How to Handle The Psychology of Your Well-Being

How to Handle The Psychology of Your Well-Being

At times I felt helpless. Empty of any traces of hope. My thoughts flood with negativity, which spirals me into feeling less than. I start to wallow in self-pity and life finds itself stuck in neutral.

These psychological battles in the past led me to quit exercising for months, resulting in 15 pounds of weight gain which I hid. I’ve stayed in bed for consecutive days not wanting to face the day ahead, secretly wishing problems to vanish on their own.

Our minds are delicate entities. Creative goals, fitness goals, career aspirations, and relationships can all crumble in front of our eyes by the activity floating inside our brains.

It’s easier to search for a workout plan or debate over nutritional minutiae than to dissect ourselves and come to grips with what’s going on inside of us.

Without coming to grips with what’s going on inside, your goals and potential won’t come to fruition (no matter how many feel good articles and inspirational quotes you read).

Your thoughts, feelings, and actions become your greatest adversary.

You can’t stop binge eating. Can’t maintain an exercise habit. Can’t lose those last 10 pounds. Can’t gather the courage to quit your job. Can’t gather the courage to pursue your art. Can’t maintain healthy relationships.

Motivation is gone and you’re only left with your thoughts, which are currently betraying you.

Are you to sit there and accept it as is? Accept the powerlessness? Accept the despair? Accept that this goal or thing you want will never come to fruition?

Absolutely not. You have a choice to fight and decide. And it starts with how you handle the psychology of your well-being.

The good wolf and the bad wolf

“One evening, an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.”

“It is a terrible fight and it’s between two wolves. One is evil—he is angry, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued…However, “The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson paused and thought about this statement for a minute and then asked his grandfather “Which wolf wins?”

The old grandfather simply replied with, “The one you feed”

the psychology of your well-being wolf

The good wolf and the bad wolf of fitness

Self-sabotaging and psychological battles reign supreme in many people’s lives when it comes to attempts at healthier living.

You know you should exercise. You know you should say “no” to those office cookies and treats. You know you should sleep instead of surfing Facebook. You know you should pass on watching one more episode on Netflix.

Every corner you turn is another opportunity to feed your bad wolf and distance yourself further from your goals.

Information isn’t the issue. You’re full of knowledge and desires but empty of action.

How many times have we seen this scenario:

It’s a Saturday night and Skylar decides she wants to lose 15 pounds. She plans to strength train three days a week while participating in other forms of activity for 60 minutes on non-training days.

Sounds good so far.

Skylar knows that she needs to change her diet. She’s going to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon and throws away all her foods that don’t support her goal.

She’s invincible.

Monday morning, Skylar is off to a great start with her healthy and well-balanced breakfast of eggs, oatmeal, avocado, and a cup of blueberries. Skylar breezes through work and goes to the gym afterward.

Fast forward a week later and Skylar has an unexpected project land on her desk. Her family, peers, and job are worrying her and now she’s overwhelmed (and stressed).

Today is a workout day, but she’s tired and had a crappy day. She promises to go tomorrow (doesn’t happen).Over the week, Skylar faces various temptations and obstacles which alter her flow.

These moments, temptations, and curveballs are the ebbs and flows of everyday life. These ebbs and flows require us to make a decision each time when faced with one. Each moment allows her the opportunity to feed her good wolf or feed her bad wolf.

When it comes to you, will you…

Let stress at work become your excuse for not going to the gym and then binge eat? Only later to feel guilt and shame about your choices (this is feeding the bad wolf).

Let your emotions and desire for temporary pleasure cause you to grab a handful in the snack jar or grab a soda or two (bad wolf wins again)?

Let your peers guilt you into eating junk food at the restaurant and bar (bad wolf notches another win)?

Doubt yourself and your new strength training regimen because it’s uncomfortable and unfamiliar? Thus allowing yourself to quit and use the excuse “it wasn’t for me” (bad wolf secretly wins again)?

Or will you…

Acknowledge the stress at work and take preventative actions to not let this dictate your behaviors (victory for the good wolf)?

Recognize that it’s your environment and the nervous/anxious energy given off by your peers that are causing these feelings? Recognizing this prevents you from self-sabotaging your goals for temporary moments of relief (the good wolf wins again).

Recognize that your choices are ultimately yours? If they’re good friends, they will respect your new lifestyle and even support you (the good wolf strikes again).

