Wellness The Power of Positive Thinking & Weight Loss 1 October 2018 Studio Pilates I’ve always been a big believer in the power of positive thinking. The latest science seems to be agreeing that our thoughts, actions, and moods may play an even bigger role in our health and general wellness than previously believed. So, it’s probably no big surprise that positive thinking and weight loss success are integral to one another. Positive thinking plays a significant role in our weight loss efforts. Think about it: It’s impossible to lose weight when we focus on how fat and unhappy we are. Why? Because these kinds of negative thoughts lead us to succumb to our cravings, overeat and skip out on our daily dose of exercise. Positive thoughts, on the other hand, can increase our motivation and energy levels, propelling us toward our weight loss goals. In fact, when it comes to losing weight, our mind can be an extremely powerful and effective tool. A study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that the more confidence in their ability to achieve those goals —the more weight the participants dropped. People who successfully lost weight believe in themselves and their ability to stick with the weight loss approach they’ve chosen. POSITIVE THINKING AND WEIGHT LOSS SUCCESS Positive thoughts are empowering. A negative attitude can make losing weight difficult, if not impossible. Beating ourselves up every time we eat the wrong foods, obsessing about what we can’t eat and approaching our exercise routine with a sense of dread are all ways that negative thought patterns can sabotage our weight loss efforts. Having a negative image of ourselves leads to feeling powerless, depressed or unmotivated, making it more likely we’ll skip our daily workout or eat a bag of potato chips to feel better. But acknowledging those feelings and transforming those thoughts into something more positive can actually help us reach our goals. POSITIVE THINKING, STRESS AND WEIGHT LOSS And we all know how negatively stress affects our weight loss efforts. Negative thoughts and stress go hand in hand. And stress can make it impossible to lose weight. So, one big way positive thinking can improve our chances of losing with is through stress reduction. What’s your favorite way to manage your stress? My favorite stress relievers include brisk walks, gentle yoga, funny movies, hot baths and aromatherapy with essential oils. POSITIVE THINKING AND SETTING MANAGEABLE WEIGHT LOSS GOALS One of the ways that a negative attitude can prevail during dieting is when we set unreasonable goals for ourselves. Like subjecting ourselves to extremely low-calorie diets that are not sustainable, or by setting unrealistic weight loss expectations. To increase weight loss success, it’s important to set achievable goals, taking a step-by-step approach. Losing half to one kilo per week is a reasonable goal and can generally be achieved without extreme measures. And find non-scale victories to celebrate too. Down a dress size? Got more energy? Feeling stronger? Sleeping better? Off some of your meds? Give yourself a woo-hoo! 8 STRATEGIES FOR CULTIVATING A POSITIVE MINDSET Positive thinking is only effective if it is in alignment with our true feelings. If we feel down about our body telling ourselves that everything is okay, it will only create more tension. Here are 28 says to cultivate a positive mindset from Weight Watchers Australia: Pay attention (be mindful), then appreciate (savor) positive things This can be something as small as really appreciating a good cup of coffee. Professor Vella-Brodrick says this assists in overriding our default survival system, which is to give priority to negative aspects of our lives so we anticipate danger. Keep goals, inspiring images, affirmations and quote cards where you can see them “This helps remind us to adopt a positive disposition,” says Vella- Brodrick. Celebrate small joys We’re all prone to waiting for ‘big’ moments – like an exciting birthday or getting a promotion. Remember to reflect on the wonderful little things that are already happening right now. Celebrate the wins, no matter how small they seem. Said no to a second slice of pizza? Way to go! Skipped the donut staring at you in the break room. YES!! We need to give ourselves the credit we deserve. Use positive pick-me-ups Feel-good flick, uplifting book, inspiring podcast, stress-busting boxing session or calm-inducing yoga class, laugh-out-loud catch-up with a friend, cute YouTube clip, motivational music, patting a furry pal… what’s your go-to when you’re feeling down or stuck? Be thankful Studies show that counting your blessings boosts well-being and optimism. Log your gratitude in a journal or phone app or thank someone who’s made a difference to your life through a note, a call or face to face. Keep good company “Surround yourself with people who have a positive influence,” says Dr Lim. “Emotions are infectious.” Note three good things about your day These should be things you had an active role in controlling – this can be as simple as waking up early to enjoy a healthy breakfast. Do this for seven days and see how you feel. Dr Lim says this retrains your brain to focus on all the little good things that we tend to ignore. Spend time in nature According to Vella-Brodrick, research shows that getting back to nature improves your mood and cognitive capacity. Engage with nature in an activity such as gardening, and the benefits are more pronounced. Meditate more Clinical studies show that mindfulness meditation reduces anxiety and stress. Use a CD, class or app (such as Headspace or Smiling Mind) to guide you. Gradually build mental muscle “There’s no perfect way to practice mindfulness meditation and some people find it easier than others,” says Dr Lim. She suggests starting small, with 10-20 seconds of mindfulness – such as bringing your attention to the present moment or focusing on your breathing– and building on from there. Go for a mindful walk Pay attention to the sights, sounds, smells and sensations as you walk, such as feeling the wind on your skin. Try loving kindness meditation (LKM) LKM (or Metta) involves directing well wishes and repeating mantras as you meditate – first to yourself (such as “May I be filled with ease”) then to others (“May they be filled with ease”). LKM has been shown to increase self-love, compassion and other positive emotions. Counter negative self-talk “When you catch yourself saying unhelpful things in your head, try to say several positive things in