How to Use Affirmations Effectively

You probably heard about affirmations before. You might even have tried doing affirmations as part of a self-development process. But have you being performing them in a way that will bring you the results you want?

You see, to be effective you must fully believe in the affirmation you are performing. And I find that that’s where most people fall short. Repeating a sentence without fully understanding or accepting its content will not change how you feel about something.

So let’s look at a better way of doing it, shall we?

First, what are affirmations?

Affirmation is simply the action or process of stating something with conviction. And you know what? We do it all the time. Just not in the most beneficial way.

For instance, have you ever said something along the lines “oh I’m so stupid”, “I can’t get anything right” or “I’ll never get a good job”?

If so, you have been practising affirmations. Negative ones though.

Every time that you repeat something like this, you are reinforcing a belief.

But what are beliefs? Beliefs are imaginary rules that guide our actions and behaviours. Things such as our rights, duties, abilities and permissions. This set of rules are formed as we grow up and older, through previous experiences and the influence of the environment around us.

The problem is that they can also come as a result of faulty logic, assumptions and fears. And when that happens, we start basing our decisions on a distorted view of the world which can hold us back big time.

The good news is that those rules are not absolute truths. They are just mental constructs created at a certain point in life and can be changed whenever we feel that they are not serving us anymore.

And we can use affirmations to change a pre-existing belief.

When I was a child, I used to get very frustrated when I couldn’t find an answer for my homework. I remember sitting in front of my workbook, crying and repeating “I don’t know.” To which my mum would immediately make me rephrase it “I don’t know but I will learn.” And you know what? It made me shift from a negative belief  (I don’t know) into a positive one (but I will learn). If it wasn’t for this reframe, I would probably still be feeling extremely frustrated whenever I couldn’t figure out something immediately.

So here’s how you can apply this concept.

Step 1. Start with a negative beliefs you want to reframe. E.g. I’m such a failure.

Step 2. Find ways of challenging the thought pattern. E.g. Is this a fact or an assumption? What am I basing this statement on? Is there evidence against it? How can I see this differently?

Step 3. Reframe the thought pattern. E.g. Well, I made a mistake and that happens. I am learning from it and next time I’ll do better.

Step 4. Practice self-awareness and repeat the new pattern. Every time you notice that you are repeating the negative statement, interrupt the pattern and introduce the new affirmation. The more you repeat it, the more you will reinforce it.  

What’s Lifestyle Change

So you want to change your body, to become fit and healthy, to feel comfortable in your own skin so you can finally be free to enjoy life, go after your dreams and fulfil your true potential.

I get it.

It is not as if you haven’t tried before. You certainly did. Some things worked for a while. Others left a bitter taste behind. And now, you might be a little discouraged.

You are not alone. I’ve heard this story multiple times. That’s why I decided to make this video. To show you that there is nothing wrong with you. It is the way you have been approaching that it’s not the best.

Here’s why you haven’t succeed yet and what you need to do to get back on track.

Lessons from a Fitness Challenge

The fitness industry loves Challenges. And at this time of the year, they seem to be everywhere: “40-day build challenge” or “12 weeks to a bikini body.“

I’ve never been very fond of challenges because they tend to reinforce behavioural patterns and beliefs that are not beneficial.

For instance, most challenges are short-lived contributing to the erroneous belief that losing weight (or building muscle) is a fast process. To deliver results in such short period of time, most programs rely on endorsing extreme behaviours that are not realistic (or safe) for the average person. Those behaviours generate an enormous amount of deprivation which could potentially lead to unhealthy compensatory behaviours (binging, purging or over exercising). Besides, most programs don’t expand on how to maintain the results, so once the challenge is over you are on your own.

I’m not saying that challenges don’t work. They do. But only for a very specific type of people:

  • Usually already fit
  • Highly motivated
  • Used to dieting and extreme exercise
  • Hold certain values – health and fitness, appearance – as priority
  • Enjoy being pushed to the limit

People who don’t fit this profile end up feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, discouraged, disappointed, ashamed, and powerless.

At least, that’s what I thought.

Since I don’t like jumping into conclusions, I decided to conduct a little research. I enrolled on a 40-day challenge.

I wanted to understand what drove people into these programs. And if they don’t work for most folks, why were they coming back? Is it some kind mass delusion or is there something I am missing?

So there I went with an open mind in search for answers. Much to my surprise, I was able to find quite a few positives which I am sharing with you now:

  1. Challenges are a group activity that happens inside a community of likeminded people. This  creates a sense of belonging, of being understood, of not being alone which is fundamental for success. People in these communities are supportive and ready to cheer you up when you need it.
  2. The fact that you enrolled in something creates instant accountability. That’s because we tend to tell people around us about the challenge and they will want to know how you are progressing. In my experience, the more people you tell, the better your adherence will be. There is always someone who won’t let you off the hook if you slide.
  3. There is usually a willingness to play at 100%. You’ve made the commitment and you are going to give your best. (Even if it is temporary. In fact, knowing that the effort has a deadline increases ability to use willpower. “I just need to hang in there for a few more weeks.”)
  4. Strong commitment to a program contributes to consistent behaviours. And behaviours consistently repeated over time can turn into life-long habits.
  5. Momentaneous empowerment. Voluntary participation (it doesn’t count if you were forced into a program) on a challenge can shift your beliefs from “this is too hard” to “I can do this.”
  6. Those challenges are full of role models that post their struggles and how they overcame them. This can inspire a change in attitude when facing a roadblock. “What would so and so do?”
  7. Having structure inspire trust (after all, this program was carefully designed by an expert) which eliminates second-guessing (the root of negative self-talk).

