In education circles, parents are encouraged to tell children to “Do This” instead of saying “Don’t Do That”. Just as we want to give positive alternatives for children, we can apply that same concept to adults. We want to promote positive behaviors by using language in a positive and goal-directed way.
So much of the health literature out there focuses on what not to do (e.g., don’t smoke, don't eat fast food, don't sit at your desk all day long). This can be helpful, but by now, I think most of us know the behaviors that are not healthy for us.
But, do we know what to do instead? Or, more importantly, do we know how to incorporate these positive alternatives into our day?
Our energy flows where our attention goes. If you are constantly focusing on what not to do, you are inadvertently reinforcing that neural pathway and increasing the likelihood that you keep repeating that unwanted pattern.
Instead of removing all processed foods, maybe add a bowl of mixed greens at lunchtime.
Instead of skipping carbs after 5p, maybe add a walk after dinner.
Instead of eliminating coffee, maybe add 32 oz of lemon water each day.
It’s much easier and more productive to focus on what we gain rather than what we lose. Believe me, our minds really dislike losing things!
Maybe the desire for processed foods, excess carbs and coffee eventually drop off. Once you’ve crowded them out with better, more sustainable alternatives, your cravings for them may dissipate. Dare I say - you might find swaps that you enjoy even more! These things that we once clung to eventually become irrelevant. It’s much easier to eliminate something from a place of irrelevancy than from a place of gripping or grasping.
What is one thing that you want to focus on this week in the spirit of adding (do this) rather than subtracting (don’t do this)?