Thinking your way to better health
Our risk for chronic health problems drops considerably by making overall healthy food choices and being physically active. However, there is an obstacle that frequently gets in our way of making positive changes in this direction. It is our thoughts.
For example, “I haven’t followed my plan of going for a walk on my lunch break for three weeks! I’m a total failure.” This is an unrealistic and irrational thought that can lead to giving up altogether. Remember, our whole self can never be equated with any one thing we do. Thoughts like the following are much more constructive. “I’ve missed a few days, but that doesn’t mean I’m a total failure. What do I need to change about my schedule to make it easier to get my walk in?” Learn from the past and let irrational thoughts go. That was then, this is now. We can always learn to do what is best for us now regardless of what has happened in the past.
Watch out for inflexible thinking, too. There is a delicate balance between a firm commitment to exercise and eating well and a rigid compulsion about keeping to a predetermined schedule or a “good food/bad food” list. Try to develop a flexible, healthy attitude about your wellness goals and make wellness a part of your life, not your entire life. It’s easier to maintain your enthusiasm this way. Thoughts of never eating ice cream or always going to the gym after work can be most helpfully restated like the following. “I wish I could do without sweets, but if I eat them in moderation I can still have an overall healthy eating style.” “It would be nice if my exercise schedule never got interrupted, but it’s not the end of the world if it does.”
Also, don’t fall into the victim trap. “It was my wife’s fault that I missed that exercise class!” “I can’t eat healthy with my husband around.” Instead, be reasonable about how much control you give others. “It would be nice if I always got support from my spouse, but that isn’t realistic. He or she is often supportive, but not always. I realize I’m ultimately the one responsible for my actions.”
Next time you find your thoughts are a little self-critical or unreasonable, talk back! Harness the power of your mind and discover one of the best tools for positive behavior change.
Debbie Coblentz is a registered dietitian living in Churchill County. Your comments in response to this article are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.