How to trick yourself into helping yourself

How to trick yourself into helping yourself

So often when you try make lasting changes to your life you find it rather harder than anticipated. I mean how hard can it be? Other people do it without it looking like a total uphill battle after all. The reality is it is hard for us mere mortals, we know this and there is a whole string of people counting on it for their livelihood.

This time around I am trying to pool together everything I’ve seen and read, all the little successes and lessons learned through failure. There are so many tricks out there and you have to work out yours. This is going to be an ongoing list of those things that work for me. Part self help manual, part things that might be useful to others.

Leave cues to boost your mood and shape your decision making.

Priming is a neat little psychological reaction that takes place subconsciously (check out wikipedia for a quick rundown here). It’s what makes us pay a little more in an upmarket shop, what makes us try a little harder at the gym and why we are more likely to pay it forward when we experience kindness. This is far from a surefire method especially as it relies on setting up your environment and then not paying it any attention. So just what the heck am I talking about?

In the image above you see two of the ways I have changed the environment to change myself. The first is the flowers. On a limited budget this is truly an unnecessary little purchase however when I look up from my kitchen or desk, in fact anywhere downstairs as we live in a little townhouse, I see something that triggers a positive chain of events. Flowers to me are something I have always wished to have in my home, I know for some its a grand staircase or fast car but to me if I can have fresh flowers in my home each day I must have gotten something right. So regardless of how “right” I have or haven’t got it I feel like things must be going well. I have many of these moments that reinforce the idea that I am ok, that we are doing well and that life is actually pretty darned good.

The second is the plate of fruit and veggies. As with the flowers these are in a prominent place however their cues are different. Each morning I put out some fruit and veg that needs to be eaten during the day. As a result as I get up to walk to the fridge for a snack I pass the plate and have a chance to reconsider. My home is slowly becoming full of these little cues, from the fridge magnets to leaving my runners out make it that much easier to put on. Its also why not so helpful cues are being removed, Hubby is more than allowed to have his treats but they are much better for me if kept at the top of the cupboard where I can’t see them.

Flood your feed with positivity.

If you are like me your digital world plays a constant passive role in your daily comings and goings. Go ahead and join that Facebook group, like that recipe community, follow that guru basically do what it takes to make sure that every time you login to social media you are being bombarded with positive messages that reinforce what YOU want from life. While your at it why not unfriend some Frenemies or perhaps stop getting images from the local cupcake store. The important part is to remember to be true to you and what your goals are.

Reign in the dishes.

One of the major downsides of eating home cooked meals is that there is a potential mountain of dishes waiting at the end of the day. Now when Hubby is home this isn’t too much of an issue but as he has to go away often I find I get to the end of the evening tired and ratty and the last thing I feel like dealing with is the dishes. I am no Martha Stewart and I have been known to just leave them till later until such time as we’ve run out of plates. My solution however unorthodox works for me. I have simply pulled out the camping equipment and taken out one bowl and plate per person. By limiting the volume of dishes I reduce the amount of chaos that can happen. I also decided to use the camping ones as they are a lovely shiny stainless steel and look totally different to my usual plates that I find it much easier to avoid just reaching in for a clean plate rather than washing the one already there. Funny thing is now that I am washing the plates and bowls more often I make sure the rest of it is done too because its “only a pot or two”.

Positively distracted.

I’m not a huge TV watcher but there are times during the day when I like to have something on in the background. Usually this is during my meal preparation and cooking times and I’ve noticed something really disappointing. I am a real sucker for advertising. Yep like the vast majority of us I will be happily going along and then that advert for the latest McDonalds meal or treat comes along and suddenly I’m positively drooling. This is especially unhelpful when you enter the kitchen to cook dinner and the “helpful” advert on TV just happens to point out just how fast a pizza can be delivered to your door. So ditch the pitch and make the switch to health inspiring viewing. I signed up to Food Matters TV ( and while not everything on there is 100% where I’m at I do find it uplifting to watch something advert free and focused on healthy living. I’ll also put on something from YouTube showing others on a similar journey. With this positive reinforcement going on in the background I am far more likely to suck it up and make a healthy meal for my family.

Seek support were ever you go.

Sometimes those close to us are the least likely to offer the support we need. And thats actually ok, this is your journey not theirs. In my home I make the decisions for myself and my kids most of the time but my Husband is a grown man. I’m not going to brow beat or manipulate him into doing something he doesn’t want to do.  I’m also not going to demand a full food diary before he reenters the house each day, that is a little bit controlling and scary to be honest. Likewise extended family are on their own journey and no matter how close they are they are now a separate household and are entitled to do things their way, as am I. So where does that leave a person on the support front?

