How many times have you started eating healthy but then slowly turned back to your favorite comfort foods? Reverting to your old preferences can not only erode your diet but also lead you to other unhealthy choices. Comfort foods aren’t the ultimate challenge. Instead, overcoming our cravings, habits, beliefs, and comfort zone requires the most effort.
This internal battle frustrates many of us. If you’re a wellness practitioner, you may also see this common problem occurring with your clients. So, why can’t we “just stop”?
Habits, lifestyles, beliefs, and many other factors can cause us to think and behave in certain ways, both consciously and unconsciously. If these unhealthy patterns are unconscious, we may not know the best choice or be aware that a different way exists. In essence, we have a blind spot within our thinking, which then affects our behaviors.
For example, imagine that your best friend learned that eating candy was good for them. As an adult, they may still honestly believe that candy is healthy for them, making it a lapse in their thinking. They don’t know another way and don’t understand the adverse effects. To them, it’s just commonplace and accepted.
Imagine another scenario in which every time you felt sad or happy, you got sweets. You may then unconsciously seek out these treats every time you have a bad day or want to celebrate. If taken to the extreme, this could lead to an unconscious eating pattern to improve your mood in response to challenging emotions.
Of course, moderation in both of these examples is vital. If these behaviors and thinking patterns are not interfering with one’s health and wellness, then they may not be a “problem.” But what do we do if these patterns have become or will become problematic? Read on to learn more about habits, beliefs, and four ways to overcome these patterns and thought processes.
“I should have known better” is a statement many people use to criticize themselves. But what does truly “knowing” mean? When feelings, environmental factors, and family history accept certain behaviors as the “norm,” only logic is left to compete. Research tells us that the majority of the time people don’t make decisions based on logic; they make them based on feeling. When feeling outweighs logic and we later regret it, it’s time to provide ourselves with self-compassion instead of self-criticism.
In recent years, self-esteem has dominated cultural and psychological discourse. While self-esteem is essential, you must continuously perform and achieve at a high level to gain and maintain it. Within this results-driven model, there is a tendency to compare ourselves to others, a desire to be seen as “above average,” and unhealthy competition. Judging yourself by your accomplishments alone leaves little room for errors or setbacks, which can lead to problems with confidence, relationships, and self-love.
Some people believe that self-compassion means “going easy” on yourself or giving yourself a “free pass.” However, the basis of self-compassion is the understanding that human beings face challenges, we aren’t alone when we do, and that our challenges and failures don’t define us. In essence, self-compassion can make us more resilient and give us the courage and energy to “get back up” and try again after setbacks.
Try to be more self-compassionate by acknowledging your feelings and the level of difficulty with your situation. Then, reaffirm to yourself that you are not alone and remain mindful. Meditation and prayer may also help to increase your sense of self-compassion. By participating in activities like these, you are also practicing self-care, a form of self-compassion in action.
What tends to lead to frustration during a wellness journey are questions like, “Why can’t I just stop eating that or making these ‘bad’ choices?” Again and again, we may find ourselves feeling hopeful and then defeated. What type of answer do we expect from a question like this? Will it be loving and kind or critical and self-defeating?
More than likely, you can expect to hear a slew of self-criticism, which can then lead to continuing self-defeating habits. While self-criticism may motivate you into action, it does not always improve your quality of life; you may excel in one area, but other areas of your life may be adversely affected. For example, if you use self-criticism to exercise, you may find yourself going to the gym every day, but also tired, resentful, and moody, which can negatively affect other aspects of your life. Instead, try reframing the question to receive better answers. For example, “How can I make a better choice,” “What can I do instead next time,” or “What did I learn from making this choice” then allow time for supportive reflection.
The key is to understand that we have a limited amount of energy to use every day. We can “burn ourselves up” with self-criticism and anger, or we can use our energy to improve our quality of life. We’ve all heard the quote inspired by Charles R. Swindoll, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” This phrase is applicable not only on a surface level but also in how you use your energy daily.
So, ask yourself, how do you use your energy?
Sometimes it’s helpful to introspect on how we’re spending our time and its quality. It doesn’t mean if we watched two hours of TV that we need to cut back, but rather does this use of time add to, subtract from, or point to a potential problem in the way we’re expending our energy in other areas of our life.
To release emotional blockages, you can try techniques, like Emotion Code, with a wellness practitioner. However, if you are struggling mentally or emotionally, seek professional help and consider speaking to a therapist, a healthcare professional, or your pastor.
3. Get Curious: Education
“When you know better, you do better.” This sentiment increases as you learn more about wellness, your body, and yourself. However, everyone is different, so what works for one person may not work for you and your body. If you’re interested in educating yourself about healthy lifestyle choices, seek credible sources such as traditional or alternative wellness resources from published authors. You could also take a class or enroll in an online program to learn more about the topic that interests you.
We always recommend that people start with the basics: eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins and fats. Drink plenty of water each day and exercise regularly, starting with walking and then increasing slowly with your fitness level under the direction of your healthcare provider. Once you feel comfortable with the basics and your plans are approved by your doctor, consider adding more to your routine. For example, supplementation, exercise classes, movement meditation, a specific eating plan, incorporating herbs, or creating intricate recipes may improve your health and wellbeing beyond the basics. However, when in doubt or during more challenging or stressful times, always refer to the fundamentals.
4. Goal Setting
Goals don’t just move us forward; they give us something to look forward to and motivate us. When setting goals, it’s best to keep in mind who you are as an individual and what you want for yourself and your life. Setting goals is not about checking a box but rather genuinely improving the quality of your life.
One fun way to set goals is to create objectives that relate to hobbies and activities you enjoy. For example, consider asking your best friend to join you on your evening walk twice a week. Or ask your partner to cook a new recipe with you for date night. Your goals could also relate to things such as starting a knitting or book club, enrolling in school, or saving enough money to go on vacation.
Setting goals is also about discovery. It’s a time for you to expand as an individual and try activities or hobbies you’ve never done but always wanted to experience. No matter what goals you set, always start small. Little steps will not only help you not to feel overwhelmed, but it can also motivate you and boost your self-confidence. Whenever you can, include friends and loved ones into your goal-setting process or activities to make it more enjoyable and to have more accountability. Lastly, don’t be afraid to set goals related to relaxation and rejuvenation.
The journey to wellness lasts a lifetime, and there is no quick fix or “one size fits all” solution. Ultimately, your path is about building a deeper relationship with yourself and improving your quality of life. We are always growing and learning. Understanding how our choices affect our minds, bodies, and souls can help us create beautiful and fulfilling lives.
You can take a step towards holistic wellbeing by enrolling in our Certified Natural Health Professional program. With this program, you’ll learn the foundations of health, natural health practices and techniques, and how to help others on their wellness journeys. To learn more, visit Trinity School CNHP Program Page or call 800-428-0408 (option 2).