As a spouse,
parent, or dog owner, you may know the value of catching someone doing
something right--noticing and reinforcing desired behavior right in the
moment. “Thank-you” for making me dinner, “What a good puppy” for peeing
But, how often do you do the same for yourself?
When we’re trying to improve our health, we often focus on the end result: getting cholesterol numbers down or running a 5k. What if instead we focus on the process, the little decisions and steps taken throughout the day to support health goals? What if we support ourselves by really noticing, acknowledging, and becoming grateful to ourselves for these steps?
To give yourself timely, positive feedback, you first need to be aware of your inner dialog. If this is new to you, journaling and meditation can build this awareness. If you are already conscious of how you talk to yourself, you can focus on catching yourself doing something right. Be sure to use phrases that feel authentic to you. Some examples: “Nice choice!” or “You’re on your way!”.
You, yourself, are the best person to provide reinforcement at just the right moment. This is a habit that can be learned. It will support all of your other health habits—it’s a virtuous cycle!
Try starting out by spending a week listening to the inner coach while letting the inner critic know you’ve got this! It may be surprising how good it feels to give yourself that same warm, caring feedback that you give so generously to others.
Way to go!
*This article first appeared in the “Feel The Peace” Blog http://feelthepeaceblog.lynsirota.com/2021/01/12/your-inner-coach/
Turning "I Should" into "I Want To"
How often are you told you should do something for your
health? Your doctor, the news media (Sitting is the New Smoking!) and
well-meaning family members telling you about the bad things that will
happen if you don’t make changes. All this information leads you to beat
yourself up with a list of 'shoulds,’ but it doesn't leave you wanting
to do it. Instead, it leaves you wanting to curl up with a bag of
Scary news might get our attention, but too much fear causes us to shut down and tune out. Unfortunately, when we are trying to get ourselves to change, we often resort to fear tactics. This is a mistake because you can't motivate yourself by focusing on a fear. Instead, long term motivation comes from focusing on what you love.
Let’s test this out. Spend a moment with your eyes closed noticing what you see in your mind's eye with each of the following statements:
• I exercise so that I won't get fat.
• I control my blood sugar because I don't want to get dementia.
• I meditate because I don't want to have a heart attack from all the stress.
• I exercise so that I can enjoy eating out.
• I control my blood sugar so that my brain will stay sharp.
• I meditate because it helps me feel calm and relaxed.
Notice that you can't visualize a negative. There is no mental picture for "not fat" or "not dementia" or "no heart attack". Instead, you are thinking about getting fat or getting dementia or having a heart attack. This is not helpful! It doesn’t feel good and it is likely to cause you to shut down and be less motivated.
What are you telling yourself that you should do to avoid disease or disability? How could you think of that same change as something you want to do to achieve a desired outcome? Remember, a little fear can be a good thing to wake you up, but it takes love to sustain your motivation. To make you want to do it!