By: Brittany Berlin
I am a firm believer that any lasting changes come from the inside first. And no, I don’t mean what you’re eating (although that can play a role). I mean your mind. How you think. Your perspective.
You see, any measurable physical changes start with the massive, and unfortunately often times immeasurable, mental changes.
Now, if you’re reading this article, you probably already have the hardest part of the mental change down. You desire change. You want something that’s better than the current life you’re living, and so you’ve initiated a quest to find that change. So let’s get that journey started!
In this article, you’ll find a few tips on how to kickstart those mental changes that you need to make in order to start living the life you desire and truly deserve. Because you do deserve to live an amazing life, and you need to believe that first.
1. How you view yourself
Perspective is everything. I’m sure you’ve heard countless stories of people rising from poverty, abandonment, basically nothing, to their dreams. And then there are others that remain in the same place their entire life.
Think that it’s just luck? Nope. It’s how they view themselves, their lives, and life in general. Things can’t happen for you unless that’s within your realm of awareness and possibilities. If you’re looking for a yellow car, chances are you’ll spot the yellow car, but did you notice the green car over there? Probably not, because you were so focused on the yellow car. Our reality is based upon our perception. Take, for example, a glass of water. Some will view this glass as half-full of water, while others will view it as half-empty.
It’s the same glass of water. But your perspective is everything. How you view yourself, how you view your life and your struggles determines your next day, month, year, and the rest of your life.
Do you believe that things happen for you or to you? Do you believe that life is meant to be enjoyed or do you believe you have to suffer? Do you believe that you’re worthy of a loving partner (now, truly ask yourself this because you may want a loving partner, but there’s a difference between wanting something and believing you deserve it), or do you believe you’re destined for loneliness? Are you thankful for life or do you resent it? Do you see your challenges as punishment or opportunities to rise above?
All our reality boils down to is a set of beliefs. Now, you can find evidence to support any belief. Truly, just give it a go. The cool thing is that you’re not chained to these beliefs, whether they’re about yourself, the people in your life, your current circumstances, or life itself. You can change them if you truly want to. It won’t be easy because these beliefs are often set when we’re children or when something traumatic occurs in our lives. But it’s not impossible.
I mean, unless you believe it’s impossible. Then I can’t argue with you! Because you’ll have the evidence to support that. But I have the evidence to support that it is possible. Why else would someone seek therapy, research how to change, and look for examples that the end goal, whatever that may be, exists? Because the evidence is there to support any belief.
So you get to decide what your life will be next. Don’t let the previous experiences dictate the rest of your life. That’s only for you to decide. You have the power to experience the best of life, but it needs to start with how you view yourself and whether or not you want to accept that power.
2. Assess your current life and create routines that support your new life
Now that you’ve determined your perspective of yourself and on life, and you’ve decided whether or not it’s one you want to keep, you can assess what doesn’t align and what does align with your perspective.
Are there friends that feed into judgments about other people? Do you have habits, like snacking mindlessly or emotionally eating? Do you keep things tidy and in their places or do you live in chaos?
Start to assess what doesn’t fit the life you want to lead. And know that it’s okay to cut out people or things that are no longer serving you, or worse, doing you harm. For instance, I realized that I was a very glass half empty person (thinking I was a realist, but I wasn’t; I was indeed the world’s biggest pessimist). I wanted to change that because I was sick of never seeing the good in things, and always missing out on opportunities. I started making these changes and really becoming aware of how I thought throughout the day, my conversations with friends and family, and my inner conversations with myself (don’t lie to yourself, you have an inner dialogue too!). I realized I had this one friend who no matter what, our conversations were always negative. We were always complaining and lamenting about anything and everything.
I decided that I would try to implement change and shift our conversations to see things more positively, but at the time, my friend wasn’t ready for that change. When I realized I would only continue to feel worse every time that we spent time together, I decided it was necessary for a break. I, of course, loved this friend and wanted the best for her, but knew that what was best for me at this moment was taking time away and really working on myself.
If things don’t align, let them fall away. If they’re meant to be in your life, then they will align to your new life and come around again.
Start adopting the mindset of who you envision yourself to be. If you want to lose weight, but constantly see yourself as overweight and tell yourself you’re “fat,” it’s going to be pretty painful and difficult to lose weight. If you start treating yourself as healthy and strong, your body has no choice but to react to that new mindset shift. How would my ideal version of myself act in this situation? What would he/she say to that? What would my ideal version of me do right now? Start asking these questions and then follow through on the answers. The body doesn’t react to the outside circumstances, it reacts to what the mind tells it to, so the mind needs to stop letting the outside circumstances dictate the inner circumstances. Start reversing it.
For instance, the body doesn’t sense that there is a lion to run from. The mind sees the lion through the eyes and kick starts the fight or flight process. Now, take this example and place it on, say, you looking at yourself in the mirror. Your mind may see your body as overweight, which then leads you to believe you are, and your body will match that perception. An object in motion stays in motion unless thwarted by an opposing force. You need to be that opposing force. Instead of seeing yourself as overweight, you can look at your body and thank it for what it does. Your lungs breakdown oxygen and delivers it to your working muscles in miliseconds, your stomach digests food so that the intestines can extract nutrients, your eyes can see, your mouth allows you to speak, your nose allows you to smell flowers…now you’re starting to see yourself in a new light. This person isn’t viewing themselves as useless and overweight, but capable and pretty dang cool for having all of those processes go on at once.
