How often do you think about something you KNOW you shouldn't be doing and then feel bad about the fact that you can't seem to help yourself? Like eating things that aren't good for you, staying up late, having too many drinks, or sitting and watching too much television. The thought of changing the behaviour feels like deprivation, even though you know that ultimately it will make you feel good. So you sit there and keep doing what you're doing, and feeling bad about it.
I wasn't feeling great a couple of weeks ago and was thinking about all the things I ought to be doing to help myself feel better. I was trying to do the right things and succeeding in doing a lot of things that were good for me. But there is always room for improvement. I was kicking myself for the things I wasn’t doing. I was not physically feeling well and was blaming myself for it. I thought myself in circles. The idea of depriving myself of one more thing was so disheartening that I ultimately threw up my hands and said, "forget it", and promptly went and did all of the things I knew I SHOULDN'T be doing, like staying up late, eating the wrong things, and having a few drinks.
Of course I felt even worse the next morning. Its human nature to want to avoid deprivation. Depriving ourselves of something we enjoy almost never feels good. In fact many studies demonstrate that we have a deep instinct to avoid loss. Psychologists refer to this instinct as “loss aversion”.
Perhaps I was thinking about it all wrong.
Rather than avoiding the things I don't want, I could focus on adding more of what I do want. Just changing the thinking immediately made me feel better.
Instead of depriving myself of a glass of wine, I added a glass of water before I had the wine.
Rather than not eating mom's shortbread cookies (my favourite), I added more vegetables at lunch.
Instead of avoiding coffee I chose a green tea latte.
Rather than not sitting so much I added a walk by the river.
The shift in perspective made all the difference. It made the difference between feeling small and tired and feeling positive and in control. There is no need to deprive myself. I can simply add something to reach the same goal.
The best part is, once I started adding positive steps to my day, I wanted to do more of it. It became increasingly easy and natural to do the right things for myself.
So the next time you're thinking about depriving yourself, evolve your thinking and choose to simply add something.