Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Fix your brain

My guess is that most overweight people can be put into two camps:

1. I've put weight on over the years without really noticing, probably because I am not as active as I used to me or have picked up some bad habits.


2. I often eat too much through boredom or emotional upset. I may feel very bad about myself because of my weight which only makes me more upset and that makes things worse.

I am the latter really and it is only because the diet is going well (with the aid of the blog) that that I am not turning to food as a comfort, this has worried me because what if I slip!

However, recently I found a book that has truly helped. It is by Albert Ellis, one of the founding fathers of cognitive therapy and it is called "How to make yourself happy and remarkably less disturbable." That makes is sound a little like brain washing or wagging the tail of the dog but it is not, if should really be called, "How to stop yourself becoming depressed, enraged or anxious etc and make yourself remarkably less disturbable."

I don't know that paraphrasing parts of the book will really do it justice but here are few key points I have found helpful:

1. Your worth as a human does not depend on your actions or performance. We are all human and worth the same, hence just forget self worth all together and stop measuring your worth.
2. Do measure your thoughts, emotions and actions against a set of goals. To be happy and to survive, preferably while not impeding others from doing the same.
3. Work hard to achieve these goals for yourself but be accepting when you cannot. 
4. Apply the same concept to others, don't measure their worth, hate their sins (actions against those goals) but not their core.
5. Don't "awfulise", that is to make something that is bad so truly terrible in your mind that it causes terrible pain, work hard to avoid bad things but realise that even in terrible situations it may not all be bad and could possibly be worse. 
6. Try to think flexibly. Avoid should, must, have to statements. Generally these just are not the case and create demands on the "universe" that can create pain if not met.
7. Try not to generalize. Avoid the verb "to be", "I am lazy" is a generalization, "I am bad" is too. They are not based on evidence and suggest you always were, will be and are in every way. Not so.

These are some key ideas that might not be so easy to grasp from a few words but from them a lot of problems can be dissolved. For example procrastination, one common cause of this is thinking that failing at a task will prove we are useless or worthless. So if you can follow #1 you know this is not true. You know that succeeding is preferable but failing does not make you a worm. Alternatively you may think that failing will be awful (if I fail to get into medical school it will be awful) well probably it won't be, you will just follow an alternative life path. etc etc 

Read the book if any of this sounds sensible and if you have any issues with emotions and thoughts that are basically working against your best interests. The book is not perfect, the ideas in it need some effort to understand and indeed implementing them and making a change does too but I feel sure it is worth it, at least at the moment. I will of course Blog more, perhaps in Graham_gets_sane_and_tries_to_stay_so :)

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