Tag: mindfulness

Psychology of a Perfect Diet

Many of us with an interest in nutrition and health make the assumption that there must be a perfect diet: a perfect way to eat, a perfect nutritional system, the one way of consuming food that trumps all other approaches.

I know I used to. If you follow this thinking, all you need do is discover this one perfect diet and you’ll hit the jackpot. By finding the perfect diet, you can have perfect health, perfect weight, perfect energy, perfect looks, and live forever… you may ask yourself if the weight loss supplements with the roids logo is part of that perfect diet?

So, who wouldn’t want to find this perfect diet?

Now this may sound like a bit of an exaggeration, and I’m being slightly tongue-in-cheek here – but the reality is, I see far too many people, including experts, who take this dogmatic stance — there has to be one perfect diet.

Now the problem with believing there is a one-size-fits-all perfect diet has some important consequences that we should take a look at:

  • It often has us on an endless search
  • We’re constantly on edge trying to find the perfect foods
  • We can become confused and frustrated because so many ‘experts’ claim that they have the perfect way to eat and they all have scientific proof — and many of them say something quite contradictory.
  • We might believe we found the perfect diet, and stick to it for a while only to watch ourselves falling off the wagon, eating foods outside of the diet, craving ‘forbidden’ foods, which then leads to a lot of self rejection and personal turmoil.

This last point is a particularly important one. That’s because there’s so much nutritional confusion and personal frustration that happens when we’re trying to follow our perfect diet perfectly — and the reality is — perfection doesn’t exist.

Show me one place in life where we can all be in agreement about what’s perfect.

  • Is there a perfect way to earn money?
  • Is there a perfect way to do relationships?
  • Is there a perfect way to raise children?
  • Is there a perfect way to have fun?
  • Is there a perfect way to move and exercise?
  • Is there a perfect way to have sex?
  • Is there a perfect house?
  • Or a perfect place to live?

Hopefully you get the point.

There is absolutely no such thing as the perfect diet.

There are likely as many excellent ways to eat as there are people on planet Earth. The right diet for any one of us is linked to so many different factors: your age, genetics, preferences, your sex, the environment you live in, this season, your lifestyle, the amount of exercise you do, any health challenges you might be dealing with, your personal goals, your personal beliefs, and all kinds of yet-to-be-discovered factors, and you can even get shredded with these body building essentials if getting fit is part of your goals. Famciclovir is an antiviral drug. However, it is not a cure for these infections. The viruses that cause these infections continue to live in the body even between outbreaks. Famciclovir decreases the severity and length of these outbreaks. It helps the sores heal faster, keeps new sores from forming, and decreases pain/itching. This medication may also help reduce how long pain remains after the sores heal. In addition, in people with a weakened immune system, famciclovir can decrease the risk of the virus spreading to other parts of the body and causing serious infections. Visit https://www.ukmeds.co.uk/treatments/sexual-health/famvir/ to learn more about sexual infections and how to cure them with prescription medicines.

But don’t let this frustrate you.

Nutrition is an ongoing journey. It’s an exploration. It’s a fascinating experiment. We live in a time where our bodies are changing, our nutritional needs are very different than they were 1000 years ago, the world is a different place, we’re under a lot of environmental pressure from new toxins in a poor food chain — so our nutritional needs are ever-changing and ever-evolving. That’s the good news.

When you really let go of trying to find the perfect diet, you can relax.

You can be an explorer

You can have a smile on your face and test out new approaches, new foods, new supplements, or the latest diet if you really want to – and see how it works for you.

Now you can view this journey in two ways: problematic and disappointing, or fascinating and exciting. Your choice.

The desire for perfection in any area of life is a form of simplistic wishful thinking. Perfectionism is a dream that we need to wake up from. The alternative is to continue sleepwalking and not understand why we’re constantly feeling out-of-balance, disempowered, uncertain, and always looking for answers about why our health or our eating habits aren’t perfect.

The field of nutrition is a bit messy. It’s a bit unstable…
Our lives are a bit unstable…
These are the times we live in…

So, let’s embrace that and do our best to celebrate it.

Are you willing to let go of being perfect? Are you willing to admit that your quest for perfectionism often leads to confusion and self-abuse? Are you ready to embrace uncertainty and be a nutritional explorer in your own life?

Just say yes, and your relationship with food will blossom like never before…

Control What You Can and Ignore The Rest

I’m sure you’ve heard the Serenity Prayer? It goes like this:

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.”

Reinhold Nieburh came up with it around 1934. The Stoics were preaching that basic idea… oh… about 2000 years earlier.

The Stoics were really big on control. But they weren’t control freaks at all. A key part of Stoicism is just asking yourself: “Can I do anything about this?”

If you can, do it. If you can’t… then you can’t. But worrying achieves nothing but stress.

