Sunday, January 1, 2012

Defeating Pessimistic Thoughts

Welcome to 2012!  It's estimated that 50 percent of adults make New Year's resolutions, with changes to their health status being one of the most popular issues to tackle.  Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but the likelihood of success in these cases is usually slim to none.  What's the root cause of failure?  It's not the fitness program, the scale, or the diet that didn't work.  It's your own self-limiting beliefs that you can't succeed.

In the beginning of the month, most people feel a surge of energy to conquer their goals.  What goes up must come down so here's a technique to combat those pessimistic thoughts that undoubtedly creep in at the first sign of adversity.

In his book, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, Dr. Martin Seligman recommends using the ABCDE model to argue any negative thoughts and increase optimism.  After all, optimistic people are more likely to let failures bounce off them on their journey to success.  Here's an example of how to defeat pessimistic beliefs:
  • Adversity
    • I was having a great week - eating well and exercising every day.  But Friday things at work reached their boiling point and really stressed me out.  As soon as I got home that afternoon I grabbed a bag of chips, sat on the couch to watch TV, and vegged out.  Before I knew it, the entire bag was gone.
  • Belief
    • I can't believe I ruined an entire week of exercise and healthy eating in just one sitting.  All my effort was wasted and now I have to start over again next week.
  • Consequences
    • I feel guilty, embarrassed, and depressed.  I'm no longer excited to try that new recipe for grilled fish I planned to make for dinner.  I'd rather order a pizza instead.
  • Disputation
    • You know what?  I went to the gym every day and followed my strength training program perfectly.  I even did some moderate cardio on my rest day just to be active and get blood flowing to my muscles.  I ate plenty of servings of vegetables and protein each day.  Yes, polishing off an entire bag of chips was a sign of weakness, but it was an isolated incident and it does not define my week.
  • Energization
    • I'm not going to dwell in these ridiculous thoughts.  I will continue as planned and make that fish dish for dinner.  Next time I feel stressed and want to self-medicate with mindless eating, I will stop myself and find another way to release my frustration.  I do love to read.  Instead of making a stop in the kitchen before hitting the couch, I will go upstairs, away from food, and get lost in a book for 30 minutes to put myself in a more positive frame of mind.
Now you have a tool to overcome that first, inevitable roadblock.  Work through the ABCDE model one by one to eliminate those pessimistic thoughts and get back on track toward success.  The natural high from your freshly formed resolutions may have you feeling invincible at the moment, but trust me.  No one achieves a goal without considerable challenge.  If you do, then the goal wasn't big enough. 

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