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Weight Loss NinjaA Weight Loss Blog
How positive thinking works with weight loss
Published: 15th November 2019
This Article was Written by: Nik - Weight Loss Ninja
Positive thinking? Is it the be-all-end-all that it’s made out to be?…Yup!
Think yourself slim. Stop smoking through thought alone. Annihilate stress with a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude)
Yeah, yeah. We’ve all heard the sayings. And for those of us who try it…..it never works, does it? So, we’re then left with the sensation that it’s all just a lot of hot air put out there as “life hacks” by those people who have perhaps read it somewhere in a book.
That’s the cynical point of view and it’s as much fuelled by truth as it is by myth. Yes, just thinking positively alone will not guarantee success, there’s truth in that, so I do get why people can get suspicious about this advice.
But positive thinking is essential to getting results in life. So, the truth lies simply in a slightly deeper understanding of how our thoughts shape the results we get in life and how we can form positive thoughts that work for us.
Nurture vs nature. That’s the big question. But which one “shapes” us?
Well, it’s both. The way our brains are wired has an effect on us throughout life. There’s probably no massive surprise in that. But equally, the environment in which we grow up equally has a huge impact on how we end up seeing (and interacting with) the world around us. And it’s all linked to the emotions we feel as we grow up.
If we grew up in a stressful environment, let’s say that perhaps our parents had lots of stress in their own lives, then that stress would have been passed on to, (and picked up upon), by us as kids and then of course we would have therefore felt that “second-hand” stress as we grew up.
And because our brains are adaptive beasts which learn, grow, change, absorb and morph over time, the more exposure to repeated episodes of that same stressful situation, (using the example above), the brain becomes essentially “programmed” to react in the same way every time we encounter that same scenario time and time again.
Ergo…..we impulsively react to the same scenario each time we are confronted with it throughout the rest of our lives.
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Positive vs. negative thinking
So, if negativity featured a lot in our upbringing then, as a general rule of thumb, we end up being pre-disposed to having a more negative outlook on life as a result. And when we see the world through a negative lens, we can “tune out” of seeing as many opportunities as they are presented to us.
And that’s where the key to unlock this whole equation comes in. Because telling someone to simply “think positive” is wholly dependent on what their life history has been. Someone with a tough upbringing will potentially have further to travel up the positivity scale than someone who was metaphorically spoon-fed a positive upbringing. Again, it is a generalisation, but, very often this is the case.
It’s all about me
No, not me who is writing this, but you, the reader. It’s all about you and what positive thinking means to you. What is your life story?
For one person (person A), thinking positively that they will “smash” weight loss may well work. For another person (person B) it could do the exact opposite of what they need. In fact, it could actually cause the opposite reaction and get them to put weight on. So, thinking in a positive way has to involve realistic thinking and realistic thinking that has meaning in your own life.
Let’s take person A. Imagine that they have put weight on because they’ve been a massive party animal. A real socialite and all those nights out have gone to their waistline. Imagine they’re always smiling, always positive and live life to the full. Imagine too that they are really receptive to taking on feedback from other people and have a loving, supportive family who encourages them every day to lose weight. That person may well be more likely to “smash” weight loss. Because their environment is helping them to stay motivated.
And if person B has had a really tough upbringing, with a total lack of love and support in their life. They may even have suffered some form of emotional abuse growing up. Imagine that they don’t like to go out and they now comfort eat to relieve the stress of their life, then “smashing” weight loss is not the right approach (let alone the right language). Person B will need a different strategy from person A.
Perhaps person B might be better speaking to their doctor or a local clinical psychologist who can work with them on unravelling the historical emotional memories they have and working with a trained professional could set them gently on a different trajectory in their future.
But whatever your background is, positive thinking will be involved in getting results.
