Making the connection to how you feel afterwards

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I just wrote a comment over at Rainthief's blog, and thought "Hey, I should make an actual post about this!"

I like to listen to The People's Pharmacy, a radio show on NPR about health and medicine. On New Year's weekend, they did a show about willpower: how to handle it when you want to make good long-term choices, but in the moment, you want to go with the easier, less good choice. It was a great show -- they brought in an expert psychologist who talked about a number of techniques you can use to improve your willpower. I highly recommend downloading the podcast (instructions here:
), or you can just listen to the recording directly from the website, here:
. (It's show number 840, "Willpower Science.")

One of the things they talked about was making the mental connection between the choice you're making now, and how you'll feel AFTER you make that choice -- and then treating yourself with true compassion, by making the choice that will truly make you feel better.

One of the hosts gave an example. When he has to fly, he gets really stressed out. He usually ends up buying and eating a whole box of Good'n'Plenty candy while waiting for his flight. Then, of course, he feels ill and miserable for the whole flight because he just ate a whole box of candy! He said the last time he flew, he was super-stressed out, having a terrible day, and the candy was calling to him. He was about to buy it -- and then he said to himself "Joe, if you eat this candy, you'll feel sick and miserable in about an hour. Do you want to feel like that?" Once he made that connection, suddenly the candy didn't seem nearly so alluring anymore.

I'm trying to make those kinds of connections about my habits.

I have succeeded at making that connection when it comes to fast food burgers and fries. In the past, I'd crave the immediate taste of those things, eat them, and then feel really sick and miserable about an hour later, all that grease and salt and sugar just sitting in my stomach like a rock. Now, the taste is linked so strongly in my head to feeling sick and miserable that I don't crave fast food burgers anymore. In fact, I actively dislike them. Even thinking about eating one makes me feel kind of sick.

I need to work on making the mental connection that I feel physically better after I exercise. In the past I've over-exercised and felt exhausted and unhappy afterwards, which has caused me to burn out. But when I exercise at a nice moderate pace, I actually do feel happier, calmer, and more energized afterwards. I need to start doing that kind of good, moderate exercise regularly and reinforce that mental connection.

There was a lot of other interesting stuff in that People's Pharmacy episode, which I might write about later. But today, I wanted to muse about making that connection.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Nice blog.

    It's true...I didn't realize it until you stated it here, but that is the technique I use myself. I also detest fast food now, and have connected to good feelings and wellness feeling after exercise. I am hoping to apply it to other areas, but hadn't realized exactly what it was I was doing.

    Not usually an NPR fan, but that podcast sounds worthy of a listen
    2288 days ago
    I haven't heard it but I'll definitely check it out, thanks!

    Those Ah Ha moments are hard to make habitual, but it's just something we all have to fight for. It comes down to the fact that you can be your biggest hero or worst enemy. This year, it seems like I am finally making myself more into the hero than the chunky enemy. Consistency and discipline (and flat out 'I'm sick and tired of being this way' feelings) are coming through.

    You have to keep reminding yourself of the goal and how you can get there, and question if the action you're considering is going to get you there or not.

    emoticon emoticon
    2289 days ago
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