Firstly you have to ask for what you actually need and expect a realistic outcome. Its not up to those that love you to wrestle that donut out of your hands and hog tie you until the craving has passed. You can however ask that while you are getting on top of things could they not eat the donut in front of you, or at the very least not expect you to sit there while they eat it. Most reasonable and supportive partners are more than happy to accomodate that type of request. The same goes for extended family bring a dish to a family gathering that you know you can eat rather than present them with a mile long list of dietary instructions. Now I am in no way suggesting this is an easy process and I have had years of dealing with not so helpful support. It has taken a long time to get my beloved to realise that bringing home chocolates or a cheese platter really isn’t actually an act of kindness and love. I have also turned down events and gatherings where I have known it would be impossible to manage the food issues (particularly with the kids). There are also times where you take a hit but the different is these are the exceptions not the rule. I used to always accept the food others offered because I didn’t want to offend. Now I try politely to return it or to diffuse the situation and sometimes I simply pass it on to someone with a cast iron stomach.

Now the next part of this trick is one I have only recently worked out and that is the power of the wider support network. I have always focused on the immediate support however there is power in all the little interactions you have throughout the week. Yes you might not want to mention anything incase you fail however having people you bump into asking how you are going actually helps keep you on track. So why not chat to the mum at the school pick up line or mention to your butcher what you are doing? This also extends to accepting that support may not be possible in your physical world and that you may have to look elsewhere. I personally love online groups, its like carrying your friends in your pocket. I can be sitting there at the shops feeling down with all the food smells around and I can pull up a group and connect with others. There is a whole world out there and out of all those billions of people there has got to be a few who will get you and where you are coming from.

Keep track of yourself.

However you do it there has to be some sense of accountably to yourself. If you are like me then you are a master of the blurred line. This is one aspect of Weight Watchers I did appreciate even if the overall program was not for me (read more about my epic diet journey so far). As someone who can often get lost in the detail I have had to take a more big picture approach so in my case jotting down a day by day progress while I do the initial Whole30 challenge and posting them up online is what works. This is also because I am trying to push myself out of my comfort zone. For me this creates a great easily accessible cross check of where I’m at and how I am going. One bad day is just that where as if I didn’t have that reality check I can very easily assume the bad day is part of a bad week and so on until I just give up – and I really don’t want to give up.

Just dance, it’ll be ok.

Music is an amazing tool in the process of making changes to your life. However if you keep playing the same soundtrack day in day out then you are going to be reinforcing the old patterns. You know how powerful these links are if you’ve ever had a bad breakup and found months later just the radio playing “your song” sends you into a downward slump. So how can you use music to change your patterns and moods?

If you have a playlist of music from a time when you felt vibrant and happy put it on and go about your day. Even better is if it jogs memories of happier healthier times, headphones are probably a must unless you like the quizzical stares as you relive your teen years. Another trick I have found is to go outside of the box and listen to things that would not normally be part of your normal repertoire.

Music streaming sites are great for this and you might surprise yourself. Just log in and flick to a channel you normally wouldn’t go to and go with your gut. If you start feeling agitated or upset skip that track or move on (lets face it some music is just plain depressing no matter the genre). So far I’ve discovered I actually like most types of music or can find at least one track I like. If I hadn’t found this little trick I wouldn’t know that Hardstyle is a sure fire way to get me up and going, no matter how sluggish or down I am putting on my favourite album gets my heart rate up and my will to move going. Once again headphones or being alone in the car is a must or you will raise a few eyebrows. I also wouldn’t have discovered that I actually don’t mind country music (just tone down the bible bashing please) and there are actually some amazing R&B and Crunk music out there. Good music is good no matter who is performing it or who is listening to it so break free of some unwritten stereotypes and open up your mind. You might just find when you crack open one part of your life to newness other areas are suddenly freed up to make the change as well.

Keep it simple

All too often with making changes we try to change everything all at once. This I have learnt through way to much trial and error (ok mostly error) simply doesn’t not work. For the 1 time it does there are dozens of not so successful attempts. So this time around I have picked one goal, one change to make which is my diet. There are clear guidelines and the timeframe is fixed. I will certainly be working towards making these changes more longterm however the goal is just the 30 days. One step not the 30000 that come afterwards. As a result there is much less resistance overall to this change mentally. I did pick a time where it was just me and the kids so that I was only changing one headstrong adults lifestyle.

Oddly enough as this one change is taking place other changes are occurring alongside it WITHOUT my active effort. For example I am changing my eating and doing the exercises given to me by the Chiropractor to fix my tummy – that’s it no training for a marathon or taking up a new exercise regime. Done the diet/exercise/wellbeing/total overload approach many times before and the only one that worked was when I was on my own with no kids or husband and fairly time rich. But the results did not last because I wasn’t building up the changes slowly step by step. This time my focus is on the diet and my relationship with food as I work on that I am accidentally going out more and joining the kids in the park. I feel better so I am more likely to get up and chase them around. As this keeps going I will reach a point where the exercise is the new change and I am on top of the diet. By keeping it focus I have a much better chance of actually achieving my goals.
more to come as I find other tricks that help me stay on track….

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