Mind over matter: Mental habits

Yesterday, the teaching elder of our church introduced the next sermon series…mental habits. He explained the connection between that and spiritual growth. It got me to thinking about implementing the healthy changes I need and want to make in my life – especially around nutrition and physical activity.

I realized that I have some pretty painful and counterproductive mental habits which have contributed to how I got to the point I’m at, both in life and in health.

Be aware when you compare. Even though I know it’s counterproductive, I still do it…seemingly unconsciously and involuntarily. I’ve gotten in the habit of comparing myself to others, almost always to my own deficit. Especially when it comes to my body.

First the comparison. Then the story I tell myself must be true. Then the self-judgment. Sadly, it’s all about determining my self-worth through vanity. It’s an unproductive habit, done in vain.
It goes something like this:

I walk past a reflective surface and catch a sideways glimpse of my image. I cringe at my physical appearance and begin thinking about what others must see and think when they see me. Shame rises within and births embarrassment. I walk past an ad for a weight loss program and see the beautiful, smiling image of someone who has lost weight and appears happier and physically smaller than their “before” picture. I think, “if she couldn’t get it done without paying for a program, I know I can’t. I don’t have any money to pay for anything like that. I don’t have what I need to lose weight. I’m just going to be fat forever. No one wants a fat person. I’m unlovable.”

This entire process takes less time than it takes to read about it. I’ve practiced it so often, I’m an expert at it and it is now an involuntary, automatic response to looking at my reflection.

Well, it needs to get disrupted. What if I do this instead?

I catch a glimpse of my reflection.The cringe starts to happen. I stop, turn, and look at my reflection and smile. I tell myself, “Your body is strong and capable. Be proud. Be grateful it functions as well as it does.” I keep walking and see the weight loss advert. I think, “Good for them. I am capable of getting healthy, too. I am not my body. I am worthy and deserving of love no matter what my body looks like. I am loved. I love myself.”

This process takes time, attention, and energy. It may feel false because I’ve believed the lies too long. But, it’s important to practice it, go through the motions, and deliberately think the thoughts if I want to change.

Change begins in the mind. Healthy thought habits lead to healthy action and healthy habits are formed.

Think and say the good things you want enough instead of focusing on what you don’t want. Easier said than done, but worth it, I believe.

What are some of your mental habits?

4 comments

  1. I so hear you. Several years ago, when I was crossing from overweight into obese, I hated myself. I hated my reflection. I hated people who were skinny, because I hated myself. Thinking back now, it was so wrong to loathe myself because of a number on the scale. So what happened? Five years ago, I lost the weight. My whole attitude changed, or so I thought. Because, when I started to gain the weight back, the thoughts started to return. I need to do what you are doing before self-loathing gets reestablished.

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  2. I’ve been lucky in having a positive body image, even as a kid. I just never compared myself. That being said, l hate the fact that l have no hair (shaved it off in solidarity with my sister when she had chemo) and mine never grew back :-). Still, I got the better deal. Life. Now, l go without wigs or weaves. My husband loves it and l am getting to like it too. Keep being strong.

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  3. Lillian , this is so strong: “I walk past a reflective surface and catch a sideways glimpse of my image. I cringe at my physical appearance and begin thinking about what others must see and think when they see me. Shame rises within and births embarrassment.”

    How many times I’ve done that to myself. Sometimes I don’t even look at myself! Or I’ll say: Oh, but my face is pretty. Self-love and self-acceptance are nowhere to be found at times like those.

    I love the strategy you found to switch the negative thougths, though. That’s the “fighting”, the “mighty” spirit! 😉

    Dani x

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