Our emotions...oh man, our emotions! They are what make our lives amazing and full of life, laughter, and happiness. But there is a darker side to them, a side that turns us all into Eeyores with rain clouds above our heads or porcupines that jab and poke at everyone who tries to get close. It's this side of emotions that can make change interesting to say the least, both for ourselves and for the people that we care about.
Last week, we talked about how there are three different aspects of change. Do you remember what those are? If not, let me refresh you memory. There is the logical, rational, thinky part of our brain (the rider on the elephant as described in the book Switch by Chip Heath), there is the emotional part of change (the elephant who does whatever he wants typically) and the path (which is the environment that we interact with on a regular basis). Today we are going get some tools to understand and direct that emotional elephant that can give us so much trouble.
Have you ever found yourself at the bottom of the bag of chips and wondered how you got there or have you ever reached for the glass of wine and realized the entire bottle is gone? This can be discouraging if we attribute it to a lack of willpower or if we beat ourselves up for not sticking to our goals better. But what if lack of willpower really isn't issue?
So we build a logical fortress around how we will destroy any siege that donuts or margaritas throws at us with all of our flaming arrows of reason and the trebuchets of willpower. But somehow when the infantry of chips and cookies begin to batter our gates our fortress falls once again and we are left with the crumbs of our willpower and the crumbs of the cookies on our laps. So what do we do? How do we escape this cycle?
We escape this cycle through self awareness.
"You can't think your way out of a feeling problem, especially when those feelings involve physical sensations." Krista Scott Dixon, Precision Nutrition
Unfortunately for most of us it can be difficult, or we do not take the time to pin down what we are feeling and how it relates to how we are acting.
This is one of the most important things you can do to bring change to any area of your life: develop self awareness.
Here are three questions you can ask yourself to develop self awareness.
What am I feeling physically right now?
What am I feeling emotionally right now?
What am I thinking right now?
This is called a mind body scan. I know it sounds all weird and new agey but bear with me as it very well may be the tool that helps you regain control of your life.
Take 5min/day for the next week to do this one simple thing.
Start at the top of your head and work your way all the down to your toes and observe what you are feeling physically. Is your forehead wrinkled? Are your eyes tired? Are you clenching your jaw? Are you tense in your neck and shoulders? Are you hot or cold? Etc.
Then ask yourself what am I feeling emotionally and what am I thinking right now?
If you do this consistently you may begin to notice a pattern; a connection between what you are thinking/feeling and what you are feeling physically (even potentially your feeling of hunger). What are you waiting for? Your five minutes begins now (faint jeopardy music in the background).
How did it go? It's ok if it feels a little weird at first. That's completely normal. For some of us we haven't sat down to have coffee with our emotions in a while to really hear how they are doing. It's like a first date. You keep crossing and uncrossing your arms and legs and your eye contact is not great and you're sure that you may have nervously giggled too many times but hey, if you get a second date you learn and get better. Give it some time and practice this week. Like I mentioned, this may be one of the most important things you can do to start taking back control of your food and cravings.
Next week we will give you some more tools to really "break the chain" of emotions and behavior. But for now, enjoy the coffee date with your emotions.
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