A sense of realism
It’s just that thinking positively must involve realism on your part. For instance, I’m a middle-aged man. Let’s say that I want to run the 100 metres in under a certain time. If I think positively, I could set myself a goal of running it in under 10 seconds but I’m setting myself up for a probable failure. Now I can’t help the fact that I’m in my 40’s. My body may not be “young enough” to reach that target. So let’s say that I never reach that target. How will that make me feel? I may feel so bad that I may never want to run 100 metres again in my life. But how about under 14 seconds? That’s a great goal to set and probably more achievable. I’m now setting myself up for a better chance of reaching that goal.
The how-to guide to thinking positively
- Where do your negative thoughts come from? (We all have them by the way)
- Can you track them back to a moment in your past where they formed? It could be one pivotal moment or a period over which they formed.
- Even just simply being aware of this memory can be healing for many of us as we come to realise that our current behaviour is linked to the past.***
- Now focussing on present life, what can we change in terms of our thoughts, (remembering to think in realistic terms about our own life), that will change our thoughts for the better when approaching that situation?
- Thinking is part of the equation. Next up, how can we bring that new positive thought to life through action?
- And if that new action brings positive results, how can we repeat it time and time again to help “re-programme” our brain (as indeed it was “programmed” during our upbringing)
(***If you discover that your memory is causing you some really painful emotional feelings, that could be a sign that you may benefit more from speaking to a trained professional. Speak to your Doctor in the first instance and ask them if they think you’d benefit from speaking to a trained psychologist or therapist – they’re amazing people and their job is to help).
It’s about the “emotional connection” to any given situation
Changing results in life is heavily linked with the emotional connection that we have with any given situation. I can give you an example from my own life from when I myself was over 19 stone.
When the sun comes out, I think about barbecuing. Because I love it. That emotional connection is still there. Sun = a good feeling = barbecue.
In the old days I used to think about barbecuing loads of burgers and sausages etc and having beer and wine. All the stuff that is high in calories.
So, sun (the trigger) = feeling good (the emotional connection) that manifested itself in beer and barbecuing lots of processed meat (the action).
At the same time as I’d feel a positive emotional connection with barbecuing, it’d simultaneously give me a pang of negative thought as well. Even before the barbecue was lit I would feel helpless for want of a better word. Helpless that I’d end up eating and eating and drinking lots of beer and wine because the sun was out.
So, I knew I had to change the emotional connection with barbecuing.
My simple, realistic and positive thought was therefore:
- What can I do to learn a better way of barbecuing and cook healthier food?
That’s it. That was my positive thought. And now all I had to do was bring it to life with an action.
Next up, I found a barbecue cookery class and went off to learn new skills and, to this day, when the sun comes out, my emotional connection now is based upon “great, that gives me a chance to prepare some really lovely, healthy food and use my new skills on the barbecue”. Similar emotional connection but with a healthier result.
CBT. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
The above example is a form of CBT. CBT is where we either change the thought that leads to a change in the behaviour or change the behaviour that leads to a change in our thought.
CBT is essentially how we change the emotional connection we have with different scenarios in life. Different scenarios which see us behaving in the usual, habitual way.
CBT sounds complex, but the core fundamentals are pretty straight forward.
Doing things differently can change how we think and feel about that scenario. Or thinking differently (through talking about it) can lead to a different action.
But CBT is most effective when a CBT practitioner is there with you face-to-face, helping you come up with strategies based upon your own life. They’ll help keep everything realistic and achievable so that you get results.
If you want to know more about CBT, here’s a great link to the NHS website on the subject: nhs.uk/conditions/cognitive-behavioural-therapy-cbt/
Positive thinking. Yup, it works
So yes, positive thinking does work but it has to work for you.
Seeing all of those celebrities having great success in life doesn’t help many of us because it’s easy to assume that this is what reality is. It’s not. Reality is how we see our version the world. Reality is what works for us. Reality is all about what meaningful changes can we put into our lives to get us our own results? Whoever we are, we are amazing. I know that often we forget that we are, but we all have talents. We all have had results in life. We all have a place in society. We all contribute in one way or another to enrich the lives of others. We’re all incredible…….. It’s called being human. Because human beings are amazing.
Here’s to you and your success.
Thanks Jo. Your comment in the Facebook group about having a positive thought inspired me to write this blog. Nik. 🙂