But the reverse is also true. Your thoughts can be defeating. "I'm already overweight, so it doesn't matter if I eat a second piece of cake." Or, "I only have 10 minutes. It's not enough time to walk." Negative thoughts, often called negative self-talk, may sabotage your good intentions.
"I think I can"
Remember the famous children's book "The Little Engine that Could"? The theme, with its chant, "I think I can, I think I can," helped the small train make it up the hill. The book's message is as true today as it was when it was first published in 1930. If you set your mind to something, you can do it.
One in four Americans are trying to lose weight at any given time, and older adults are joining gyms in record numbers. If you are one of them, you are more likely to reach your health and fitness goals with the right attitude. Positive thinking can help you achieve and maintain healthy behaviors, such as becoming more physically active or limiting your sugar intake.
Studies have measured the success of positive-thinkers and found that those who think they can lose weight, or increase their physical activity, do! These people are more successful than people with less faith in themselves. The confidence you have in performing a certain behavior is called self-efficacy; and self-efficacy is a key in successful behavior change.
Want Results? Can Do!
Many professional athletes get top sports training and coaching in positive thinking to help them achieve their goals. And it works! The same can apply for you and me. A "can-do" attitude may be just what it takes to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle. Best of all, your attitude is something you can control. You have the choice to have a positive outlook. Chances are when you choose to think positively, you'll feel better about yourself and be able to perform better in whatever you do.
Losing 20 pounds or running a marathon this year may be unrealistic. But there are small goals in your reach that do not require drastic life changes. For example, your weight loss goal may be to cut 100 calories a day. Try leaving two bites of hamburger on your plate, hold the jam but skip the butter on your bagel, or have water instead of fruit juice. You can also burn 100 calories more by taking the stairs, parking further from store entrances, or walking to a lunch spot further away from your office.
Like the "Little Engine", sometimes you need an extra push. There will be days when you don't floss, slip from eating right, or lose your temper. Small setbacks are normal. Learn from your past success and failures. Think about what sets you off course. Maybe it was the business travel that hurt your nutritional plan and exercise habits. Or maybe it was the looming deadlines and tight back-to-back appointments you had last week.
Take a minute to consider how you might have handled the situation differently. Maybe you could have shared a dish with a colleague at the business dinner or skipped the cocktail hour and the dessert tray. Don't dwell on the past. Move on and learn, so next time you will make healthier choices toward positive change.
How to Stay Positive
Positive thinkers admit when they feel frustrated or depressed. They don't ignore it. But they also don't blame themselves. Instead, they try to understand the negative thoughts and feelings and counter them with more positive ones.
So how do you stay positive, maintain momentum and sustain healthy behaviors? Here are some tips:
* Look for a good role model. There is always someone who seems to be doing just what you want to be doing. Maybe they've scheduled exercise into their workday and switched from coffee to herbal tea. Learn from a successful friend, family member or colleague. Ask them how they keep healthy and follow in their footsteps.
* Try some positive self-talk and avoid negative-talk. Take a minute to give yourself an ego boost. Repeat some motivational words out loud or to yourself. Negative talk, "I can't do it," "I'm fat," is dangerous for your well-being and healthy goals. Try to avoid the negative self-talk before it harms you. Remind yourself that you deserve happiness and can make positive changes.
* Get support. Tell your friends and family about your healthy habits. It helps to have an encouraging network.
* Reward yourself. Give yourself a pat on the back for your healthy efforts. Take a nice bath, get a massage, and enjoy a new DVD or CD.
* Have a plan. Making a plan to exercise or eat healthy lunches with a friend can mean the difference of sticking with your goals or falling off track. If you've planned for an activity, you'll likely stick with it. You may even find that writing down your goals and steps to achieve them can help you stay on track. Take it day by day or week by week. The process of writing down your personal action plan is a good way to keep you honest and watch your progress or pitfalls.