, becoming a warrior for inner peace!
Is Thought Tracking Enough?
No. And that’s because even if we can see the mechanism, it’s still hard to stop it. However, like I said above, when the stakes are high enough , we can often change. Unfortunately, we don’t feel the true consequences of many of our poor health choices until it’s way too late. We actually get used to feeling physically and emotionally uncomfortable, or even numb, and so we stop connecting the choices we make to the feelings we feel. But yet, we want to feel better. It doesn’t have to go on this way.
Think about what would happen if the natural consequences of poor choices were bigger and more immediate, if you gained 10lbs every time you, say, ate sugar, or got a severe migraine every time you stayed up past 11pm. You’d be way more careful than you are now. But the consequences for most of your poor choices are much more subtle and build up over time, so you don’t notice the harm, except for maybe how crappy you generally feel about yourself, but you don’t connect that to the individual choices.
Choices and Self-Esteem
There is actually a hit on your self-esteem every time you make a choice that is not in alignment with your ideals for yourself. That’s what we do feel. But instead of connecting that to the choice we just made, we blame “something wrong with us,” or think someone else should have loved us more or done better with us, or we blame something wrong with the circumstances of life. We end up “feeling bad” but powerless at the same time. We never connect the self-doubt or icky feeling back to the simple action we took or didn’t take. Making this connection helps inspire change and causes a great increase in self-confidence, if you do something about it.
What to Do About It?
Because the actual consequences of our choices are not so obvious to us, we recommend that our clients design artificial ones. A life/Handel Coach is the person who helps you devise the right actions to take for your health (we call them promises) and then the appropriate consequence to “owe” if you don’t fulfill the promise. For example, you could promise to get in 30 minutes of cardio every day or else no television that day. Or you could promise only two desserts a week or else you have to do your partner/kid/roommate’s chores for the next week. One client had to tell her parents every time she drank more alcohol than she planned. That handled that!
It sounds simple but it’s remarkably powerful. Suddenly, with an annoying, imminent consequence looming, your brain becomes so much more intelligent about how to get your promises done. You start directing your thinking and your actions towards your dream, and of course, the yummy feelings follow. Consequences are not punishments, and they should not be harmful or detrimental,. In fact, you can see how the examples above could actually be very helpful to relationships and other goals. Consequences can be creative and even funny (one client had to wear bunny ears the next day if she ate things that were not on her food plan) but they have to annoy you enough that you want to avoid them.
What if I know I won’t follow through?
Like any game, it has no integrity if you don’t follow the rules. But since most of us are capable of cheating, it really helps to have accountability. Left to our own devices or in a community of people who have the same negative thinking as we do, we don’t get very far with our dreams. Find the people who want what you want for your health and hang with them. If you don’t have a coach make promises to someone in your community and ask them to hold you to them for real. The accountability to change the cycle of thoughts, feelings and actions and bring forth your dream for your health rests with you, but having people to answer to makes it much more likely that you will succeed.