Re-frame your thoughts and recognize that fitness is a skill acquired through repetitive practice (no one is excluded in fitness)? As with any other craft, the beginning is murky as a swampland, but on the other side is bright skies along with a new and improved body (the good wolf prevails).

The best defense against an illness is prevention through healthy behaviors. The best defense against negative thoughts isn’t to completely avoid negative thoughts (that’s impossible). Instead, the best defense is to train yourself not to follow these negative thoughts when they arise (be a watcher of thoughts instead).

Identify your self-defeating thoughts

Here’s an example: You feel bad about your weight and want to make a change. But, you tried many diets before and claim to have tried “everything”, but yet nothing works. You sometimes stress and binge-eat. Hours later, you feel guilt and shame that you weren’t strong enough to resist.

Besides the fatal error of relying on willpower (which is a whole subject on its own), your thoughts are full of negative narratives such as “I’m weak”, “I’m not strong enough”, “I’ve failed before, why will this time be different”?

These negative narratives lead to feeling down about yourself, which leads to lack of action.

This type of person still won’t take consistent action despite the consumption of inspirational quotes and motivational videos because they’re fighting against their subconscious and it’s going to win each time unless you start to rewrite these narratives.

This constant internal battle is what we call a negative feedback loop.

good wolf

Thoughts such as: “I suck at fitness.” “I suck at relationships.” “I suck at writing.” “I suck at business.” “I suck at healthy eating.” “I suck at getting quality sleep.” “I suck at {whatever else you feel like inserting here}.” “I don’t belong here.” “She’s out of my league.” “I’m not good enough to wear this dress” “My arms aren’t big enough to wear these type of shirts.” and “Once I get to this ‘weight’—I’ll feel better about myself and life will be better” are all destructive thoughts.

These type of thoughts don’t completely go away, but you must catch these thoughts when they arrive.

Most people go about their day without ever addressing these thoughts. Over time, these thoughts cement themselves inside your sub-conscious and expand over time. While you may not feel them 24/7, these sub-conscious thoughts of feeling less than quietly leads to feelings and behaviors on a daily basis that match up externally with how you think of yourself internally.

Ever notice how on some things, you tend to shy away from because “you claim to be bad at it”? That’s because your subconscious is secretly working in the background. It’s operating from past experiences and negative thoughts that had free reign.

And the first step to re-framing your mindset is to develop more self-awareness. Anytime negative thoughts appear, realize that they are thoughts and only thoughts—not a prophecy or a reality that is set in stone.

Challenge your self-defeating thoughts with encouragement and logic while attempting to replace those destructive thoughts with more positive narratives.

Solutions and questions to ponder to help feed your good wolf

Below are a serious of exercises you can try to help re-frame your mindset and turn those negative thoughts into neutral-to-positive thoughts. These exercises will prevent you from becoming paralyzed by the potential negative manifestations created inside your head.

Here are the exercises to follow in a logical order. Think about these questions and journal a couple out and see if you can get to the core root of what stopped you in that moment.

  1. Are you aware of the internal struggle of the opposing wolves? This is a good starting point if you don’t recognize the divide and internal battle going on inside you each day. Take a day to notice your thoughts as you’re going about your normal routine day. Notice your mind when it comes to tempting food choices. Notice when it comes time to exercise (you suddenly don’t feel like working out). Notice when it’s time to sleep and Facebook seems like a good idea or you need to watch one more episode on Netflix.
  2. Recognize that deep within you is the separate entity that is removed from labels, titles, and traits: This is your true identity. After stripping away titles given to you by work, career, friends, and various other sources lies the true you. When you say “I have no willpower” or “I’m this or that”, this is you placing yourself inside a box. You can be whatever you want to be, as long as you think and act this way inside your mind.
  3. Have you ran into situations or internal fights and struggles or faced with decisions and you didn’t know which way to turn?
  4. When you made decisions in the past, have you realized that there was a better option available that was more positive and beneficial, but yet you didn’t take it?
  5. How effective are you when it comes to choosing the rights actions and thinking the right thoughts?
  6. What are some ways you can increase the chances of making a better decision the next time faced with temptation?
  7. How do you feed your bad wolf on a daily basis? What actions, thoughts, and feelings do you do?
  8. How do you feed your good wolf on a daily basis? What actions, thoughts, and feelings do you do?
  9. Having become aware of how to feed the wolves that reside within you, what are some better ways that you can nurture your specific wolves?