changing focus

My original title was “breaking bad habits,” but I wanted to give myself a more hopeful title for this post.

I’ve written before about the challenge of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

In the past eighteen months, I’ve worked hard to change my eating habits, exercise more, and generally take better care of myself.

But sometimes I have periods of time when I want bowls of potato chips, white bread, thick slices of cake liberally slapped with white icing…

You get the idea.

Sometimes I can enjoy one or two cookies, a thin slice of cake, a small bowl of Lay’s.

And sometimes I just can’t stop.

Inevitably, a big slip up is followed by feelings of shame, disgust, and just plain old anger at myself.

My quest to be healthy includes reading all that I can about getting and staying healthy.

One of my new study aides is a subscription to Yoga Journal.

YJ has helped me a lot in this journey of self-discovery, self-love, self-forgiveness.

The February issue of YJ has a wonderful article by Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford University.

In “Nurture the New You,” page 82, Dr. McGonigal tackles the  issue of setbacks when trying to make positive changes in your life.

Whoa, this article has my name all over it! It’s also proof, yet again, that what I need will show up when I need it and am receptive to it. More about that, maybe another time.

I tried to find an online link to this article, with no success.

I hope you will go and and find a copy of the February Yoga Journal, but if you can’t here are some points I want to pass on from Dr. McGonigal’s article:

  • Don’t mistake the behavior you want to change for who you are. I ate the 4th and 5th cookies, so I’m a terrible person. 
  • Instead, view the behavior as what is is–a pattern/habit/behavior that’s not serving you.
  • View yourself as fundamentally perfect, and don’t focus on your flaws. Focus on your negative behaviors without judging yourself (whoa, I know that one is a biggie, but bear with me for ‘alf a mo).
Kelly McGonigal suggests cultivating self-love, and offers the following from the Yoga Sutra 1.33:
  • Love–you deserve to be healthy and happy; remind yourself how these changes will help you!
  • Without judgement, consider how this habit is making you suffer (including being so hard on yourself), and how you want to be free of this suffering.
  • Give yourself kudo’s for any positive changes you have made so far. And while you are at it, send some gratitude to friends and family who are supporting you.
  • If you are down and feeling blue about a recent setback, remind yourself that you are human, don’t beat yourself up, and focus on the larger goal of being free.

Dr. McGonigal cautions:

  • Don’t try to motivate yourself using anger and rejection towards your wonderful self.
  • It’s not about feeling sorry for yourself.
Her article also mentions tips from Maggie Juliano, founder of Sprout Yoga:
  • Reframe the behavior you want to change–it’s not a bad part of you, it’s a symptom of your suffering.
  • Accept you went looking for happiness in the wrong place (no, Beth, gobs of thick white icing are not the cure for everything).
  • Be present with your feelings and don’t push them away, and give yourself some kind and loving thoughts.
  • “Remember that you are a person who deserves unconditional love and deserves not to suffer.”
  • You deserve to be happy!
So, when my alarm clock starts interrupting my sleep at 5:30 a.m., telling me it’s time to go to the gym, I am [trying] to view this as a positive way to take care of me, and not a way to punish myself.
And all through Dr. McGonigal’s article is the point that changing behaviors, changing focus, isn’t an all or nothing affair that happens like magic. 
It’s one step at a time.
And self-compassion is the key. 
For my own journey, I’m going to jot down key points on 4×6 index cards (I love school supplies, especially ruled index cards), and carry them with me. A stressful day at work increases my longing for potato chips and iced cookies!
But, as my friend J.D. used to say,  That doesn’t make me a bad person.

About boomergrl49

Mom, Grandma, retired social worker, blogger. I love reading fiction of all kinds, and I'm also addicted to television (Netflix, Hulu, Acorn, Amazon video).

Posted on February 13, 2011, in Kelly McGonigal, Maggie Juliano, type 2 diabetes, Yoga Journal. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on changing focus.

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