For years, Dana has hated her body. Every time she sees her reflection in a full-length mirror she cringes and thinks, “Augh. I hate my body.” And then one day she hears a podcast on positive body image and decides that these negative thoughts are not serving her. She peppers her mirror and walls with self-affirming sticky notes: “I love my body!” and “I am beautiful.” She recites them diligently for three months before feeling even more defeated than ever. She still hates her body and now has a new thought as well: “You’ll never change.”
Dana had part of the equation right. Thinking a negative thought will never produce a positive outcome.
But slapping a new thought (or sticky note) over the old one won’t work either….if it’s not believable. Dana’s new Pollyanna thought was too big of a leap. When we try to trick ourselves by forcing a thought we don’t believe, our brain will call “BS” every time. It says, “Not buyin’ it. I’ve heard what you’ve said every day and there’s no evidence that that’s true.”
So how do you move from the old thought to the one you want to have? Build a bridge.Bridge thoughts slowly move you forward in your beliefs through small incremental changes to shift your thinking. The brain is always looking for evidence of what it already believes to be true, and is quick to resist anything that doesn’t feel familiar. You’ll need to start with a neutral thought that doesn’t trigger that resistance. This may be starting at “I have a body.”
Practice that “comfortable” thought. (Sticky notes galore, if that’s your thing.) Then shift to “My body is healthy”, “I’m grateful that my body allows me mobility”, or a similar thought that you believe is true, and continue bridging to the next thought in small increments. Test each new thought out. How do you feel when you think this? Do you feel resistance? Embarrassment? Shame? If you feel any negative emotion, try a different thought. A negative feeling will never create a positive result!
Jedi Mind Tricks
At some point, you’re bound to hit a place where any movement forward feels like a bit of a stretch. When you find that spot, try adding a preface to your new thought. This can help loosen the bolts on the thoughts you’ve held for so long, by helping you envision the future, without all the resistance.
“I’m working on accepting my body.”
“Someday I could love my body.”
“I’m learning to love my body.”You’ve held these old thoughts for quite a while, so they likely won’t change overnight.
When your old thoughts creep back in (and they will!) give yourself some grace. Recognize that just because you think something, doesn’t make it true. When you catch yourself thinking an old/unhelpful thought, reword it by saying, “I’m having a thought that (I hate my body) and that’s okay. It’s just a thought.” This will remind you that it really IS just an optional thought, which won’t be around for long!
Not sure how to apply this to your own life? Why not do a mini session with me?
Click here. It’s free.