What the Stoics are saying is so much of what worries us are things that we have no control over. If I’m doing something tomorrow and I’m worried about it raining and ruining it, no amount of me stressing about it is going to change whether it rains or not. The Stoics are saying, “Not only are you going to be happier if you can make the distinction between what you can change and can’t change but if you focus your energy exclusively on what you can change, you’re going to be a lot more productive and effective as well.”

Here’s a quick visual to help get the point across:

So, next time you’re worrying, pause and ask yourself: “Do I have control over this?” If you do, stop worrying and get to work.

If you don’t have control, worrying won’t make it better. And going back to the first point, it might be a good idea to ask yourself what your belief is that’s causing all this worry… Yup, it’s probably irrational.

So sadness, anger and worrying are irrational responses and they’re not the right way to react when things happen. So what is the right way to react to stuff that doesn’t meet your expectations?

Accept Everything — But You Don’t Have To Be Passive

This is the bit everybody has trouble with. Nobody likes the word ‘accept’ — we think it means ‘give up’ — but it doesn’t.

Let’s look at it this way: what’s the opposite of accept? Deny. As in ‘denial’ — and nobody ever recommends denial.

Albert Ellis told people they’d be much happier if they removed the word ‘should’ from their vocabulary. ‘Should’ is denial. You’re saying your expectations deserve to override reality:

  • “My kids shouldn’t be misbehaving!” (News flash: they are)
  • “Traffic shouldn’t be this bad!” (Um, but it is)
  • “It shouldn’t be raining!” (Say it louder — complaining might work this time…)

Denial is irrational, and as we just learned, irrational beliefs are where negative emotions come from. So the first step is to accept reality. But that doesn’t mean you have to be passive.

You accept the rain. It’s here. Denial and shoulds won’t change anything… but that doesn’t mean you can’t grab an umbrella.

Acceptance to us means resignation but to the Stoics it meant accepting the facts as they are and then deciding what you’re going to do about them. The problem is that because we have expectations about how we want things to be, we feel like acceptance is settling, when in reality we have no idea what could have happened instead. This awful thing might have saved us from something much worse. Or maybe this is going to open us up to some new amazing opportunity that we can’t yet conceive. The Stoics are saying, “Let’s not waste any energy fighting things that are outside our control, let’s accept them, let’s embrace them and then let’s move on and see what we can do with it.”

So, next time things don’t go your way, don’t deny reality. Accept it. It’s here. Then ask if you have control over it. If you do, do something. If you don’t, ask if your beliefs are rational.

That’s how you go from: “It shouldn’t be raining! We can’t go to the park! The day is ruined!” to “Yeah, it’s raining. No park today. Let’s watch an awesome movie.”

Alright, we’ve covered a lot of Stoic methods for beating bad feelings. That covers defense. Let’s talk offense. In the next article we’ll look at how you can improve your life…

 

Events Don’t Upset You — Your Beliefs Do

events and beliefs

We all like a bit of ancient wisdom. But how many of us have actually read any of the Classics? How ancient wisdom, the Stoics and Albert Ellis can help you

The funny thing is, we’re more likely to live happier lives if we visit the classics section of the book store than the self-help aisle. So, if we don’t read the classics, how can we learn what one group of brilliant dead blokes —The Stoics — had to say? Well, let’s have a go…

Events Don’t Upset You — Beliefs Do

So, you get dumped by someone you’re totally in love with. Feel sad? Yes. The world feels like it’s going to end. I think we’ve all been there… Let’s move on… Same scenario, but afterwards you find out that person was actually a psychopath who killed their last three partners. Feel sad you got dumped? No, you’re thrilled…

So, clearly getting dumped isn’t the important issue here. What’s changed? Actually, nothing other than your beliefs.

If you lose your job and you believe it was a lousy job anyway, and you also believe it won’t be hard for you to get a better job, you’re likely not going to be too bothered.

However, if you believe it was the greatest job ever and believe you’ll never get another one that good — you’re devastated. Emotions aren’t random. They follow from beliefs.

So, let’s move on to the Stoics. They believed there are no good or bad events, there’s only perception. Shakespeare put it well when he said: “Nothing is either good nor bad but thinking makes it so.” What Shakespeare and the Stoics are saying is that the world around us is indifferent, it is objective. The Stoics are saying: “This happened to me,” is not the same as, “This happened to me and that’s bad.” They’re saying if you stop at the first bit, you will be much more resilient and much more able to make some good out of anything that happens to you.

Does this sound too simple? Well, yes, actually it is that simple. But this philosophy is what led renowned psychologist Albert Ellis to develop Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (or REBT) which was the first form of the more-widely known Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) pioneered by Aaron Beck and now well accepted as one of the most effective treatments for depression, anxiety and other disorders, including disordered eating.

