“If you believe that feeling bad or worrying long enough will change some past or future event, then you are residing on another planet with a different reality system.” (William James)
One of the most important differences between optimists and pessimists is that optimists see their problems as temporary rather than permanent.
When dealing with weight and food issues, for instance, it can be helpful to adopt this attitude. Even if the last year has been exceptionally stressful, and as a result you’ve turned to food as a coping mechanism, this year – this day — need not be a repeat performance. Your future is not set in stone. How can today be different and more in line with your healthy goals for yourself?
Interrupt the stress cycle. Taking a few minutes to become quiet and take some deep breaths can go a long way toward reestablishing a sense of calm within your body and mind. Did you know that breathing shallowly, as is common when one is stressed, only exacerbates anxiety, for physiological reasons? Alternatively, taking deep breaths from the belly turns on the relaxation response.
Forgive yourself. Even though many people feel that speaking harshly to themselves and in effect cracking the whip will motivate them to “straighten up and fly right”, actually the opposite is usually true. When we beat ourselves up verbally and mentally, this often causes us to lose motivation, because, after all, why would we want to take good care of someone we just yelled at?
Forgiving ourselves for being human and thus imperfect is more likely to bring about kinder and healthier behaviors. Indeed, a recent study has shown that when dieters go off their diets, those dieters with self-compassion are more likely to get back on their diet than those who rate low in self-compassion. So, go ahead, give yourself a reassuring pat on the back (although it may look awkward) and get back on your feet.
Stay in the moment. Rather than dwelling on what transpired yesterday or worrying about what might happen tomorrow, focus your efforts on today and handling the tasks at hand.
Mindfulness, defined as non-judgmental awareness of the present moment, has been practiced for thousands of years but has only lately found its way into mainstream psychology as a powerful coping skill. Our minds can only really focus on one thing at a time (regardless of what multi-taskers believe), so if you truly make it your intention to place your attention on this moment, such as eating your meal and truly tasting, smelling, seeing, and feeling it in your mouth, you will not only derive greater satisfaction from your meal but will be free of unnecessary anxiety.
You will also be more receptive to your intuition and what step to take next.