response,” says Vella-Brodrick. Practice positive interactions “It has been demonstrated that we need around two to five times more positive than negative communication with others for us to feel good and have healthy relationships,” says Vella-Brodrick. See yourself through the eyes of a friend “When we view ourselves negatively, we’re often looking through an unrealistic lens,” says Dr Lim. Be your own best friend. Think, what would a friend say? Spend time with someone less fortunate This could be through volunteering to help people in need. According to Vella-Brodrick, this technique is called ‘downward comparison’, helping you feel more grateful for the things you have and not feeling so ‘hard done by’. Watching a film or documentary about people facing adversity can also produce similar effects. Help someone in need or volunteer “Doing something that doesn’t just benefit ourselves, gives our lives more meaning and satisfaction,” says Dr Lim. Write yourself a love letter Vella-Brodrick suggests writing a caring letter to yourself and reading it regularly, especially when you’re feeling self-critical. Go easy on yourself “People often think that being hard on ourselves makes us achieve more,” says Dr Lim. “But research has shown the reverse to be true: the added pressure of expectation can create a barrier to achieving.” Visualise your best possible self What does life look like if everything goes as well as it could – in one, five and 10 years’ time? What’s happening? Who is there? How do you feel? “This type of mental imagery helps you identify what you value and inspires you to aim towards it.” Keep reading for more on the power of visualizing weight loss success. Acknowledge acts of kindness by others “Realising that there is good in others can increase your own sense of wellbeing,” says Vella-Brodrick. Strive to be more than just ‘happy’ “Happiness is only one of the many emotions we experience,” says Dr Lim. “Most of the time, we feel neutral or okay as our default.” You’ll feel better overall by trying to generate plenty of specific positive emotions – satisfaction, relaxation, generosity, contentment and so on. Identify and use your strengths This can help you feel more self-confident and engaged in life. People with a high level of confidence have just as many weaknesses as people without confidence, but they concentrate on their strengths—not their flaws or weaknesses. Establish an enjoyable routine “Having habits you enjoy and look forward to – such as a morning run or cooking for your family – can make a big difference to how we feel each day,” says Dr Lim. Do something kind In a recent study at Yale University School of Medicine, those who performed small acts of kindness (such as opening a door for someone) reported fewer negative emotions and lower stress levels. Change your approach “If you’re not getting the same positive pay-offs, try something different,” says Dr Lim, “such as a group exercise class if you no longer enjoy running.” Spend time with family and friends “Having strong connections with loved ones has a positive impact on how we feel,” says Dr Lim. Put things into perspective “When you stop, look around and reflect, you realise that most of us have all we need,” says Dr Lim. “And that life is pretty good.” VISUALISE WEIGHT LOSS SUCCESS Studies have demonstrated again and again the power of detailed vivid visualisation in affecting positive results. Peak athletes often use visualisation to enhance their competitive performance. The same strategy can work for us with our weight loss goals. Imagining going to the gym or hopping on your bike isn’t as effective as actually doing it. But, turns out it’s better than nothing, according to researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, who found that just thinking about exercise helped maintain muscle strength in a group of study participants. We can adapt a similar approach with eating. Visualise turning down that snack, dessert, other highly caloric treat and the next time the situation presents itself, we are apt to have much greater success actually doing it. Develop a very clear picture of how you want to look and feel. I’ve created a vivid picture of the healthy vital strong and sexy senior I want to be; traveling the world and having adventures well into my 80s. Your picture may be different. Take time each day to see yourself as healthy, slender, vibrant person you want to be. AFFIRMATIONS FOR WEIGHT LOSS Affirmations can be another powerful tool for change. For years I repeated over and over again, “I’m easily and effortless maintaining my ideal weight.” And now I am. Some of my favourite weight loss affirmations include: I am happily and easily maintaining my ideal body weight. I am enjoying optimal physical, spiritual, mental and emotional health. I eat and drink like a naturally thin person. I am enjoying life as a naturally thin person. I eat only the food that I need in order to maintain optimum health and vitality Nothing tastes as good as being fit feels I am healthy and strong, filled with energy and vitality. I think healthy thoughts. Every day, in every way, I am getting slimmer. I think slim thoughts. I am healthy and strong, filled with energy and vitality. I feel healthy and strong. I think healthy thoughts. I awaken each day feeling healthy and full of energy. I am at my perfect weight, healthy in every way. I awaken each day feeling healthy and happy. I feel energized throughout the day. I am bursting with health and vigor. I think young and feel young. Every pressure I feel is a signal to relax, release, and let go. The older I get, the healthier I become. I always have more than enough energy to do all I want to do. My body thrives when I nourish it properly. I take good care of my body and its health. My fitness routine is enjoyable, energetic and easy. I love working out because it makes me happier and healthier. My body is trim, strong and flexible. Always remember that positive thinking is a key component of a comprehensive weight loss strategy. With the right attitude, motivation and energy will increase as the kilos slowly melt away. I often see how important it is to first believe that you can change your eating habits before you can make changes. If you want to eat better, get healthy and lose weight, this is your first step. Tell yourself, “It is not easy, but possible.” Article Credit – Martha McKinnon, founder of Simple Nourished Living, and author of several best-selling ebooks and ecookbooks. Click here to view the original article.