How to Maintain a Positive Mindset in the Face of Negative Thoughts or Uncontrollable Events
The mind can play tricks on (and sabotage) us when we’re trying to live a healthier life and eat healthy foods. Nothing makes us reach for the pint of ice cream faster than a down mood. Instead of reaching for all the wrong foods and sabotaging yourself in other ways, there are helpful tips to maintain your discipline and keep up that motivation when little things— personally or in the world around you— get the best of you!
Turn the Page.
It’s important to give yourself grace in the process of change. How you do that is to allow yourself to look forward, not back, when things feel bleak. Come up with a mantra that reinforces a positive outlook. Something like: The Future is Bright. Repeat it enough and you start to believe it.
First, Identify Your Why.
Start by identifying what you really want to change and WHY. The famous Simon Sinek TED talk explains that inspiration comes in the form of understanding your ultimate goal. If you don't know why you're doing something, like eating plant-based or working out, or trying to lose weight, then you won't be able to push through when the going gets tough. Know your "why" and then even when you stumble, it all seems attainable.
Second, Get real.
What negative beliefs, or even actual lies, are you telling yourself about why you can’t change. Have an old injury? Working long hours? Have to care for a family member? Everyone has something that you could call an "obstacle" to getting the work done. Perhaps you have more than one excuse? (Or lie.) Instead, focus on tackling one obstacle (or lie) at a time. Speak truth to yourself about your true circumstances -- say to yourself, it's not that I can't get to the gym in the morning. It's that I prefer to sleep in. Look for a mentor or pal or friend who can reinforce that reality in a positive way.
Join A Community.
Choose your friends wisely. The people close to you should be those = with whom you are willing to share your struggles. They should encourage you in all seasons and with every piece of vulnerable information you share, while not tearing you down. Reaching for the ice cream late at night? (Night after night?) When you say to your workout buddy in the morning, "I really messed up last night" does she reassure you with, "It happens to all of us. Give yourself a break. Or next time call me and I'll help you through whatever it is that's bothering you."
Look at your 24-hour day and identify where you have some downtime or even a few minutes of free brain time and try to use it for something that's meaningful. As you take inventory, also where you might be wasting time. What is it that sucks all your hours? Email? Social perusing? Then, make note of which days and times of day you have the most versus least amount of energy. Fill those gaps with quality, focused time that gets you closer to your goal.
Try to implement one positive change at a time and track it every day. Don’t just track it whenever you completed it. Track it when you don’t get further down the desired path. Then take note of your feelings and write down what went wrong. The only way you can change something going forward is to realize what triggered the lack of progress. Then realize that the frustration -- that you didn't make progress-- is what will help you to get motivated now.
Trying and struggling to get more vegetables into your diet? Understand your "Why?" If it's for health, then tell yourself getting to the market to buy veggies is an important investment into your wellbeing. If you didn't get to the store or cook veggies, make that point of frustration a reason to solve it, and get motivated to do so at your next chance. You'll feel better about yourself once you get this right.
Yes, we all need to quit this habit of comparing ourselves to others. But most importantly, we’ve got to stop comparing ourselves to ourselves, Your health journey is different each and every day. You may have had a season in your life when you felt super fit and slim, and now you have to work to get back into shape. Self-comparison happens when we get stuck thinking that because we’re not or can’t be that previous version of ourselves, then what’s the use in trying to change at all?!
Instead, when you reflect on your personal past, only focus on the victories and what worked for you then. Your past failures don’t define you so tell yourself those are off limits! If what worked for you before doesn’t go with your current lifestyle, then give yourself permission to start over. The most important thing is to remember that we all start somewhere and every single action (no matter how small) has an impact on your life now and later.
Here’s something you may not have considered: Sometimes when you fall off the wagon, it’s actually a sign that you needed to give it a rest. It can be hard to slow down when busy is normal but there is an immense amount of power in rest. Constantly doing something over and over without thinking doesn’t mean you’re accomplishing anything. Plan ahead for physical rest or a break from your routine and give yourself permission to hit reset. This time helps you reset emotionally and mentally as well!
The most important thing is to find which of these works for you, in your current situation. By focusing on one thing at a time, positive change will be inevitable.