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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,

Alison

 
 
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Greetings readers!

We are now in the first full week of January and it is time for the rubber to hit the road.

If you have ever tried to change any long-term habits you know that changing behaviors can be downright difficult. There are many reasons for this, but here a few of the most common:

·      A habit is a habit is a habit. You’ve been going on auto-pilot for so long you don’t even think about your actions; 
       you just do them.
·      You set unreasonable goals or expect too much change at one time. It’s overwhelming.
·      Emotional blocks or emotionally driven behaviors (do you ever eat ice cream or chocolate when you are upset?).
·      Dread of missing out on something you will enjoy.
·      Dread of engaging in an activity that will make you uncomfortable.
·      Peer pressure (i.e., your dinner host insists you try their chocolate mousse or the boss buys everyone pizza for 
       lunch, and you don’t want to be contrary so you eat it even though it throws a wrench in your plan).

If you think about it, each of the examples above have to do with associations you affiliate with that activity (the pleasure/pain principle). As humans, we are motivated by two forces, pleasure and pain. If you associate more pleasure than pain with an activity, you will engage in that behavior. Likewise, if you associate more pain than pleasure with an activity, you will avoid it. This is the case even if engaging in or avoiding the activity does not make logical sense or if it ultimately causes you harm. As a result, logic and reasoning are thrown to the wind when it comes to our daily habits. That being said, how can you create positive change for yourself when you are inherently, biologically, and illogically change-resistant?

Here are several steps you can take to significantly increase your chances of success:

·      Set a reasonable goal with a timeline (e.g., lose 50 pounds in 12 months).
·      Create an action plan centered on the behavioral changes (e.g., exercise 3 times/week for 30 minutes and 
       eliminate sugar from my diet).
·      Educate yourself! (e.g., if you want to eat a healthy diet, you need to know exactly what that means so you can 
       make informed decisions).
·      Monitor your progress and adjust your action plan accordingly.
·      Identify the scenarios in which derailment is most likely to occur and have a plan in place for each scenario 
       (e.g., snacking on junk while watching the nightly news—instead, have some raw veggies and nuts prepared 
       knowing in advance that is what you will grab when you sit down to watch the news).
·      Figure out the pleasure and pain beliefs you associate with changing or not changing (e.g., if I lose 50 pounds, I 
       will look great, feel better, and find the perfect mate, but if I don’t lose weight, I will get sick, die an early 
       death, feel uncomfortable all the time, feel self-conscious everywhere I go, and feel lonely for the rest of my 
       life). And, don’t be afraid to be dramatic!
·      Change your associations (if eating a tub of ice cream daily brings you visions of delight, review your negative 
       associations before digging in).1 **I highly recommend watching the video listed in the References below. **
·      Know in advance that you may relapse into your old behavior. When you do, forgive yourself and get right back 
       to your action plan. (Don’t dwell on it!)
·      Reward yourself for your accomplishments.
·      Monitor your thoughts at all times—no negative self-talk is permitted, ever!

If you joined our 2015 Healthy Lifestyle Initiative (FIYB HLI), you can access our tools and resources that are designed to assist you through the process of personal change and the HLI blog where we help each other work through the challenges and celebrate our successes as a community.

If you would like to participate in the 2015 FIYB HLI and have access to these tools and resources, all you have to do is register (click here). It’s FREE!!

Here’s to your personal success in 2015.

Yours in health and well-being,

Allison

References:

1. Tony Robbins Pain and Pleasure. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfSj4_n_C_s.

 
 
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In the September 7th newsletter and blog post, I talked about how we will do ANYTHING other than what is truly best for us in order to lose a few pounds and trim our waistline by a few inches. 
 
So what’s the deal? Why are we so impulsive and irrational when it comes to our body image, and why is it so difficult to just eat a healthy diet?  These are two excellent questions.
 
The primary motivating force behind all behavior lies in the psychological phenomenon known as the Pleasure Principle.1We are designed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It is the driving force behind all of our behaviors and actions. This impulse is so strong that we willingly betray our own better judgment to keep from feeling uncomfortable.
 
Just think about how marketing incorporates this principle to induce you into purchasing something you can’t afford and don’t really need. How? They incite fear and negative emotions (pain) then provide a solution to relieve your pain (pleasure). Double whammy and whoosh - the sale is guaranteed!
 
Example: “Are you tired of seeing your belly hang over your belt? Are you sick of feeling self-conscious every single day because of that extra 10 pounds you are carrying around your waistline?  My name is Dr. VooDoo, and I have successfully treated thousands of overweight patients with Product X…”  You know the drill. This is followed by testimonials and before/after photos which finish off the job of convincing you to buy the product so that you can get relief from the pain you are now suffering.  It’s all made up, they are actors, the whole scenario is fake… and it works. You buy the product which may or may not be effective and you have likely wasted money you couldn’t afford to spend in the first place.
 
Changing your eating habits is subject to the same principle, except it’s the voices in your head that are conducting the sales pitch and response: “Ohhhh, doesn’t that triple chocolate layer cake look yummy?!! Uggghhh, I need that like I need a hole in my head… if I eat that, I will get fatter and feel guilty!  But it will taste soooooo gooood!!!...”  You are literally rallying back and forth over whether or not eating the cake will cause more pain than the pleasure you will receive by eating it. The strongest impulse usually wins, even if it is irrational, bad for you, or puts you in harm’s way.
 
The first step to overcoming this psychotic method of decision making is to recognize it for what it is. Acknowledge it then decide what to do based on what is truly in your best interest. Once you recognize what is going on, you can actively work toward managing your behaviors.
 
There are many methods available for changing behaviors such as reward systems, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy and re-training your associations. 
                         
I could go on and on about this topic as it is critical to taking control of unwanted, unhealthy behaviors. So if managing your impulses and subsequent behaviors is a problem for you, keep an eye out for future posts on this topic.
 
Also, in the near future, I will be conducting a video interview with a counselor who uses the techniques listed above to help people gain control of their behaviors so that they can rationally and consciously “decide” what to do rather than irrationally acting on impulse.
 
Thank you for reading today’s post. I hope you found it interesting.
 
Yours in health and well being,
 
Allison