I decided to write this blog on the back of the Easter break. I know lots of us enjoyed some chocolate over the weekend (weeks!) surrounding Easter and I for one revelled in it! But I am aware that some of you might be beating yourself up for eating too much and ‘ruining’ your healthy eating goals/diet/eating plan.
Guilt can be a very destructive emotion if we let it take hold and it can lead to our sometimes fragile self-esteem getting even more battered and bruised. Read on to learn my 3 Steps to ditching guilt, or any other ‘negative’ emotion quickly, easily and healthily (By the way, you’ll see why I keep putting ‘’ around the word negative in just a minute).
Who else feels guilty sometimes?
Lots of things in our daily lives appear to make us feel guilty, like going out to work when we feel we should be home with the kids, spending time with the kids when we feel we should be thinking about a business or work project, accidentally saying something a little thoughtless and hurting someone’s feelings or breaking mum’s favourite vase.
But there’s something you really need to know…
Step 1 – It’s not them, it’s you!
The truth about ‘negative’ events is, it’s not them it’s you! The things that happen to us are not making us feel guilty (or any other flavour of bad) – it’s actually the thoughts we have about the events, the meaning we give to them, that makes us feel bad. The first step in releasing this stuff is to accept this universal truth. But don’t take my word for it!
You’re going to notice a theme in my writing on this blog, which is that how you feel comes from what you’ve been thinking, and I can prove it! Next time you’re feeling guilty, ask yourself what you were just thinking. I’ll bet it wasn’t something nice and it was probably about you or something you did (or didn’t do). Am I right?
In fact we all know this is true – we’ve all been to see a film with a friend or family member and had completely different experiences. One of you absolutely loved every minute, laughed uproariously at every comedic moment and finished the movie with nothing but good things to say about it. Weirdly, your companion reports it was the worst film they ever saw, spent most of their time sneaking peeks at their phone and couldn’t understand why you enjoyed it so much.
It’s all about our thoughts and beliefs (which are just thoughts we’ve thought so much we think they’re true) which are all helping us to make meaning of the world around us.
Step 2 – Stop labelling emotions as ‘positive’ and ‘negative’
We tend to call emotions like guilt, anger or jealousy ‘negative’ but in truth they’re just there to tell us to look at our thinking. They’re like our own personal indicators that let us know the thoughts we’ve been having are not aligned with the loving, confident, joyful humans being we really are inside.
So when we feel a so-called ‘negative’ emotion it’s a sign that we need to stop what we’re doing and examine the thoughts we were just thinking. When we do, we have a choice: change our thinking or carry on feeling bad. It’s always up to us.
And when we feel ‘positive’ emotions like happiness, joy and love, they feel soooo gooood and that’s our indication that we are thinking thoughts that are very much aligned with who we really are. We’re meant to feel good, it’s who we really are, so it’s a good idea to carry on thinking more of those thoughts – and then don’t be surprised when more good feeling things start to happen in your life.
Step 3 – Taking responsibility
Of course all of this means it’s down to us to notice when we feel bad, acknowledge that we made that feeling with our thoughts and then choose whether to change them or not.
I know that’s a challenging idea to take on board because it means taking responsibility, and when we look back at our lives through a lens of responsibility it can provoke a bout of self-blaming. This is of course an absolutely pointless exercise, because nobody told us this back then (they don’t teach it in school but maybe they should), so how could we possibly have known? When this happens, once again, we have a choice: blame ourselves or tell ourselves the same thing we would tell our best friend. Which will do the most good?
Putting it all together for a healthy happy future
Just in case you’re in any doubt about how to put my 3 Steps into practice, I thought I’d share with you an example of how this would work in real life. Here’s a typical thought process I used to have around eating chocolate I ‘shouldn’t’ eat, but with the switch to better feeling thoughts I would apply now.
“I really want that chocolate, but I shouldn’t because I’m on xyz diet and it doesn’t allow me to have chocolate. But it is Easter and I hardly ever have chocolate. Besides, I deserve it because I’ve been really good all week. I’m going to have some, just a little bit won’t do any harm. Oh mmmm this chocolate is lovely, maybe I’ll have a little more. I have been really good lately.
Oh, now I’ve eaten too much. Oh dear, that’s way more calories/points/fat than I was supposed to have. Now I’ve gone and ruined the whole week. Urgh and I’ll probably end up putting on even more weight this week. Oh God why did I have to give in and eat chocolate? Why am I so greedy? I should have known I wouldn’t be able to stop.
I feel really guilty now. I should never have eaten that. I feel really bad, in fact I feel awful.
[here comes the switch]
Wait, I feel bad – what was I just thinking? Oh yeah, I was beating myself up for ruining my diet. So let’s look at that, is that really true? Well no, it hasn’t ruined my diet, it’s just one day in the whole of the rest of my life. I know I’ve got to make this plan work long term for me if I want to keep the weight off, so I have to allow some treats or I won’t be able to keep it up. And after all it is Easter and the chocolate was yummy. It’s OK that I ate the chocolate because it’s just one day out of the year and I really enjoyed it.
Hey, I actually feel a lot better :)”
Finding your blind spots
So now you know how to put my 3 Steps into action and quickly switch your thoughts, so that you can feel good about yourself more of the time. The only problem is we all have blind spots. What I mean by that is many of the thoughts we think are habitual and not in our conscious awareness.
Did you know that research shows we have as many as 70,000 thoughts every day? That’s a lot, and I’m pretty sure I don’t do all that thinking on purpose, so most of it must be by habit, right?
So if we’re thinking 70,000 thoughts every day, how do we know when we need to switch them? I mean, if we tried and keep track of that many thoughts in a day we’d go crazy.
As I mentioned in Step 2, we can pay attention to how we feel, picking up on any emotions that don’t feel good and then examining our thoughts. This works really well, but only if we actually do it. Sometimes we have such entrenched thinking habits that we find it really hard to pick up on them.
I know I do, which is why I work with a coach. My coach is always quick to notice if I’m running some old thinking habit that isn’t serving me. She also guides me to release the old habits quickly and easily and replace them with new ones that help me to reach my goals.
And that’s what I do for my clients too. Don’t take my word for it though, click here to read what some of my clients have to say about working with me.
And if you’d like to find out how I could help you change your thinking habits for good, so that you can create the life you really want, then just click here to book a free ‘Ditch The Guilt’ coaching session with me.