Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thinking for a Change?

“I really need . . .”

“I know I should . . .”

“I know I shouldn’t . . .”

“Now what? . . .”

It’s that internal battle. Fill in the blanks, finish any of these thoughts, on any subject, and you’ll be surprised where it takes you. It’s a fun, interesting and sometimes eye-opening exercise. But, and this is the big “but,” when it comes to personal health, weight loss and wellness, a large percentage of answers follow the same path.

Real life example (really): “I’m serious about wanting to lose weight and improve my dietary habits. I know I should pay attention to what and how much I eat. I know I shouldn’t eat those (substitute your food weakness of choice) soft, buttery, cheesy bread sticks or the three pieces of mouth-watering, thick crust pizza that I can smell in my sleep. But . . . “And, here’s what this real person did. She thought about it.

Here’s the thing about attitudes, behavior and why thinking can change both. Attitudes are described as “feelings, beliefs or opinions of approval or disapproval toward something.” (What is your attitude toward pizza?) Behavior is defined as “an action or reaction that occurs in response to an event or even internal stimuli, such as thought.” (What happens when you crave pizza?) The relationship between attitude and behavior is a complex one, in part because both define how we go about the business of daily life. (So, what do you do about that craving?)

Confused yet? There’s more. In general, behaviors will reflect established beliefs and attitudes. (You’re going to eat the pizza because you always do.) At the same time, a positive attitude manifests itself in well-adjusted behavior. (But, think about it—maybe this time you don’t eat the pizza. You know, you don’t have to.) Research has shown that most individuals register an immediate, and almost automatic reaction of good or bad toward what they encounter in less than a second. So if you think about that reaction (is eating the pizza good or bad . . . what happens if you eat it or don’t?) you might find your attitude changes toward pizza—and that you’ve redirected your behavior. How do you feel now, if you don’t eat the pizza? Remember, this is just one example of thinking about routine behaviors.

Now think about this . . . if you re-direct your behavior often enough, you change your behavior. And, your attitude toward what influenced that behavior changes. You are thinking for a change. Literally. What do you think now? Where do you think it can take you?

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