From my experience of working as healthcare professional, and as an Osteopath in Doha, I regularly encounter people who have little or no faith in their ability to improve their health through simple self-care strategies. Many people believe that when they experience poor health that it is the job of someone else to fix.
Many of us also subconsciously hold onto negative beliefs about ourselves which have been formed from way back, through experiences and interactions with friends, siblings, parents and teachers. We may have disproved these limiting beliefs but some tend to stick with us.
These little ‘mind gremlins’ want to hold us back, prevent us from experiencing a better version of ourselves, and prevent us from changing our habits. If we are to make lasting healthy changes, we need to be aware of our own self-limiting narrative and proactively reframe it. Its ok to be modest about ourselves but modesty can easily become self- limiting criticism, which prevents us from experiencing the person we want to be!
Whether its weight loss, overcoming chronic disease, striving for a fitness goal, etc, lifestyle modification is challenging, and there will be times when we want to just slip back into old unhealthy behaviours. However, if we can challenge and reframe some of our old self-limiting chit chat, we can get out of our own way and experience the innate self-confidence and belief that we all have residing within us.
As an Osteopath in Doha, I encounter many people with aches and pains that are a result of repeated behaviours accumulated over time to eventually manifest as discomfort and injury.
Whether you think you’re right or think you’re wrong, you’re right!!
So, whatever we believe ourselves to be, we are, so why not give yourself a more positive self-narrative?
A simple exercise to reframe your self-criticism is to write down any characteristics of yourself that you think may stop you from achieving your health goal, for example: ‘I always give up’ or ‘I’m weak in the face of temptation’ or ‘I don’t have the time’. Then, counter each of these statements with an experience in your life where you have shown the contrary so for example- write about a time where you set a goal and achieved it, or a time where you demonstrated self-discipline.
By recalling the times where you have actually proven your self-limiting beliefs to be false, you can start to dissolve the unhelpful stuff and draw on the resources and characteristics you have used throughout your life to achieve previous goals and objectives.
Gratitude journaling is also a great way of encouraging us to focus on the resources and qualities we have instead of those we believe we are deficient in.
The simple act of writing about or expressing appreciation for the things we are grateful for, creates a flood of positive emotions, down regulates the stress response and makes us more resilient. Focusing on what we are grateful for creates a context in which we can quickly shift away from negative feelings that often plague the mind such as anxiety, fear, anger, inadequacy, jealousy etc.
When we remind ourselves of the abundance present in our daily lives, we are cultivating happiness and contentment, which are precursors to good health. Happiness is a strong indicator of good health because happy people are far more likely to engage in health behaviours! People who express more gratitude experience less aches and pains, look after themselves more and sleep better! What’s not to like about that?
I personally found the stress of relocating to work as an Osteopath in Doha, very intense and it was gratitude journaling that successfully supported me through this process
Happiness is a skill, that needs nurturing. Some research suggests that 50% of our happiness can be explained by our genetics, 10% by circumstances and 40% is accounted for by our intentional activities and efforts to be happy. It’s important to appreciate that as humans, we are hard-wired to pay attention to more negative and threatening stimuli. This is a survival mechanism that would have served us well as hunter gatherers in dangerous environments. However, in our modern and relatively safe environments, unhappiness and loneliness are growing epidemics, that are robbing us of our health and vice versa.
A constant appreciation for what we have as opposed to what we are striving for, or feel we are lacking, is the foundation for genuine happiness and contentment!
So just to recap:
- Take a little time to Identify your values
- Then write down your reasons for wanting to improve your health, making sure to include your values.
- Make your own personal affirmation or statement
- Place it somewhere visible as a constant reminder
- Make yourself accountable to those closest to you. Share your endevours with them and ask for their support
- Be aware of any self-criticism and challenge any negative self-talk by focusing on times where you have proven the criticism wrong
- Start your day by dwelling on the things in your life you feel genuinely grateful for.