Why is it that we resist starting something new…
Starting a new exercise programme or some new eating habits
Simple. Because quite frankly change is hard. And here is why..
A habit is habit, good or bad, if we have done it often enough it gets stored in our Autopilot (subconscious mind) and becomes an automatic response.
It therefore takes conscious effort to create a new habit. Simple in theory, but it can be far from it.
So, if we have created some unhealthy habits, yes, we may often say we want the outcome that better health would give us.; ENERGY, CONFIDENCE, HAPPINESS, A Trimmer Firmer BODY.
We may think ‘right I should really do something about this’ .
However, there is a little part of our brain that can kick up all sorts of resistance and keep you stuck where you are.
It’s the part of the brain Prof Steve Peters calls the chimp in his fascinating book The Chimp Paradox. I like to call it the monkey mind; technically it’s the ‘limbic system’ which is the domain of the emotions and can often kick up irrational, impulsive thinking and simply put; thoughts that you don’t want and are usually unhelpful.
The monkey mind does serve an important purpose in the human brain. Its main purpose is essentially to ensure the next generation (survival and sex to you and me!). We all have and need this area of the brain.
So one function of the monkey mind is to detect threats and respond with the FIGHT, FLIGHT or FREEZE mechanism. Extremely useful when faced with a sabre-toothed tiger!
Unfortunately, the monkey mind likes to show up when it detects a potential threat to your ego, your confidence or self-esteem as yes it’s there to ‘protect’ you.
The monkey mind also doesn’t particularly like making the effort to change and will therefore always want to take the path of least resistance. This could be the quick fix juice diet OR going straight for the instant gratification and happiness that your favourite sweet treat gives you.
The monkey mind tricks you into thinking that this will help your current situation, and it may do in the short term, but it never lasts.
Here are some typical ‘gems’ the monkey mind can throw up when thinking of starting to exercise and/or change your diet
(These are examples and gradually go towards more ‘worst case scenario’ thinking. One or more may resonate with you)
“I will start on Monday!”
“it’s going to be hard, not sure I’m up for that”
“I’m too busy to really to do this so I will just try to do something when I can”
“I will feel bad if I try and fail”
“I’m not sure what to do anyway”
“What if it doesn’t work”
“What’s the point, I have not committed in the past, why bother ”
“What will people think of me, what if people judge me”
“I don’t deserve it anyway, I’m destined to be overweight, what’s the point of even trying”
All of this keeps you stuck. And when you are stuck you are like a sitting duck for more monkey mind thinking, more self-doubt, more fear of the unknown, more procrastination, more unhelpful thinking.
So what do we do …..
Well, firstly, let me say that it’s not your fault if you have been having any of these unhelpful thoughts. We all have them and the monkey mind is a powerful part of the brain that can take a firm grip of your thinking without you even really knowing it.
However, we are all responsible for managing our own monkey mind and there are times to let it have its say and times to ignore it and do the difficult and potentially uncomfortable (physically or mentally) thing that takes effort.
The key is MOMENTUM, we have to take the first step and GET STARTED with something, literally anything to get the wheels in motion. Recognise that you will feel the most amount of resistance (Monkey Mind thinking) just before taking the first step.
Now you know what’s going on inside your head, you can ignore this resistance and JUST DO IT, take the step.
Because, self-doubt, procrastination and ‘fear’ of the unknown CANNOT hit a moving target.
Plan and commit to doing 3 exercise sessions (minimum 30 mins each) with someone this week. Walking, running, a class, literally anything to get you in motion and unstuck.
Then you can start to map out a more logical and realistic plan for the coming months using the rational part of your brain.
Hopefully I have given some logical reasons as to why the saying “the first step is always the hardest” rings so true.