The bottom line is that participating on a challenge can be very beneficial if it played right. That’s because these programs can generate loads of positive emotions (empowerment, enthusiasm, positive expectations, optimism and hopefulness) that are necessary to overcome potential roadblocks.

Remember that positive states of mind are more resourceful.

This means being able to use willpower to overcome cravings, looking for solutions rather than excuses, shutting down negative self-talk, prioritising based on your goal, making better choices and so on.

Hold your horses. Before you jump into this bandwagon, be aware that challenges are, as the name say, challenging. If your life is already full of stress, this is probably not the best time to start one.

However, it doesn’t mean that you need to wait for perfect conditions (by the way, there is no such thing as perfect conditions, life is imperfect by default) in order to do something.

What if we could create mini-challenges in our life? I mean, small manageable changes. Would that be helpful?

Bingo! My proposal is engaging in a behaviour-based challenge (rather than a full on all-or-nothing challenge). That means instead of trying to change a million different things at once (which can be overwhelming), we focus on installing one healthy habit at a time (or breaking an undesirable one). For example, a 30-day alcohol-free challenge or a 6-week Zumba challenge.

You will get all the benefits of participating on a challenge, minus the stress and overwhelm of trying to do too many changes at once. In addition, small changes may feel so easy to incorporate in your daily routine that you might be inclined to keep going even when the challenge is over.

Three steps to achieve anything in 2020

Another year is over. There is something about new beginnings that fill our hearts with hope. Hope that this time everything will work out. That things will be different.

But the truth is that it will only be different, if you are willing to do something different this time.

No, this is not another post about setting New Year’s Resolutions. We know very well that they don’t work. It’s also not about setting SMART goals. And while I do like setting goals, I also know that they are easier said than done.

People don’t fail because they can’t set goals. They fail because they can’t follow through.

So that’s where we need to start. And making superficial lifestyle changes is not going to cut it. You might have already discovered that adopting behaviours that you are not ready for,  simply don’t stick.

My point is: to make sustainable changes, the transformation must happen from within.

Here are three things to kickstart your transformation:

1. Ditch the negative self-talk

Do you know why most people fail? That’s because they allow their own mind to talk themselves out of their goals. To achieve anything, we will need to act consistently towards what we want but it is very hard to do that when we have a negative committee inside of our heads.

So, what is the difference between people who achieve their goals and people who don’t?  Emotional intelligence. Successful people face the same challenges that you do. They go through ups and downs, they question their choices, they may lose motivation from time to time. However, they know that this is temporary. A setback, not the end of the line.

2. Fire the perfectionist in you

Do you know what get you results? Action. Moving towards your goals even if it is just a little step.  

Sometimes, we can get caught up creating the “perfect” plan and waiting for the “perfect” opportunity to make a move. But you know what? Life is not perfect. If you are waiting for perfect conditions to start, you may not start ever. That’s procrastination.

And procrastination comes from fear. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of failing. Making mistakes is not a bad thing. That’s how we learn. In reality, there is no such thing as failure. Only feedback.

3. Don’t rely on willpower

You may think that the reason you haven’t succeeded yet was because of lack of willpower. That if only you can have a stronger will, then you will be alright.

But I’ll tell you right now that willpower is NOT a long-term strategy. This is because willpower is a limited resource that requires conscious effort and can only be used when you are at top notch condition. Meaning that when you need it the most (like when you are sad, tired, stressed or bored) you will not be able to use it.

So no. You are not weak. You are just using the wrong strategy.

Like what you read here?

Why Willpower Is Not Enough To Create Real Change

Do you know anyone who went through a full transformation? I mean, someone who has drastically changed his/hers habits? A complete overhaul.

What do you think happened to this person? Do you think that he/she has an enormous amount willpower, determination and self-control?

Well, I assure you that it was more than that.

You see, willpower is a conscious decision that requires a lot of energy and effort, making it a limited resource that can only be accessed when you are at the top of your game. This means that when you are felling tired, stressed, sad, angry or even bored, you will not be able to use your willpower. (can you remember a time in which you were resolute to wake up early to go to the gym, for instance, but in the morning when the alarm went off, you simply convinced yourself to stay in be?)

The truth is that all change happens on the subconscious level because that’s where our habits, patterns and addictions are stored. Willpower, on the other hand, is part of the conscious domain and the conscious mind is only responsible for 5% of our mental capacity. The other 95% is run by the subconscious mind.

To explain this concept I like using the following metaphor.

Imagine that your conscious mind is a tiny little person. This person is supposed to ride on top of a huge elephant. The elephant is your subconscious mind.