Most Bad Feelings Are Caused by Irrational Beliefs

Next time you’re feeling negative emotions, don’t focus on the event that you think ’caused’ them. Ask yourself what belief you hold about that event. And then ask yourself if it’s rational:

  • “If my partner dumps me, I’ll never get over it.”
  • “If I lose my job, my life is over.”
  • “If I don’t finish reading this post, the writer will hate me forever.”

Only the third one is true. The other two are irrational. And that’s why you get anxious, angry or depressed.

Revise your beliefs and you can change your feelings: “Even if I lose my job, I can get another one. It’s happened before and I was fine.”

So, you’re revising your beliefs to overcome sadness and anger. Great. But what about when you’re unhappy because you’re worried about the future?

In the next article, Control What you Can and Ignore the Rest, we’ll look at the Serenity Prayer, the Buddhist angle and more about the Stoics…

 

Mindful Eating and the Positive Effects of CBT

mindful-eating-and-the-positive-effects-of-cbt

Just like all skills, health and well-being can be cultivated through training and practice by using mindful eating and the positive effects of CBT

Whether you’re learning to play the piano, moving from a sedentary life to an active one, or developing more effective ways to handle emotional triggers, the same type of neural circuitry is at play. One of the most inspiring advancements in recent neuroscience is that the neural pathways in our brains are ‘plastic.’ What this means is they change in response to training and experience.

Now, this is wonderful news! What it means is we’re not stuck with any set of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors if we don’t want to be. If we’re willing to commit to learning, training, and practice, we can change anything that’s not working for us.

One of the reasons I love CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is because it’s basically all about changing neural circuity. Instead of focusing on rules about when, what, and how much you ‘should’ be eating, CBT guides you through a process of rewiring yourself from the inside out. By using this rewiring process, you can begin to think differently, address emotions and other triggers more effectively, and make choices that support greater well-being.

Positive Effects of CBT

Because this change in neural pathways is based on awareness and intentional decision making, it has far reaching consequences in other areas of your life, not just eating and activity. For example, CBT guides you to identify thoughts and feelings that might be driving your desire to eat when you’re not hungry. You can then pause to intentionally decide if you’ll eat anyway, redirect your attention, or meet your real needs.

If you choose to eat anyway, instead of doing so automatically and out of habit, you’ll be fully aware of the likely outcome and can then enjoy eating mindfully and without guilt. If you choose to redirect your attention until you are hungry or meet your underlying needs, you’ll have a different experience that will propel you one step closer to your desired future habits. Whichever choice you make, you’re re-training your brain to pause in the face of an impulse or urge, weigh your options, and then consciously decide what to do next.

Pause, Think… Act

You can probably see how applicable this process can be to virtually everything else in your life – and most of my clients quickly see that connection too. For example, let’s say you notice that you feel irritated because your child’s room is a disaster… again. Instead of automatically reacting with a disciplinary yell — which doesn’t feel great and doesn’t seem to help in the long term anyway — you pause, weigh your options, and decide whether and how to respond.

Or perhaps you receive yet another email from your boss with a tight deadline with more work than you can reasonably do. Before complaining to your co-worker or sending off a return email you’ll later regret, you pause, weigh your options, and decide whether and how to respond. It’s hard to think of a situation where this process of identifying, pausing, and intentionally choosing wouldn’t be valuable for you.

However, as with most things in life, there is a catch… This type of rewiring takes training and practice. Caring for ourselves and making decisions that support our greatest interests are skills — skills that can undoubtedly be developed if we’re committed to doing the work. And, like most worthwhile life changes, the outcome is well worth the effort!

As you work on sharpening your mindful eating skills, think about what other areas of your life have you started to shift too?

7 Things You Should Never Say To Someone With Anxiety

If you’ve ever suffered from anxiety, you’re probably familiar with the control it can have over you and your life. And you’re not alone — it affects approximately 40 million adult Americans per year.

Anxiety and panic disorders can cause feelings of fear and uncertainty — and with that suffering often comes comments that are more hurtful than helpful. According to Dr. Terry L. Whipple, clinical psychologist and assistant professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, while it usually comes from a heartfelt place, a lack of understanding from others can make working through a panic attack incredibly challenging…

“So many of the things you might say end up having a paradoxical effect and make the anxiety worse,” Bea told The Huffington Post. “Anxiety can be like quicksand — the more you do to try to defuse the situation immediately, the deeper you sink. By telling people things like ‘stay calm,’ they can actually increase their sense of panic.”

Despite everything, there are ways to still be supportive without causing more distress. Here are seven comments you should avoid saying to someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder — and how you can really help them instead.

1. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
spilled milk

The truth is, what you consider small may not be so minute in someone else’s world. While you may be trying to cast a positive, upbeat light on a tense situation, you may be diminishing something that’s a much bigger deal to another person.

