The Missing Piece to Healing

in Blog March 14, 2018

…Using Mindset to Make Lifestyle Changes Sustainable

What is the missing piece to healing? The idea that there might be one food we just haven’t cut out yet, or one supplement we’re missing on our crowded supplement shelf, is attractive to us all. Deep down inside, we believe there’s an answer out there that we just haven’t discovered yet. And we’d all like that answer to be one simple thing we can do or take. 

However, as unattractive as it is, the truth is that our thought-life is often a main factor holding us back. I often tell my patients that mindset is the least sexy but most important aspect of health for them to master. 

Sure, you can get better temporarily without it, lose those pounds in time for a trip, do a super strict diet to reverse joint pain or normalize blood sugar, but as soon as life gets in the way again you’ll be back to square one. Most of us have been down this road many times. 

That’s why I tell my patients we have to master mindset. Because I am in the business of helping people heal, to truly transform so that they can experience lifelong well-being. 

Ok, so how we do start to transform our minds? In addition to Mindful Breathing and Meditation, there’s several small tweaks you can start making today. 

  1. Replace “if” statements with “when” so your brain takes your changes seriously. Replace “if I got my energy back I would…” with “when I get my energy back I will…”. 
  2. Positive framing. It’s natural for us to frame goals in terms of what we don’t want. “I don’t want to be so tired” or “I want to lose this extra fat” or “I don’t want to be bloated.” Our brain can’t conceptualize not, so it’s just thinking about fatigue, fat, and bloating. Yikes. Therefore it won’t be on the lookout for how to make the things you do want actually happen. Change your goals to “I want energy for” or “I want to fit in these jeans” or “I want a relaxed gut”.
  3. Communicate well. Research shows communication is 7% words, 38% tonality, and 55% physicality. So in addition to telling yourself and others the changes you’re making and the goals you have, make sure your tone reflects that of certainty and positivity. Also try standing up straighter with your shoulders pulled back and smiling (such as when you’re trying a new workout or ordering with customizations at a restaurant) to exude confidence. This will change your perception of the experience and make you more likely to repeat it! 
  4. Focus on the present and future. It’s ok if you’ve spent 20 years neglecting your health, such as overeating at night or prioritizing others above yourself. It’s also ok if yesterday was 100% opposite of the direction you’re trying to go. Re-center your thoughts to how you can make the most of today, and what you will do differently in the future. There’s no space for guilt or shame when healing, we need to get the lesson out of the mis-step and use it to make progress.
  5. Transform how you identify yourself. Replace statements like “I’m not a meal prepper” or “I’m a night owl” or “I am always on the run” to “I’m becoming a meal prepper” or “I’m practicing healthy bedtimes and being more relaxed”. If you are constantly reinforcing your old habits as part of who you are, of course you won’t be able to change them!
  6. This one’s huge: gratitude and a progress mindset. When healing, we tend to be like kids in the backseat…”are we there yet!?”. We think about the 3 symptoms we still have, rather than the 8 we’ve gotten rid of. We think about the 10lbs left, rather than the 20 we’ve lost. Always be on the lookout for small improvements and remind yourself of what you’ve accomplished. This is also easier when you’ve set smaller goals that you can “upgrade” as you go along. 

I hope you find these tools helpful in your healing journey. If there has been a specific one that has helped you, please share in the comments below.

References:
Andreas C. (1989). Heart of the Mind. Utah: Real People Press.
Leyton, E. (2010). The healing relationship. In D.S. Jones & S. Quinn (Eds.), Textbook of functional medicine (pp. 713-722). Federal Way, WA: The Institute for Functional Medicine.
Rosenthal, J. (2011). Integrative Nutrition. Greenleaf Book Group, LLC: Austin, TX.

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