It happens day in and day out. You go to the gym, you eat healthy, you drink enough water, you get enough sleep, you even have enough sex but for some reason you just don’t feel well. You ask yourself "what else do I need to do to feel happy? Aren't I doing enough?". The problem isn’t with what you are DOING but instead with what you are THINKING. What we say to ourselves about the things we do matters. I know it sounds complicated so let me break it down for you.
Often times, what many corporate wellness speakers miss in their presentations is they focus too much on BEHAVIOR and not enough on THINKING. That's because most corporate wellness speakers aren't mental health professionals and so haven't gotten the education on cognitions that would allow for this. At Smart Talk Coaching, we are all mental health professionals and so we focus on what you are thinking. At the end of the day what matters most is not what we do, but the story we tell ourselves about what we did that day (also known as your thoughts). The phrases we use when we think about our self-care matter because those are ultimately what is encoded in our brains; more than the actions themselves.
If taking care of your body by feeding it healthy foods, exercising it, hydrating it, etc... would be the only thing needed to feel well and happy then first world countries would be the leaders in happiness and wellness scores. That of course is not the case. First world countries, especially the USA, have seen a drastic rise in the rates of depression, anxiety, burn out, and other mental health conditions. So, that begs the question: if I'm doing everything that I'm supposed to do to feel happy, why am I not happy?
The answer to this question is simple: it's because of what you're telling yourself. What matters most when it goes to happiness and wellness is the context of the story we create in our heads about the lives we live. For example, lets say that you go to the gym a couple of times during the week because you know that you "should go to the gym". You rush to the gym, get your clothes on, try to distract yourself from the work out that you don't really enjoy by watching shows, quickly shower, and race home. While you are at the gym you are saying things to yourself like "this workout is taking forever", "I should really respond to that email", "That person next to me is huffing and puffing too loud", etc... Do you notice what you just did? You have managed to turn the privilege of working out into a chore. Actually, even worse, you have turned into something that is taking you away from something that is more important to you (in most cases this is working longer hours). By setting up your workout in this way, you are reducing your chances of happiness and wellness. Yes you are working out your body, but you are not getting the full benefits because of what you are telling yourself.
Imagine if instead you did the following. You leisurely drove to the gym imagining the workout ahead. You change into your gym clothes and work out. You listen to music or a podcast as you go through your workout all the time noticing how much stronger you are getting, and how much you are doing for your body. Once you finish your work out, you take a shower making sure to wash off the sweat. You even remembered to bring your favorite aromatherapy spray for the shower. You think to yourself "what a treat!" You put on your clothes and on the drive home take the chance to speak with your friend whom you haven't spoken to in a while.
Can you see the difference? You did the same thing: worked out. You even spent the same amount of time doing it. The only think you changed was how you thought about it. Simply approaching it with a more positive outlook has allowed you to feel more calm, happier, and more in control of your life. AND, because you enjoyed the workout, your brain encoded it as a positive event allowing you to feel confident and more positive. Over time, this will allow you to have more positive workouts, allowing you to value moving your body, and making you happier. All because you changed the way you thought about something.
This strategy can be used for anything from self-care, work, friendships, chores, etc... Learning to approach things with a positive and grateful perspective will allow you to have more positive events which will allow you to feel happier, more content, and more fulfilled. As mental health professionals, we have learned the power of perspective. If you need help with your outlook or perspective on life please feel free to reach out and schedule a coaching session.