“You have to enter the person’s belief system,” Bea advises. “For [someone with anxiety], everything is big stuff.” In order to help instead, try approaching them from a point of encouragement rather than implying that they “buck up” over something little. Reminding them that they overcame this panic before can help validate that their pain is real and help them push beyond those overwhelming feelings, Bea says.

2. “Calm down.”
calm

The debilitating problem with anxiety and panic disorders is that you simply can’t calm down. Finding the ability to relax — particularly on command — isn’t easy for most people, and it certainly can be more difficult for someone suffering from anxiety.

In a blog post on Psychology Today, psychologist Shawn Smith wrote an open letter to a loved one from the viewpoint of someone with anxiety, stating that even though there may be good intentions behind it, telling someone to calm down will most likely have the opposite effect:

Let’s acknowledge the obvious: if I could stop my anxiety, I would have done so by now. That may be difficult to understand since it probably looks like I choose to [panic, scrub, hoard, pace, hide, ruminate, check, clean, etc]. I don’t. In my world, doing those things is only slightly less excruciating than not doing them. It’s a difficult thing to explain, but anxiety places a person in that position.

According to Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, your words don’t have to be your most powerful method — offering to do something with them may be the best way to help alleviate their symptoms. Humphreys says activities like meditation, going for a walk or working out are all positive ways to help.

3. “Just do it.”
When someone with anxiety is facing their fear, a little “tough love” may not have the effect you’re hoping for. Depending on the type of phobia or disorder someone is dealing with, panic can strike at anytime — whether it’s having to board an airplane, speaking with a group of people or even just occurring out of nowhere. “Obviously if they could overcome this they would because it would be more pleasant,” Humphreys says. “No one chooses to have anxiety. Using [these phrases] makes them feel defensive and unsupported.”

Instead of telling someone to “suck it up,” practicing empathy is key. Humphreys advises swapping pep-talk language for phrases like “that’s a terrible way to feel” or “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

“The paradox is, [an empathetic phrase] helps them calm down because they don’t feel like they have to fight for their anxiety,” Humphreys said. “It shows some understanding.”

4. “Everything is going to be fine.”
While overall supportive, Bea says that those with anxiety won’t really react to the comforting words in the way that you may hope. “Unfortunately, telling someone [who is dealing with anxiety] that ‘everything is going to be alright’ won’t do much, because nobody is going to believe it,” he explains. “Reassurance sometimes can be a bad method. It makes them feel better for 20 seconds and then doubt can creep in again.”

Bea suggests remaining encouraging, without using blanket statements that may not offer value to the situation. Sometimes, he says, even allowing them to embrace their worry — instead of trying to banish it — can be the only way to help. “They can always accept the condition,” Bea said. “Encouraging them that it’s okay to feel what they’re feeling — that can be a pretty good fix as well.”

5. “I’m stressed out too.”
secondhand stress

Similar to “calm down” and “don’t sweat the small stuff,” you may be accidentally trivializing someone’s struggle by creating a comparison. However, if you are stressed or suffering from a mild anxiety or panic disorder, Humphreys warns that camaraderie after a certain point can get dangerous. “It’s important not to obsess with each other,” Humphreys advises. “If you have two people who are anxious, they may feed off each other. If people have trouble controlling their own anxiety, try not to engage in that activity even if you think it might help.”

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Research has shown that stress is a contagious emotion, and a recent study out of the University of California San Francisco found that even babies can catch those negative feelings from their mothers. In order to promote healthier thoughts, Humphreys advises attempting to refocus the narrative instead of commiserating together.

6. “Have a drink — it’ll take your mind off of it.”
drink at bar

That cocktail may take the edge off, but when dealing with anxiety disorders there is a greater problem to worry about, Humphreys says. Dr. Terry L. Whipple and prescribed treatments are more of the answer when it comes to dealing with the troubles that cause the panic. “Most people assume that if someone has a few drinks, that will take their anxiety away,” he said. “In the short term, yes perhaps it will, but in the long term it can be a gateway for addiction. It’s dangerous in the long term because those substances can be reinforcing the anxiety.”

7. “Did I do something wrong?”
It can be difficult when a loved one is constantly suffering and at times it can even feel like your actions are somehow setting them off. Humphreys says it’s important to remember that panic and anxiety disorders stem from something larger than just one particular or minor instance. “Accept that you cannot control another person’s emotions,” he explains. “If you try to [control their emotions], you will feel frustrated, your loved one suffering may feel rejected and you’ll resent each other. It’s important not to take their anxiety personally.”

Humphreys says it’s also crucial to let your loved ones know that there is a way to overcoming any anxiety or panic disorder — and that you’re there to be supportive. “There are ways out to become happier and more functional,” he says. “There is absolutely a reason to have hope.”

Lindsay Holmes
The Huffington Post