As you read this, how much effort are you putting into it? Are you relaxed? Or tense and conscious of the time it is taking you? Are you reading it slowly because you are interested? Or scanning through because you have a to-do list as long as your arm and you should really be getting on with something else?
How much effort do you put into the following areas of your life?:
Work/business/career/running a home?
Your friends and wider family?
Your hobbies and interests?
Your self and your own personal development?
Would I be right in saying that the majority of your efforts go into the first three categories? Have you ever stopped to consider why this is? Is it because you believe it is “selfish” to put your interests and your self before others? Is it because you “don’t have the time” to think about your self, let alone actually have hobbies and interests?
If you have just read the above and agreed with even some of it, then just stop for a moment and think (yes, you can spare a moment). Whose life are you living? Your bosses? Your clients? Your childrens? Husbands? Parents? … or Yours? Who is the only person who can ever really know exactly what it is that ensures your happiness, peace of mind, contentment? And who is the only person who should really be expected to put in the time and commitment to ensure that happiness, peace of mind and contentment?
Putting a little effort into You will help to build your resilience, improve your self-esteem, your mood, your health and your relationships, it will have a dramatic effect on the whole of your life.
Food for thought … it just takes a little effort. Every now and then take the above five categories and turn them upside down … It will do you good!
You may wonder why I have chosen to include eating as a word associated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Well the connection between thoughts, beliefs, emotions and behaviours is never more clear than when we explore our eating habits.
Remember that CBT is all about becoming more aware of the effect our thoughts and beliefs have on our behaviours and emotions. In today’s modern world we are awash with opportunities to eat more and think less. We wander around the shops in our local towns on a Saturday, passing increasing numbers of bakers, chip shops, burger bars, fast food shops, cafes, restaurants … the choice is seemingly limitless. We go home and sit in front of our television screen where we are shown advertisement after advertisement encouraging us to try this new food or that one. It is not surprising that we find ourselves giving in to temptation and eating something we hadn’t planned to, didn’t need to, and often didn’t really want to eat!
So how can we reverse the trend and eat less and think more about what we are eating?
Cultivate a connection between your mind and your body. Listening to your body means that you will be more aware of when you are actually hungry. This will encourage you to stop impulse eating when you are not genuinely hungry.
Eat for energy not for entertainment. Don’t eat through boredom, find something interesting to occupy your attention instead.
Eat because your body needs nutrients, not because your emotions need support. If you are feeling unhappy, eating for “pleasure” only ultimately results in you feeling unhappy and guilty because of your out of control eating habits. Tackling your emotional and behavioural issues will mean that you no longer feel the need to use food as an emotional crutch. (This is where the cognitive behavioural therapy comes in!)
Cultivate healthy eating habits: Eat smaller meals more regularly so that your digestive system does not get overloaded and you maintain a steady supply of energy to the body and brain.
Don’t be taken in by the hype. Foods which are promoted as being “time-saving” are either a drain on your finances or a drain on your health, or both. Allocate time in your day to prepare meals yourself. If you prepare them, you know what has gone into them, and probably more importantly, you know what has been left out.
Be aware of the physiological connection that our body/mind has with sugar, fat and simple carbohydrates such as white flour: The more we eat these types of foods, the more we set up pathways in the brain which then create cravings for more, thus creating a vicious circle in our subconscious.
Remember all the benefits of healthy eating: Healthier bodies and healthier minds. We weren’t developed to eat chemical additives, and healthier eating patterns result in better weight management, increased self-confidence and self-esteem as a result of looking better, feeling better and knowing that you control your eating, not the other way round.
You will notice that as you begin to eat more healthily, your body/mind will gradually wean itself off the cravings for unhealthy foods and your subconscious will begin to “ask” for, and enjoy, more healthy foods.
Next time you are about to go in the bakers/chip shop or wherever, try this experiment in food awareness: Stop and ask yourself why you are going in. Are you genuinely hungry? Does your body need that sort of food? Could you be kinder to your body and give it something it really needs, rather than something you feel you want?