And then your body starts to react to that new person you’re being.
Start with small changes and work your way up. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it did start somewhere, so begin today. Take note of what no longer fits, whether it’s a set of beliefs, a person, or circumstances, and decide how it can change.
3. Learn to love yourself
One of the more trendy topics, but unfortunately, it’s been very diluted by mass media. Self-care and self-love are two very important concepts when it comes to shifting one’s mindset, but they’re often used interchangeably, which is incorrect. And no, self-care is not zoning out to Netflix and eating a pint of ice cream (though all of the memes on Instagram state otherwise ha!).
Self-love is the love and respect that you hold for yourself, and self-care happens when you love yourself. You can think of self-care as an extension of self-love. Now, I don’t know if you know this, but most of the world doesn’t love themselves. If they did, we wouldn’t face the current struggles we now do (constant fighting on a micro and macro level, financial issues, feeding into scare tactics on the news, etc.). I apologize for sounding very John Lennon-esque and cliche, but loving yourself really is the answer to your problems.
Now, loving yourself does not mean that you constantly indulge in self-sabotaging tendencies, but it also doesn’t mean that you’re selfish. In fact, not loving yourself often leads to selfish acts because we’ve swung too much one way. We’ll do too much for others only to feel resentful and so then we take too much back. When you truly love yourself, you feel an equal give and take. Your cup is never empty.
Having love for yourself needs to be treated like any other relationship. Get to know yourself. Treat yourself like you would a child, because that’s often how we act anyways. Our adult-selves stem from our child-selves. What happened in your past that lead you to have acted in this way? Often times, we aren’t reacting to a present situation just because; we’ve been triggered by a present situation that recalled a similar moment in our past that leads us to continue a sabotaging behavior (screaming match with a loved one, binge eating, restricting, missed appointments, etc.). Get to know your triggers and work on healing them, whether with a trusted individual or therapist.
Sometimes, self-love is tough love. It means being firm with yourself even though you don’t want to. For example, if your child wanted ice cream for dinner but you know that it’s better if they have their vegetables and healthy protein, would you continue to let your child eat the ice cream for dinner? You’d want the best for your child, so you would serve them the vegetables (and maybe later have the ice cream 😉 ). The same goes for you and your relationship with yourself.
Self-love really deserves a whole separate article, but for now, focus on ways that you can show yourself love. Learn to say no when you need it, and yes when you do. Understand and instill into your mind that you’re worthy of your best life, and that you deserve to take any means possible and necessary to get there. Treat yourself with the love and respect that you would your partner, your family member, your child, or your friend. You’re just as human as they are.
4. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your (mental) comfort zone
All too often, I see people pushing themselves out of their comfort zone only when it comes to physical boundaries. Don’t get me wrong, those are extraordinarily important too. Being able to complete a set of pull-ups, deadlift a certain amount of weight, and perform almost unfathomable physical feats is great for self-empowerment and feeling inner strength.
But there needs to be a balance of stepping outside of both the internal and the external comfort zone.
I’ll give you a personal example. I’m a runner, and have loved to run since about the age of 10, when I beat every boy in my 5th grade class running the mile. No mileage was too big to me. I would clock double digit runs like nobody’s business, and lived for that physical challenge and the ever-so-famous “runner’s high.” It made me feel like I could endure anything.
Then I got injured. I ended up with multiple stress fractures all up and down both of my shins (due to poor bone health- this is where nutrition is still important!) and had to sit out of any exercise for 8 months. That was outside of my comfort zone. The internal struggle to actually sit still for once, to not push myself physically was at times mentally crippling, and I often felt like I wanted to jump outside of my body.
But then I did get quiet. I was pushed outside of my mental comfort zone so far that I had no other choice but to embrace it and understand where I still needed to grow. I learned I wasn’t treating my body correctly, I was numbing out through exercise, and I had a lot of inner changes to make in order to also enjoy physical triumphs (like running races and living an active life). So my injuries ended up being a blessing in disguise because now I’m able to not fear sitting still. I’m able to actually listen to what my body wants, not just my mind, and find the balance between the two.
And it may present itself differently to you. One of your mental challenges may be allowing yourself to feel vulnerable, or perhaps it’s accepting someone else’s help, or learning to be okay with the voices inside your head. This ties back to our point on self-love.
The comfort zone is never the learning zone. Try new things, speak to different people, and don’t be enslaved to only feeding the desire to physically push yourself. You’ll grow incredibly faster as a human and reach your goals sooner when you learn that it’s okay and it’s safe to get to know and heal our inner worlds.
You’re worthy of living your best life. And your best life is never within a tiny little jail cell that our egos like to consider ‘comfortable.’ Your best life is worth fighting for. And you deserve the mindset to shift you into that life.