Now, the rider is smart and has the ability to guide the elephant through the path he wants. However, because of the difference in size, the rider doesn’t have the power to control this elephant. If the elephant for some reason gets scared, distracted or impulsive, it take off in the opposite direction, and the rider will not have the strength to prevent it from running away.

This means that to make permanent changes, you will need to learn what motivates your elephant, so your rider can easily guide it through the path you want.

Fire the “fat” mentality

Let’s talk about body image. How do you feel about your body?

If you are dissatisfied with your appearance, you are not alone. Take a look at the following statistics from Eating Disorders Victoria.

  • In Australians aged 11-24, approximately 28% of males and 35% of females are dissatisfied with their appearance (NEDC, 2010a).
  • The Mission Australia National Youth Survey has revealed that body image has been listed in the top 3 concerns for young Australians from 2009-2015.
  • The Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, found that only 22% of women within a normal healthy weight range reported being happy with their weight. Almost three quarters (74%) desired to weigh less, including 68% of healthy weight and 25% underweight women (Kenardy et al., 2001).
  • Poor body image is associated with an increased probability of engaging in dangerous dietary practices and weight control methods, excessive exercise, substance abuse and unnecessary surgery to alter appearance (NEDC, 2010a).
  • Beyond Stereotypes, the 2005 study commissioned by Dove surveyed 3,300 girls and women between the ages of 15 and 64 in 10 countries. They found that 67% of all women 15 to 64 withdraw from life-engaging activities due to feeling badly about their looks (Etcoff et al., 2006).

Weight loss is the most common fitness goal. In any given time, there are lots of people obsessing about their weight, size or shape. It is the single biggest reason why people start exercise programs.

It is also a very lucrative business. The weight-loss industry makes millions off people’s insecurity. According to Ibis World:

  • Australians are expected to spend $309.9 million on industry weight loss counselling services and related low-calorie foods and dietary supplements in 2018-19.

And because it is so profitable, it doesn’t really want to provide a definite solution. So it keeps feeding people’s insecurities so they can have a customer for life.

Weight-loss industry tells you to worry about your weight, obsess about your food, follow the newest trend, exercise to burn calories and look for a short cut (the easiest and fastest way to lose weight).

And if you have been caught up on this mentality, look at where it has taken you. You are probably feeling defeated, broken, frustrated, confused, and believing that there is something wrong with you.

So it’s time free yourself from this type of thinking, fire that old persona and adopt a new avatar.

The avatar of a healthy and fit person who is committed to feeling great inside and out. For that you will have to become a different person. And to become a different person you will have to think differently. Because if you think differently you will behave differently and if you behave differently then you will have different results.

Creating Healthy Habits

The topic of the day is How to build the habits that will bring you closer to your long-term goal.

Why is this important? Because results come from small actions performed consistently over a long period of time. If you transform those little actions into habits, it becomes much easier to incorporate those changes into your life. That’s how the real makeover happens.

What exactly is a habit? Well, a habit is a recurrent pattern of behaviour acquired by frequent repetition. In other words, it is a way of programming an action into your brain. That means that it becomes automatic. You don’t have to think about it. You just do it. And saves you a lot of energy that can go into more important activities.

Have You Heard of Intuitive Eating?

Many dieters tend to develop a negative relationship with food. That’s because diets created the idea that eating is a frivolous habit that should be restricted in order to obtain the perfect body. Unfortunately, most diets completely ignore the body needs for energy and nutrients. Instead, they create the illusion that there are “good” foods (such as cabbage and broccoli) and “bad” foods (such as doughnuts and bread) and you should only eat the good ones otherwise you’ll be condemned to be fat. Therefore, people try to deprive themselves of the foods they love in the name of “fitness.” However, eating only cabbage and broccoli is unrealistic and unattainable.

Five Easy Steps To Achieve Your Fitness Goals

“I’ll do it tomorrow, next Monday, next month…” Yes, we do wish to … (exercise more, eat better, etc) but life is so busy that it is hard to accomplish everything we want in one day. So, we postpone it (once more). The problem is that procrastination can become a (bad) habit, impeding you from achieving your best. Why does it happen so often? Do we lack drive to move forward or are we just overwhelmed by the change?

More often than not, the problem lies in planning. Without a clear plan of action, chances are that you won’t get anywhere. The question is “how can you create a plan that is both easy to follow and effective?” Probably, that’s where many people get confused and overwhelmed. How can you act if you are not sure of what to do? This uncertain situation leads to paralysis and consequent procrastination.

Detox Revised

It is January. Holidays are over and it is time to face the reality. You overdid it throughout the festivities. Hey, don’t feel ashamed. You are not alone. I did the same. Too much to drink, too much to eat, not nearly enough exercise.

Now, it’s time to get back on track and I have a PLAN. We are going to DETOX. Alright, calm down! Not what you are thinking. Just listen to me.

First things first. What is Detox anyway?

According to Dr Google, “detox is a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances.”

It doesn’t seem too hard. For how long are we doing it?

Let’s try one week? I can definitely cut stuff for a single week.

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