The Neuroscience of Unhealthy Behaviors
This guest blog is written by Sarah Robertson Sutton, transformation coach and founder of Truce. Most self-help books and programs—whether they’re to help you slim down, better your relationship, or find a fulfilling career—drive you to find the solution, the three key steps to bliss that you’ve apparently been missing all along. After all, your problem is obvious, right? Probably not. What if the problem you are trying to eradicate or correct is just the outer result of a more subtle and incredibly pervasive inner issue? Negative thinking. It may seem too simple, but think about it. At what point do you stop doing a workout you enjoy? Where does your overeating start? And when does your quibble with your S.O. begin? In your head. Some glitch in your thinking suddenly decides there's no point in working out if you don't have Jennifer Aniston's body yet, or that you may never get access to a pan of brownies again, so better eat them now. Or if you don’t hammer this point in the argument right this second, your fiancé will never get it. Studies actually show that negative thinking slows your judgment and increases impulsivity. Thankfully, science also shows that when you retrain your thoughts, you rewire your brain (something known as neuroplasticity.) The first step in creating any significant change must start with making cognitive and emotional shifts prior to seeing any lasting behavior change. Since often we’re unaware of the negative thought patterns we’re in, coaching can be a powerful assistant. Examples: Negative Thinking “I had the cake, so I might as well eat the chips and cookies, too.” (all-or-nothing thinking) “The house is a mess! He never thinks about anyone but himself.” (blame) “My job pays well, so it doesn’t matter if I don’t like it.” (denial) Neutral Thinking “I had the cake. It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, so I’ll stop here.” “The house is a mess. I guess we’ve both had other priorities than keeping things neat.” “Although my job pays well, I know it could be more fulfilling.” Positive Thinking “I had the cake. It satisfied my sweet tooth, so now I’ll focus on enjoying the conversation.” “The house is a mess. How can I pick it up to surprise him before he gets home?” “My job pays well, and I will make a point to get to know my colleagues better so my work will be even more fulfilling.” Note how negative thinking stymies or even de-motivates action, neutral thinking neutralizes action, and positive thinking spurs new action. Think about this the next time you: overdo it with the cookies and cocoa at the Christmas party; get into a tiff with your spouse about holiday spending; or skip out on socializing because you “have” to work late. How will YOU think differently this season? Sarah is currently enrolling for her next Self-Truce transformational group coaching program for healthy weight loss and body satisfaction. Contact us for more info.