When we set a goal for health purposes it may seem like a daunting task. However, in the world we live in today, there are more access to a healthy lifestyle than ever in human history. If you feel you are person that can figure things out yourself, you can google whatever you want. If you want to find healthy recipes just google it. If you want to know the best exercise plan that will cater to your needs, just google it. If you want to find a gym for extra motivation or to find a personal trainer, just google it. All the tools are right there for us, however there is one thing that always stops us from obtaining our goals. That thing is ourselves. Our brain has thoughts (cognitions) that hinders us from our health goals. Whether it is to train for a marathon or to lose 10 pounds, the thoughts in our brain can make or break us. There are 5 cognitive thoughts that can harm our fitness goals. However, if these cognitive distortions are rectified, then your fitness goals are unlimited because the mental barriers will be gone.
- Black and white thinking: If I do not go to the gym today, then I will never lose weight. Have you ever heard someone say something like this? This type of thinking is the all or nothing approach to goals. It is a huge hindrance when we do not fulfill our goals in the timeframe we want it to be filled. This is the most common form of cognitive distortions that exist. The world is greyer than what we think. All or nothing thinking can shorten your goal very quickly if you let it
Solution: Setting high expectations for yourself is great, but sometimes it can hurt you. When trying to reach your goal think SMART. Small, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound goals are resolve this way of thinking for your health goals. It can help make the goals more realistic and easier to accomplish. The second thing is alternative thinking. Despite the fact you did not go to the gym today, does this mean everyone that miss the gym cannot get back? Have I ever miss a day at work and worry that I will never go back? These questions can help someone understand that all or nothing thinking is not the best way to think about goals.
- Control Fallacies: I cannot have a good diet because my spouse only eats junk food. My hours at work are unpredictable, so I cannot go to gym. I am pretty sure you have heard these reasons for feasible unhealthy decisions. This is when we allow external sources to dictate our internal fallacies. This cognitive distortion would allow sources to take control on your life.
Solution: A simple question can resolve this cognitive distortion. Do people control our behaviors or can you control your own behaviors? You should believe that we can control our feelings and we can control our lives. Like previously stated, we live in a great time in human society and we can find ways to get around these issues. Instead of letting your spouse cook, you can cook dinner and make is healthy for the entire family. Work hours can make going to the gym difficult, but it is still doable. Maybe taking the time to go to the gym is not the best thing right now. Maybe doing some cardio at home is more realistic or go to the gym early in the morning instead of at night, depending on your schedule.
- Overgeneralization: It is a difficult to start a goal when past events overshadow what you want in life. An example would a situation where a member at a gym had personal training for 6 weeks and things were going well. The trainer you had left with no warning. You tried to contact the trainer, but there was no response. You are left wondering why they left. Now when you go to the gym, you want to get a new trainer, but you think all the trainer will leave likebut you believe all trainers will hurt me. The generalization of trainers that all of them can hurt you is a form of overgeneralization. Whenever a past issues come, we can generalize to reduce the chances from getting hurt. The only issue is that we may miss great opportunities, but because of this thought, we do not give people a chance or yourself a chance.
Solution: Overcoming overgeneralization is not an easy task. It is difficult and many people have a hard time with this issue. The people that have the hardest time with it are people that have been hurt from someone and their trust is damaged from it. It does not always have to be someone else, but it can also be your self-defeating thoughts. The best way to resolve this issue is to change the negative generalization into positive ones. The example with the personal trainer. What was some good traits from the trainer? Did you lose weight from the trainer’s help? Did you ever know why the trainer left? Ask these questions and find the positive or reasonable explanation from it. It can help take more chances on your goals. It can help provide a better chance to get the help you want in fitness.
Conclusion: Changing bad habits are never easy, especially for health purposes. People can hurt you in life and they are not the reason you do not fulfill your goal. It is your thoughts in your head that needs to change. Changing cognitive thoughts is not an overnight thing. It takes times to get rid of the cognitive distortions. However, with work and time, it can help you in the reach your goals in life.
Solomon Richberg, MSW, Sports Counselor/Mental Game Coach
Elite Sports Counseling