Have you ever considered when it comes to reaching your fitness goals, your greatest obstacle may be your own mind? It’s true. Psychologists and scientists now broaden their research to explore the chemical reactions that link your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They are all connected, and can become a frustrating Bermuda Triangle of emotions and actions if you don’t keep your mind in check!
Psychologists use what’s called Cognitive Behavior Therapy to help you change negative or unproductive thoughts to more positive outlooks. This switch can trigger happier feelings and transform your day to day actions, patterns, and reactions.
Negative thoughts are simply mental distortions – they are not reality or even close to as hopeless as they might seem.
Here’s a secret: The voice in your head LIES 🙂
Distorted thinking gets into your head in many ways but can be targeted and changed with some mental exercise and new positive mantras!
Here’s some of the most common many of us experience:
1. Negative Talk: You discourage yourself or talk yourself out of things by repeating phrases to yourself like:
“I’ll never be able to do this.”
“It’s going to be too hard to resist dessert.”
“This won’t work.”
“I really don’t care,”
2. All or Nothing Thinking: This type of thinking resembles perfectionism. You tell yourself:
“I have to lose all this extra weight, it’s no use losing just some!”
“If I can’t fit in a whole workout, I might as well not go to the gym at all”
If I eat one ‘bad’ food I might as well go all the way.”
You think: “I am either ‘good’ or ‘bad.”
3. Random Rules: Sometimes our distorted ways of thinking creates some interesting random rules.
“Calories eaten standing up don’t count!”
“Weight loss has to be fast.”
“Weekends and vacations don’t count!””
4. Mind Reading: At times you may think you know exactly what someone else is thinking, but really, none of us are mind-readers.
“My friend won’t like me if I say no to her brownies.”
“People will think it strange if I just ask for water.”
“Everyone at the gym is looking at me and thinking I look like I don’t belong here.”
“My trainer is going to think I’m a loser if I tell her what I ate this weekend”.
5. Justification : This is when you come up with all kinds of reasons and excuses like:
“I can eat this because it’s my birthday.”
“It’s okay to eat this because it was free.”
“It’s been a busy day! It’s okay to eat this because I’m stressed.”
How to Renew Your Mind: Target and Change Your Thinking!
So how do you change the distortions that clutter up your brain and stall your progress? This is where the CBT part comes in! Here is one technique that I use with my clients:
I often ask what might be keeping them from a particular action to reach their fitness goal. The goal could be anything from changing major habits like making it to the gym or prepping their meals or more specific behaviors like doing a certain exercise or cardio machine. The response is almost always based in their mind or thought process. Once we get to the root of the problem or issue, we implement strategies to change that thought.
These discussions about more than just reps and meal plans with my clients can be game changers for positive mental and physical results. You will not only reach your goals if you paint a more optimistic (and honestly accurate) outlook but you can do so much faster! Just like a workout – you can tweak the strategies that work best for you.
CBT in Action
- Target the thought that leads to the negative feelings and habits. Your thought might also lead to an emotion that triggers a reaction that takes you down an unproductive path. Write it down and be mindful when this thought pops up.
- Clinical psychologists recommend thought records and evaluation to test whether or not that thought is true. Take the thought or thoughts you wrote down, and draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On the paper make one side your list of evidence for and the other against the distortion. This could be a test for a negative message like: “My coach hates me.” Or, “I’ll never get a date. Or, “My boss thinks I suck.” Evidence against: “My coach hates me,” might be something like: “She gave a compliment yesterday.” Evidence against: “My boss thinks I suck,” might be that you just got a raise. This process can help you come up with balanced thoughts like: “I made a mistake two months ago, and missed one workout. But this is normal. I’ve learned from my mistakes and the good feedback from my coach and boss must mean they see progress.”
- Try scheduling a week of fun activities. Psychologist say this is actually very effective – for one reason because it helps you shift your focus. Write down one fun thing to do for each day of the next week — make sure it’s healthy! This is not an excuse to play hookie from your new fitness routine or personal goals. Make sure you have time for your plans, even if it’s as little as a ten minute walk on your lunch break! You will look forward to a positive treat for yourself.
- Another strategy involves imagery exposure. This means you call up every detail of a thought or memory that lead to intense emotions and then discuss what that memory made you want to do: cry, stomp, run, anything! This exercise is wonderful to get rid of those thoughts and the overflowing internal emotions that cause the thoughts to run over and over in your head … or push them away. By dealing with the mental image and discussing the emotions associated it helps to start to let it go… and move on.
- Quick useful questions like, “Is it true?, Can you change the circumstance, and Can you prove it,” are also very helpful to challenge negative thoughts.
- Positive statements and affirmations do wonders! Instead of: “I can’t run that far.” Try: “I will run at least a mile.” Or, “I will run as far as I can.” If you are unhappy, you don’t have to lie to yourself about a legitimate sad or negative situation. But instead of: “Everyday is horrible!” Try: “Tomorrow will be better.”
- Stating: ‘The Best Part of My Day’ at the end of each day is a trick I learned from a friend. You could also visualize your favorite parts. Try stating what happened to a friend or relative — even social media! This helps your focus on gratitude and improve your attitude.
Make these methods part of your fitness routine. From Mind Reading to Justification and Negative Talk, think of it as your ‘mental exercise’ to retrain your brain over time to throw out the lies and judgments of your subconscious. It doesn’t happen overnight but it will happen. I’d love to talk to you about more ways to ‘change your mind’, turn down the stress, and turn your sexy and self-esteem up a notch in the process!
p.s. My Six Weeks To Sexy program includes LOTS of these techniques, plus a lot more. http://www.tcrowsonfit.com/services/six-weeks-to-sexy/