Some of the best advice I have ever heard was from a nutritionist I saw regularly a few years ago. She was great at keeping me motivated and focused on my weight loss goals by saying, “don’t let a bad food choice, lead into a bad food day, into a bad food week.” What great advice it was. Sometimes when dieting (or trying any new regiment) you have those moments that test your resolve and diligence.
Do you allow one bad moment to steamroll into weakening your determination to reach your goals? It happened to me quite often. Choosing a sausage mcmuffin on the way to work led to “cheat days” instead of cheat moments. I figured the day was already shot, so why not enjoy as many calories as I can? And for that matter, if I botched a whole day, what’s the point of working out this weekend?
This happens in more than just the area of dieting and fitness though. We let spilling coffee on our shirt frustrate us into having a bad phone call with a client, which leads to losing our temper at work, then taking that displaced anger home and being grumpy with our families. (Imagine Bugs Bunny trying to outrun the enlarging snowball as he runs downhill.) Instead of having just a bad moment (spilling coffee on yourself) you allowed it to mentally distract you into completely ruining your day! Imagine if you let a few bad days continue to sink yourself further into a horrible week?
Rather than see this as a chain reaction of negative events, it’s best to see it for what it is, you’re living a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’re letting one bad event dominate your thinking. Instead of trying to bounce out of this bad moment, you’re actively looking for the next thing to go wrong. It is my own feeling that we do this subconsciously for attention. Hardly anyone wants to hear the details of a good day, like the rubbernecks at a traffic accident, our ears perk when we can hear about someone’s miserable day. Oh how we secretly love it when things go bad!
This never-ending battle of negativity and self-pity can be helped greatly by mindfulness. Taking as little as 5 minutes to refocus your thoughts and energy into improving your situation is a great way to break this cycle. Close your eyes, begin taking deep breaths, and truly analyze what has you upset. You’ll soon realize that there isn’t a giant global conspiracy trying to purposefully make you miserable.
I promise you that your ability to be more rational is the first thing that will come back to you. Many skeptics are probably thinking right now that there is no way you can set aside five minutes of your day to meditate, that you’re too busy, and if you stop, the proverbial snowball will steamroll you into submission.
Here’s a confession: I sometimes do it on a fake bathroom break. As an elementary school teacher, every minute of my day is dictated for me, and I’m commanded by the bells more than my students. But even on my most hectic, demanding, and horrible days, I can slip away to the bathroom for five minutes. I sit down, or stand, close my eyes and focus on my breathing until the tension, stress, and self-pity about my horrible moment goes away.
Life will always be full of unpleasant moments, but we can stop them there. Do not let these events work into bad days. . . to bad week s. . .to bad months. . . to a bad life. Use mindfulness meditation, or some other activity that calms you down, to maximize the positive possibilities of every moment.