You know that little voice in your head? The one that can be extremely overcritical, judgmental, annoying and extremely persistent? I’m sure you do! We all have it. It is that really bothersome, rarely quiet, inner friend that never fails to keep us company. However annoying that little voice can be, it is actually the key to taming your brain and changing unwanted behaviors.
Most of us have learned to ignore that little voice, just letting it run amuck in our pretty little heads. Let’s face it, it usually leans toward the negative and undermines us. Therefore, to protect our somewhat fragile ego’s, we learn to tune it out. We know it’s there, we just don’t listen. Well my friends, it is time to start!
Becoming aware of your own cognitions is the first step towards understanding yourself and changing behaviors. Here is why. According to Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT, our thoughts create our feelings, our feelings create our actions, our actions create our results. Basically, we think, then feel, then act. If we are not paying attention to our thoughts, than our actions may let us down. By reframing our thinking, we can learn how to reframe behaviors and emotions.
Think of your brain as a well oiled machine. It’s entire purpose is to be efficient. Because of this, it takes behaviors that we do frequently and makes them habits, allowing us to not have to exert too much energy to get them done. The brain is doing it’s job. Unfortunately, sometimes the habits our brain has put on auto pilot are not the best for us. Have you ever tried to implement a new, healthier eating plan only to find yourself reverting back to old habits? A new workout schedule? Quitting smoking? Cutting down on your 5pm glass of wine? If we have done a behavior habitually over an extended amount of time, our brain fights us changing that behavior because it will have to exert more energy.
Why is this important?
This is important because, to change unwanted behaviors, you absolutely MUST begin to listen to the little voice in your head. Pay attention to what that voice is saying at all times, especially when it comes to changing a specific behavior pattern.
Let’s say you have decided to work out and the class starts in two hours. You busy yourself finishing up work, doing laundry, etc. All the sudden your thoughts start to creep in. The little voice is telling you that it would just be better if you got your work done so you could be ahead for tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be great if you finished that report today? That’s a good idea right? Or, you can always start the next day, why start today when you have so much to do? Or, why are you even trying, you have failed so many times before, right? What will make this time different? You’re not someone who works out, why do you think you are?
These are the thoughts that are IMPORTANT. To change your behaviors, you have to listen to these thoughts and CHALLENGE them. For each thought that pops up, question it’s validity. Ask yourself, is that actually true? Do I need to get ahead for tomorrows work or will working out benefit me more? Don’t just allow that thought to be there without challenging it. If you don’t start to challenge your thoughts, your behavior will not change.
This can be a painful and uncomfortable process when you start. A lot of times, our thoughts are not very nice to us. That is perfectly ok! The more you do it, the easier it will get and you will see progress. Be ok being uncomfortable for a bit and you will reap the benefits.