Hello and welcome back to the River Cairn Counseling blog! In last week’s blog Improve Your Self Confidence with 7 Practices we explored a little with how the brain works and practice tips to increase your self-confidence in overcoming challenges.
A month ago I endured the hour-and-a-half long anxiety ridden and pain inducing experience we all associate with the dentist. As my teeth were picked and prodded at, the dentist informed me yet again that I should be flossing. Struggling to get a word in between water rinses and probing instruments, I mumbled about how I brushed my teeth every day. The dentist laughed and told me that he knew I brushed, but warned me again about the consequences of not flossing. I sighed.
That night I forgot to floss.
The next I started, and stopped because it hurt.
The third night I purposefully did not pick up the floss.
Within a week, I forgot all about the scary warnings and the painful dentist experience.
I wish I could say this was the first time I have ignored the dentist’s advice, but the truth is that I heard the same warnings every six months growing up. I just want to have a healthy mouth without having to floss! Is that so hard to ask for?
The harsh reality that I have to face is that I cannot have the healthy mouth I want without flossing. As difficult as that is to accept. So my choices come down to two options:
- Floss my teeth and have a healthy mouth
- Continue not flossing my teeth, and have gum issues
Just like with my teeth, there are things in life that everybody has to do if they want to see results. In whatever area they care about.
Michael Phelps did not become the world’s fastest swimmer without DOING what it took to get to the Olympics.
J.K. Rowling did not become one of the world’s most famous authors without putting pen to paper every single day for years.
And Weird Al did not become weird without doing WEIRD things. Otherwise he would be known as Boring Al. Or Average Al. Somehow Totally-Normal Al just doesn’t have the same ring to it as Weird Al.
If somebody wants to be happy, they must do the things necessary to become happy. Happiness is a pursuit, not an automatic gift from the heavens. Which is amazing if you think about it! I would not want my level of happiness to be dependent on whether or not it was given to me. By being something that must be worked on, happiness can belong to anybody who works for it!
For people with severe depression, medications and therapy are likely needed to help a person get to the point that they are ABLE to do the activities necessary to boost happiness. Research has shown though that exercise can be just as effective, if not MORE effective, in treating mild to moderate depression than antidepressant medications.*
So for most people, physically DOING activities that make you happy WILL result in a better mood. Especially when the activities become part of your life on a daily basis.
BUT WE ALREADY KNOW THIS!!
I KNOW that I need to floss my teeth! But that doesn’t get me to floss my teeth. Why?
If knowledge alone got people to change their behaviors, then we would have a nation of fit people that exercise everyday, eat healthy meals, wear their seatbelts, get their homework done on time, re-use their grocery bags, and floss their teeth. Everybody knows that these things are important and good for us to do. We just don’t do them. So what else is needed? Motivation? Inspiration? Hope? Desperation?
If you could think of one thing that you could do that would make you feel good, what would it be?
Now go out and DO NOT DO IT!
You’re not ready for that yet, or you would already be doing it. First, search deep into the netherlands of your soul and answer these questions to yourself:
- Why do I want to do this awesome thing that will make me feel good?
- Looking at ALL the benefits, what has held me back from doing this awesome feel-good thing?
- Is there any way to move past the things that have been holding me back?
Listing the reasons why you want to work out more, start a gratitude journal, spend more time with the kids, cut out soda, or brush your teeth will help you remember the WHY it’s important to you. Being told that you should do something by another person can actually make you LESS likely to do it. But taking the time to think about why YOU care about something makes it much more likely that you will WANT to do the activity.
Determine all your reasons to do your feel-good activity, examine why you don’t do your feel-good activity, and brainstorm ways to avoid avoidance.
Now go out and do something small. If you want to exercise more, go for a short walk around the block. Or even just stretch! Do something that gets you closer to your goal. Write your reasons for the activity down and place them somewhere that you will see them often. This will help with longer lasting motivation.
Michael Phelps would not be one of the most decorated Olympians if he did not DO what it takes. To BE an Olympian, you must ACT as an Olympian. Therefore if you want to BE happy, you must ACT in ways to make you happy. If you want to BE healthy, you must ACT in ways to make yourself healthy.
Everyone has their own tricks for increasing their motivation. Share some of your tricks in the comments – they may help someone else find a way to stay motivated! And remember, for many things in life, to BE you must DO.