A healthy mental diet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou have to guard what enters your mind just as carefully as what enters your body. And like packaged “health food”, sometimes what seems mentally or emotionally healthy, might not actually be. It might be those very things that are actually making you sick. That are not allowing you to move forward. Maybe they are certain words of inspiration, or images of what we want to achieve in life, but these very things might just reinforce our current attachments and false beliefs that we are not enough as we are. Maybe what we feel as motivation or inspiration, is just an influx of energy coming from that egoic place that makes us feel like “yeah, ok, let’s do this!” and yet, somehow we fail yet again. Why is that?

If you want to lose weight, and you view images of healthy toned people as inspiration, it might give you the motivation to exercise in the short term. It might help you visualize your goal, which is very important; except that often your brain interprets the “you” who has reached the goal as a person different than who you are right now. This is where the problem arises. When you think of yourself in the future as a different person, you become even more detached from the present moment. Inspiration to make positive changes is great; inspiration to be another person is not.

Allow inspiration to come to you in a form that supports where you are right now. If you create vision boards, or collect inspiring images and quotes to help you achieve your goals, be aware of how they make you feel in the current moment. If they make you feel worse about yourself now, with the hope of feeling better later, then likely they will keep you stuck. But if they foster appreciation for who you are now, while also motivating you to reach your goals, you can use that positive momentum to grow into your better self.

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4 thoughts on “A healthy mental diet”

  1. Great post! When I was listening to one of those self-hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming, CDs for procrastination, it employed both the carrot and the stick. You are asked to imagine both how great it will feel to have accomplished your goal, but also to vividly recall how (edge-of-the-cliff) terrible you felt in the past for having put it off. Though I thought program was effective in general, I tended to skip the latter part precisely because I felt like it was counter-productive. At that “level”, I don’t think your brain understands the attempt to establish a negative association. I think all it does is to reinforce the negative pattern of behavior, making it more (not less) readily available when the opportunity to procrastinate arises…kind of like when someone tells you *not* to imagine pink elephant. Anxiety about what I needed to be doing is the reason I probably procrastinated in the first place. The last thing I wanted to do was make that anxiety worse. So I agree your emphasis on building positive momentum through a positive mental diet.

    1. I agree with that. I think negative reinforcement can work for some things, but when it comes to anxiety or fear it is generally not helpful. I’m glad you were able to make the connection with what I was writing, that sometimes positive “reinforcement” to change can actually be negative reinforcement to stay the same.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post as well. Going along with the weight loss thing, yeah looking at pictures of what I eventually want to look like could motivate me to go to the gym, but it also hurts when I feel like I’m not getting the results fast enough, or clothes aren’t fitting the way they should after running for a hour straight….lol (I’m impatient). But realistically, change doesn’t happen overnight and I can’t expect to be someone else or look like someone else….so much healthier getting to a place where I can be happy with just being me and being enough, the way that I am right now.

    1. That’s exactly it. I’m going to write a blog post about self-compassion vs. self-criticsm. I think some things that seem inspiring and motivating actually cause us to compare ourselves to some ideal even more, and ultimately it leads to self-criticsm which cripples our progress. Being self-compassionate, on the other hand, infuses us with energy and a realistic approach to our goals so that the whole journey is positive, not just reaching the destination.

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