Did you know that mind-set is the biggest driver in achieving health goals?
Our thoughts have the power to steer our emotions and behavior. Thinking, “Oh, what’s the use? I’ll never be able to lift my goal weight” will keep you from even heading to the gym. Thinking, “It’s just so much work to cook from scratch” will discourage you from making nourishing meals.
And because our minds have this kind of power over us, it’s imperative that we take control of our thoughts. Romans 12:2 reminds us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (NIV).
How do we take control in regards to our health?
I have 5 simple practices to help you do just that:
1. Focus on a healthy lifestyle, not a diet.
When we think about a healthier lifestyle as a diet, we think of rules and regulations and impossible-to-reach standards. We also think of being healthy as a temporary thing because diets are usually temporary. Yet choosing to be healthy some of the time doesn’t help you develop into your healthiest self, the you that is ready and able to respond to God’s calling.
Instead, decide to make small, permanent, manageable changes over time. Ask God to give you a vision of who He is calling you to be. Then make health changes that will allow you to develop into that person.
2. Willpower versus Motivation
Let’s face it…if we wait for motivation to be healthy, we could wind up waiting forever! This is because motivation is based on how we feel…and our emotions are ever-changing. It’s very difficult to feel motivated to step into a healthier lifestyle, especially if you don’t have many healthy practices already in place. To get the ball rolling, willpower is necessary.
This means doing what you know is best for you, even when you don’t feel like it. One thing that my clients have found helpful is scheduling health practices in their calendar. These practices then seem non-negotiable and they are more likely to follow through with them. And once you get going, once you’ve willed yourself through a practice a few times, it will get easier and easier to do. And often, you will end up craving the practice and be more motivated to do it!
3. Mental Rehearsal
Did you know that your brain is wired to keep you from making changes and developing new habits? Frustrating, but true. This means that we will even struggle to implement new practices that are better than our old practices. Our brain is wired to protect us. And, so far, you haven’t died doing what you’ve been doing, so your brain doesn’t see any reason to change things up now!
This can make health changes very difficult to establish. But here’s a handy little trick that can help your brain get on board the health train. It’s called mental rehearsal. Mental rehearsal is practicing the health habit you want to establish in your mind.
Let’s say you want to get to the gym more regularly. You can mentally rehearse this by playing it out in your mind from start to finish. Imagine waking up in the morning all the way to finishing up your workout at the gym. Think through each step, as well as how great you feel and how proud you are of your accomplishment.
If you practice this rehearsal several times, it will start to become a habit in your mind before it becomes a habit in real life. And this makes it easier to become a habit in real life because your brain will think, “Already been there, done that. No big deal” and it won’t keep fighting against you going to the gym.
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul advises us to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV). One of the ways our health is negatively impacted is by allowing our negative thoughts to pull us this way or that. A thought is just a thought. It is not truth. Just because we have the thought “I feel anxious” does not mean something terrible is going to happen. Taking our thoughts captive—pulling back to observe them instead of being captured by them—supports our overall health.
One way to take our thoughts captive is to give negative, false, or unhelpful thoughts a reframe. When a negative thought pops into your head (like “I’m such a failure!”), ask yourself these questions:
- What do I know about this situation? (just the facts, no embellishments)
- What do I know to be true?
- What else could be true about this situation?
- What is the evidence to support this thought? (that I’m such a failure)
- What evidence doesn’t support this thought? (that I’m such a failure)
- What does Jesus say about me?
- Knowing all of this, what would be a more helpful way to look at this situation?
This practice is similar to the last one. It involves taking control of your thoughts. But it goes a step farther to focusing on the positive. When we get stuck in negative thought patterns, it can lead to a victim mentality, jealousy, and bitterness. And what’s worse is that the way we think affects our bodies. So, when we think negative thoughts, there is a negative reaction in our bodies.
A friend of mine says, “You steer where you stare.” I have found this to be so true in relation to health. When we are in a positive frame of mind, we see more opportunities, have better connections with others (including God), view ourselves with greater compassion, and have more joy. When we focus on the negative, we often lose our initiative, believe we can’t do anything to change our situation, lose hope and faith in God and others, and can experience physical issues like back problems, and arthritis.
As you encounter challenging situations in your life, ask yourself what lessons you can learn and what you would do differently next time. I’m also a big proponent of asking yourself at the end of the day “What went well today?” Journal the answer if you have time. Focusing on what went well (instead of all the things you didn’t get done) is a more motivating place to start the day off tomorrow!
I hope you find these tips helpful. Is there a tip you’d like to start practicing? Share in the comments below! As a special gift to help you stay in a positive mind-set, I’d love to send you a postcard filled with faith-based, positive affirmations you can look at each day to encourage you in your health journey. Simply send an email with your name and mailing address to email@example.com to claim your free card.
What are your thoughts? Comment below
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