In the last article, we talked about how associations affiliated with pain and pleasure dictate personal behavior and how these associations manifest as positive and negative (irrational and/or harmful) behaviors.
That being the case, how do you overcome the negative thoughts and behaviors? You have to change your associations and manage your thoughts. That’s right; you have to manage your thoughts.
There is no magic bullet for this; it takes determination, self love and forgiveness, and lots of practice. It requires you to constantly monitor your thoughts and actions in order to bring them into your awareness. If your thoughts or actions are negative or harmful to yourself or others, stop right there and ask yourself what is going on. What is the underlying benefit that you are receiving by thinking those thoughts or engaging in that harmful activity?
Better yet, write it down! Make a list of all positive and negative consequences of that line of thought or activity. If you look closely, you will see that it’s the short-term benefits that generally create the impulse to engage in negative thought or harmful action. For instance, gossiping is a negative and harmful activity, but many people love to gossip! Why? It gives the ego a boost to declare how awful someone else’s behavior has been or how they don’t do things the way you would have done them. If you truly examine the pluses and minuses of gossiping, however, you will find that the negative aspects of gossiping far outweigh the benefits, especially in the long term.
So, when you make your positive/negative associations list, make sure you include long-term advantages/disadvantages on your list. Compare the list with your personal goals and principles and add any alignment or misalignment to the associations list. Be dramatic when making your list!
Using the junk food example above, here’s a possible list of positive/negative associations: Positive—it tastes good, it’s familiar, it distracts me from thinking about an uncomfortable situation. Negative—it’s making me fat, I feel guilty, I feel physically and emotionally uncomfortable in public because of how it affects my body, it is deteriorating my health, long term it will make me chronically ill possibly even kill me. Compared to my goals of being healthy and being a good parent: this behavior is 100% anti-healthy and it is setting a horrible example for my kids, not to mention if it kills me, then I can’t even be a parent much less a good one. If I don’t love myself enough to take care of myself, my kids will follow suit. Eating junk food is 100% anti-good-parent behavior!
Armed with these more powerful declarations about eating junk food, you will be empowered to change your behavior. Combined with a plan of action for how to handle it when the impulse arises (plan ahead to eat a banana or yogurt and fruit), you will soon find yourself reaching for that healthy snack instead, and you may even spend time productively addressing the situation you were trying to avoid (e.g., deciding to forgive your mother for something she said that sent you in an emotional tailspin, or forgiving yourself for having the impulse to eat junk!)
So, the bottom line is, monitor your thoughts and actions, determine what is driving them, change your associations around them, and have a plan of action in place so you know what to do instead or giving in to the impulse. And, write it all down, not only will it be more powerful that way, you will start identifying trends that you can change in order to create the life you so deeply desire!!
I hope you found this post helpful. If you want some tools to help you through this process, be sure to sign up for the FIYB Healthy Lifestyle Initiative!
Yours in health and well-being,