A lot of things have changed for me over the years. In my journey to find a well-rounded version of health for myself, I’ve tried just about everything. There’s been running from every problem and emotion with drugs and alcohol, obsessive food control and exercise to appear perfect on the outside, and complete complacency with trying anything at all. I’ve had a problem with black and white thinking for as long as I can remember, so most actions and decisions in my life were very all-or-none.
The solution to my very unbalanced life was both simple and hard at the same time. It required me to change my mindset, which is hard to do when you have lived with the same thought process and belief system for many years. It was something that took time and trial and error. It took talking to people and an ultimate realization that I am in control of my happiness. I needed to figure out what things were working and what things I needed to get rid of in order to live the best life I possibly could.
Although everyone’s process is different, here are three steps that were crucial in helping me learn to change my mindset.
1. Identify the problem
In order for things to change, you need to first identify the problem. For several months, I had no idea that my obsessive running and mileage-tracking was even an issue. I thought it may be a little strange to wake up and exercise if I couldn’t sleep, but it wasn’t alarming enough for me to work to fix it. It took an injury and what caused that injury (two 12-mile runs in two days) for me to realize that my focus on running and exercise was making parts of my life unmanageable.
When something starts causing distress in your life, make sure to pinpoint exactly what it is. It may even help to write it down or journal about how it makes you feel. Once you have a name for it, it’s much easier to work towards solving the problem.
2. Think about the big picture
For me, as a detail-oriented person, thinking abstractly or about larger things was (and still is) a difficult thing to do. I would become focused on that was happening RIGHT NOW and myopically zero in one thing. Let’s take my eating habits, for example.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I take full advantage of living in Chicago. I post delicious smoothie bowls balanced out with amazing pizza, burgers, and desserts. My routine for the past few months has been to eat whole, healthy foods Monday-Friday and then explore new food adventures on the weekend.
If you had known me a few years ago, this would never be something I would do. I would eat the same healthy foods day in and day out, deny myself anything with sugar (WHYYYYY), and obsess constantly about what I was taking into my body. This left me preoccupied, unhappy, tired, and below what I probably should have weighed.
Thinking about the big picture (and seeking help from people I trusted) allowed me to view food in a new way. I would consider the amount of food I consumed per week and not per day. I realized that I only have one life to live and I love desserts. As long as you’re consistently striving for balance, there’s always room for meals and snacks that you enjoy!
3. Come up with alternative perspectives
Bad news or disappointments in life can be taken in multiple different ways. I speak from personal experience here when I say that victim roles will always respond with defeating and pessimistic responses that prohibit them from growing and learning. They will often blame themselves or an outside source for their lot in life, which then absolves them from all responsibility.
When life hands you lemons—and it will—your mindset plays a huge part in how you deal and what you choose to do with those experiences. Make sure to feel your initial reaction, but then try and think of every possible way to view the situation. When I lost everything and hit my bottom, I was almost forced to look at things in a different way. If I didn’t, I’m not sure how I would have coped with everything that was going on. I tried thinking of positive outcomes and how I could use my experience so that everything I went through wasn’t in vain. From that decision you are here reading this blog today!
Ultimately, it’s a process. I’m still learning and changing as I go in order to find the best version of health and balance that I can for myself. If you’re ever stuck trying to get there yourself, try working through these steps or feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud!
- Are you a black and white thinker?
- How easy is it for you change how you view a situation?