Forget Positive Thinking, Try Positive Action
For years self-help gurus have preached the same simple mantra: if you want to improve your life then you need to change how you think. Force yourself to have positive thoughts and you will become happier and healthier. Visualise your dream self and you will enjoy increased health. Think like a millionaire and you will magically grow rich. In principle, this idea sounds perfectly reasonable. However, in practice it often proves ineffective.
Take visualisation. Hundreds of ‘build your self-esteem to maximise your weight loss’ books encourage readers to close their eyes and imagine their perfect selves; to see themselves in a size 8 dress, or walking around on the beach with pecs to die for! Unfortunately, research suggests this technique does not work.
However, the message is not all gloom and doom. Decades of research show that there is indeed a simple but highly effective way to transform how you think and feel. The technique turns common sense on its head but is grounded in science. It is ‘By acting as if you are a certain type of person, you become that person’, what I call the “As If” principle.
The same applies to confidence. Most books on increasing confidence encourage readers to focus on instances in their life when they have done well or ask them to visualise themselves being more assertive. In contrast, the ‘As If’ principle suggests that it would be much more effective to simply ask people to change their behaviour. By simply asking someone to be a certain way can make them adopt that trait. Try striding confidently down the ‘crisps and snacks aisle’ at the supermarket and walking straight past them with your basket full of healthy great food. Then go next week and do the same in a lethargic way. See what happens…Basket full of crisps!!!
Scientists look at why this is and examine chemicals coursing through our veins. Those ‘striding confidently’ will show higher levels of testosterone, proving that the confident stride can change the chemical make-up of our bodies.
So how to change – 4 Big Steps
The big million dollar answer is ‘Action Speaks Loudest’
- HAPPINESS: Smile
This is the ultimate one of them all. Smile and you will feel happier. To get the most out of this exercise, make the smile as wide as possible, extend your eyebrow muscles slightly upward, and hold the resulting expression for about 20 seconds.
- WILLPOWER: Tense up
Tensing your muscles boosts your willpower. Next time you feel the need to avoid that cigarette or cream cake, make a fist, contract your biceps, press your thumb and first finger together, or grip a pen in your hand.
- WEIGHT/FAT LOSS: Use your non-dominant hand
When you eat with your non-dominant hand you are acting as if you are carrying out an unusual behaviour. Because of that you place more attention on your action, do not simply consume food without thinking about it. We should take our time by eating slowly and therefore digesting the food better and feeling fuller.
- PROCRASTINATION: Make a start
To overcome procrastination, act as if you are interested in what it is that you must do. Spend just a few minutes carrying out the first part of whatever it is you are avoiding, and suddenly you will feel a strong need to complete the task.
So as step 4 states, act now! Build up your self-esteem by not only thinking positively but more importantly act positively. These techniques will help you through many areas of life not just health and fitness.