Regardless of How You Feel, Make Healthy Choices.

I was sitting in my Theories of Psychotherapy class a couple Mondays ago with a bright group of eager young men and women trying their hardest to figure out what is the best method of teaching people how to change.  Each week we’ve been covering a different school of thought – from Existentialism, to Behaviorism, to Cognitive Therapy.  And although each school of thought thinks different theoretical things; is it our perceptions that create our behavior, or our parents, for example.   It turns out that (this is really true) it doesn’t matter what orientation you pick as a therapist, they all have fairly similar effectiveness.

This particular night we were discussing Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which (among other things) stresses mindfulness, and creating a contract of agreement between therapist and client.  The professor, who practices this particular strain of therapy in his practice, made a statement about how the contract is basically to guarantee that the client will agree:

“Regardless of how you feel, Make Healthy Choices.”

And BAM.   A lightbulb went on over my head. {insert cheesy clipart}

This is one of my big “Secrets Of Adulthood.” (I learned about those from Gretching Rubin – some people call them “life hacks.”) 

I used to tell myself:  “Do what Needs to Get Done” which is sort of a nitty gritty “grin and bear it” type of philosophy.  That is, it doesn’t matter if you stayed up all night reading a book and eating muffins and you’re really tired, you have to go to work, to get paid, to be responsible, to pay the bills.  That thought was mostly based on the idea that there’s one right answer to “what needs to get done.”  But now, I can see that that was a really narrow focus, which dealt with very narrow problems.  (Re: Stayed up late reading YA fiction, too tired for work scenario.)

No, the more important thing to realize was that each person carries around this Ideal in their head of a “Healthy Adult.”  Maybe yours is your mother, a friend, or your third grade teacher.  And when you make choices, you’re striving to mimic and imitate this Healthy Adult.

But the problem is, lots and lots of time you don’t quite feel like making the right choices. And I don’t just mean because you’re tired.  Depression and Stress are two really big culprits that can deter people from making healthy choices.  But so can backing yourself into terrible situations like wrong jobs, wrong relationships, and worse addictions than eating too many muffins. Then there’s this big heaping dose of guilt, on top of the shame of messing u

And besides, you’re an adult, You don’t want to make this choice? Then don’t do it – put it off, see what happens…

Of course, that’s a recipe for snowballing disaster.  But paradoxically, making a healthy choice – even the smallest possible step in the right direction –  like putting on real clothes, eating vegetables, taking a walk, or striking one nagging item of your todo list –  puts you closer to being a healthy adult – not matter how far you still fall from the ideal.  Acting on reason, rather than acting on whims and feelings, to brings you closer to that ideal – not farther.

And therein lies the secret – You don’t have to actually feel like doing the healthy thing in order to actually do it. And surprisingly, your mood will improve if you do make the healthy choice, even though you didn’t feel like it.

So, get on it.

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Author: Beth M

Life Lessons, Parenting, Books, Sustainability.

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