Monday, 1 August 2011

How to not throw the baby out with the bathwater- or how to change your thinking

Reading a post by Duktiga Tjejen about thoughts about eating and often feeling that one is eating too much or wrong in some way, I felt inspired to write about this topic. I made a comment on Duktiga Tjejen's post about how to focus on what you want more of and not focusing on what you are not doing. Duktiga Tjejen replied that she tried to do that but it doesn't work, and she asked HOW does one begin to think like that?

How to change one's way of thinking is indeed very simple and very hard at the same time. It is simple because the method, which I will explain shortly, is very simple, but it is hard as there are no shortcuts and no other ways of doing it that are faster.

So, what is the secret then? Well, it is to think the way you want to think. It is really as simple as that, but since it does not come natural to anybody I have met so far, I'll explain it a bit closer. Staying on the subject of eating let me make an example. Say that you are of the opinion that you eat too much sugar. Now, the first thing to do is to examine if that opinion holds true or if you're wrong about it. Evaluate it by examining your view on "too much sugar" compared to how much you really eat. If you eat three chocolate bars, 5 biscuits and use three teaspoons of sugar in your coffee, of which you drink 6 cups a day, every day then yes, I would say that you eat too much sugar. But if you have one slice of cake every week, then I would say no. However, the issue of what is too much or too little is really another subject, so for now let's just say that you have a reasonable goal.

Nobody is perfect so even though you don't want to eat sweet things, you will probably end up doing it anyway. This is where you have a choice. You can choose to beat yourself up about it and tell yourself that you are weak, useless and incapable of sticking to anything. Or you can choose to think "ah well, granted that was not what I intended to happen, but it did and next time temptation arises, I will try resist it" and then you move on. You move on. You don't dwell on it, unless you're thinking about strategies that could help you (like not keeping sweets in the house), otherwise you let go and move on.

This is where I am pretty sure people will say that they can see my point but claim that they can't think the other way. The thing is that you can. You can choose your thoughts. Chew on that for a bit.

Even though we all have millions of automatic thoughts that just pop up without us asking for them, you can choose the next thought. And if there is a new automatic thought, then choose the next one or the next one or the next one, until you find yourself in control and actively choosing what you are thinking. You haven't failed just because you didn't get the first thought. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. You just try again. And again.

The easy part of this technique is that all you have to do is to notice how you think and if it is a thought that you don't like, you replace it with one that you would rather be thinking. The difficult part is to not expect that this will change your life over night. Because good people, it will not. It will change your life, but it will take a long time. How long depends on how much effort you put in. It is all about practise. The first part of the practice is to become aware of your thoughts and for some this means becoming aware of that you are thinking at all, meaning that whatever twirls around in your head are actually thoughts and nothing else. Depending on how attached you are to your thoughts this can take a long time, maybe months, maybe years even. The second part, which you sort of do at the same time as the first part, is to change the unwanted thoughts to wanted thoughts. This part can also take a long time to implement. Maybe you are aware of your thoughts but you just can't stop them. Do you know what you do then? You try and you try again. It is that annoyingly simple. Once you have both things going for you, you might be so lucky that you have replaced the unwanted automatic thought with a wanted automatic thought, but that will take time. Just as you can't possible loose 25 kilos in a week, you cannot, I repeat, cannot change your thinking in a week or even a year. Seriously, if you want to think differently you have to work for it.

I practice what I preach and have done so for perhaps about 7 years and it is only now that I really can see the fruits of my labour. I especially notice it when I read stuff like the post by Duktiga Tjejen because it then becomes clear to me that I used to think like that about food and exercise but I don't any longer. Almost anyway. I do of course sometimes slip back into my old ways. Today, for example I didn't give myself enough credit for getting up at 6.20 am to practise yoga outside in the cold for 40 minutes. Instead I focused on that I didn't practice yesterday and that I should have practiced for longer. Luckily I caught myself and had time to focus on what I was actually doing, which was something great for myself, i.e. yoga on a rooftop while the sun was rising.

As a sidetrack I also want to point out a mistake that we all too often make (in my opinion), which is that we think that when somebody else is doing something that we want to do but find hard, we think that it comes easy to them. Sometimes it does perhaps, but I believe that most of the time those people work really hard for it. But is much easier to think that whatever they are doing comes natural or easy to them and that they don't have to try so hard.

I will end here although I have much more to say on the subject. Please feel free to ask questions if what I have written doesn't make sense to you.


Duktiga Tjejen said...

Tusen tack för detta inlägg, och jag måste ju säga att set är sant det som du skriver. Helt klart. Jag försöker leva efter detta när det gäller då många saker och har till och med gått en liten kurs i det, att vi styr hur vi tänker, men på något sätt jag jag missat att applicera det på ätande. Min hjärna tror att den VILL tänka på det, jag måste helt enkelt lära den att det inte är så. Ibland känner jag att jag skulle vilja gå till en hypnotisör som fick mig att tycka illa om sötsaker.

Sen hör jag nog till skaran som stället väldigt högs krav. Trots att jag motionerar i princip dagligen fokuserar jag på de kanske 2 ggr/ månaden jag inte gör det. Eller på när jag vräker i mig och inte de dagar då jag har ätit bra eller för lite, vilket ofta är de dagar som gör att jag blir extra hungrig nästa dag.

Jag ska faktiskt jobba på att tänka om, och tipsa om ditt inlägg i min blogg. Återigen- tack!

Ps. När man får barn tror jag även att man automatiskt tänker om lite och inser mer vad som är viktigt.

egoistiska egon said...

Vilket superbra inlägg! Tack!

Brave New Life said...

Det var så lite så!
Duktiga tjejen- jag tror helt klart att man tänker om när man får barn. Inte bara om vad som är viktigt, men jag har helt enkelt inte tid att bry mig om många saker som jag brydde mig om tidigare. Då skulle jag inte få något som helst gjort. Men tänk om jag hade kunnat fatta det innan jag fick barn, så mycket skit det hade sparat mig. Men det funkar väl inte så.