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3 Key Reasons Why We Sabotage Our Health Goals (and how to handle them like a Ninja!)

sabotage health goals

Angela: Willpower can be hard thing for a lot of us. Sometimes we do things automatically without much thought. Are you finding it hard to stay on the wagon and when you fall off it’s hard to get back on?

I truly believe if you get your mindset right you can achieve anything. If you are finding it hard to achieve your goals, health or otherwise, this is a must read post by Amy. She is a Strategic Psychotherapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Coach. As you can see you are in great hands! Over to Amy…

Amy: So you’ve decided its time to get fit and drop those pesky 5 kilos once and for all. Or perhaps you’ve reached a certain level of health but seem to have plateaued.

Maybe since becoming a parent you’ve been too exhausted or perhaps your job is so demanding that your best intentions go out the window. Or maybe you’re just in a rut or you just don’t seem to be able to stick to a routine.

If any of these sound familiar, then there’s some GOOD NEWS. And it’s this:

You do know how to stick to a routine very well (true!). It’s just that you perhaps haven’t yet defined and committed to the one that best serves you.

 

Cognitive Toolkit

cognitive brain functionSo what if all you needed was a toolkit of new cognitive based knowledge and skills that ensured that your tailored exercise and nutrition routine became as normal and effortless as showering or cleaning your teeth every day?

To understand how this is absolutely doable for you, let’s just talk a bit about the inner workings of that wonderful and sometimes mysterious organ of ours, the brain specifically in regards to willpower.

We rely on willpower more times a day than we could count to help us decide if we will do something, wont do something or want to do something. Our willpower comes from our prefrontal cortex, which is one capacity that separates us from other animals.

The prefrontal cortex is significantly responsible for our ability to control our behaviour. And we really can (YOU really can) jig this in your favour. You see our prefrontal cortex houses our ‘self control muscle’. Whilst it can do a wonderful job it does get compromised by our stress levels, which are, let’s face it, sky rocketing these days.

Changing your cognitive behaviour

So what can you do to ninja this scenario? Like many elite institutions including Yale and Stanford Universities in the US,

a) you could and should support your ‘self control muscle’ by managing your stress levels through mindfulness and/or meditation (whatever techniques work best for you) and

b) refining your unconscious cognitive patterns using evidence based therapeutic techniques like clinical hypnosis and strategic psychotherapy (if you want to know more let’s chat!)

It’s interesting when we realise that each one of us has our unique cognitive style or blueprint.

And did you know that these are arguably essentially set into our unconscious faculties by the time we are 7 years old based on key influences like our family and social environments?

The really scary bit is that these cognitive or mental patterns influence how we habitually perceive, interpret and respond to the world for the rest of our lives UNLESS we actively choose to refine them!

So the question to ask yourself is – are you going to be one of those many who do not look under the hood or does the idea of creating your life by DESIGN rather than by DEFAULT interest you more?

Top 3 Reasons That Could Be Holding You Back

Do you wonder why you’re not (yet but soon will be) hitting the mark? By the way, the great athletes have always known these secrets…..

We operate from an emotional frame i.e. let our feelings dictate our behaviour.

We don’t have the optimal process in place to support our desired outcomes – the right steps. We respond from a place of present orientation (the now state) rather than factoring in the (major) importance of our desired future outcome.

So let’s flesh these out….

1. EMOTIONAL FRAME

bright ideaWhen we let our emotions decide what we do: we stay in bed where it’s warm and cosy rather than get up, get out and get moving; we buy that sweet treat to help push us through the mid afternoon slump rather than go for a walk around the block, do 20 star jumps or close the door and meditate.

So how can you ninja this? It begins with the art and science of observation.

The first step is to commit to monitoring your responses during the day. You can have fun with this and consider yourself a PIY (Private Investigator of Yourself)! We’re all busy so this can be challenging but even if you can commit to doing it for an hour a day it will make a difference. A journal comes in handy here. Notice the thoughts, situations and feelings that most affect you negatively. Why? Because these negative responses move us into the ‘fight or flight’ mode of operating. This response served us very well when we needed to avoid being eaten by predators a while back however these days this mode just zaps our adrenals and negatively affects our physiology across many of our body systems.

The key is once you become more aware and therefore in control of your behaviour you will have the space to consciously make decisions according to your values rather than your feelings or old automatic patterns.

2. THE RIGHT PROCESS

Off target We need to combine a solid process for our goals with desire and motivation if we are to complete the success equation. Desire without skill will not get you where you want to go, nor will skill without desire.

Often people have some sort of a process but it’s too vague or unclear. For instance, ‘I commit to exercising 3 or more times a week’. This is a nice idea but unless your process is more specific and measurable and therefore makes you accountable then your results will be mediocre at best. The right process can be as simple as:

  • 10 minutes of breath work and stretching as soon as you wake each day
  • A 15-minute walk around the block each workday (perhaps at the 2pm slump)
  • 6-7am Monday, Wednesday and Friday – a Crazy Awesome Fitness Session
  • 9am Sunday mornings – a cliff walk with a friend, swim, surf or yoga class

When you schedule your ‘Ninja Action Plan’ into your diary it becomes a given rather than a negotiation less of course the occasional unavoidable situations like when the dog really did eat your runners!

The same of course goes with nutrition. If your process and steps for maximizing your health through nutrition are clear then you’re far more likely to stick with them. Instead of “I want to eat less sugar and drink less wine’ perhaps you could develop a weekly meal plan, shop up and cook up every Sunday and let Saturday be your ‘free’ day where you can eat and drink whatever you want.

There is no substitute for preparation. If you have a healthy snack on hand when the hangers (‘hungry angries’) strike then you wont find yourself regretting a ‘would you like that fries with that?’ oopsie!

Hot tip – schedule all this goodness into your calendar. Have fun experimenting with creating your own daily routines that are both realistic but also stretch you to a higher grade of living.

3. FUTURE ORIENTATION

make the most of lifeThe final key is something that elite performers in sport, business, the arts or any field are well attuned to; They have their eye very firmly on the prize.

An athlete’s goal to win Olympic Gold – future orientation – encodes all of their present behaviours including not allowing any feelings of resistance to rule their actions or inactions. I can guarantee you they don’t feel like getting up at 4am six mornings a week to bust out laps for hours but they do it anyway. Day in. Day out. Their coaches help to ensure that a rock solid process for goal attainment is in place.

Being completely committed to a goal means that your chosen and passionately desired future becomes the source of your present actions. When you focus in this way you are innately driven to do what needs to be done regardless of the challenges that cross your path. This is where coaches and therapists can have a massive influence by helping to define the goal, lock in the process and be both your No. 1 cheer leader and critic so that the desire, commitment, steps and ability are all there. This puts the future outcome front and centre. Exactly where it needs to be.

Conclusion

I hope these insights have sparked your interest in just how powerful your mind really is and what you can achieve as many of my clients have discovered. I encourage you to steal some precious time to ask yourself some simple but profoundly important questions. Who do you want to become? What do you need to get there? Do you have clear goals or do they need re-thinking?

If you need help trouble shooting or optimizing your health goals (fine tuning those Ninja skills) I’d be delighted to support you in making real change. Change facilitation is always far more effective and fun when you don’t try to go it alone.

Using the latest in neuroscience we can refine your cognitive patterns so that you operate from a set of values that support you both consciously and unconsciously.

Exercise and good nutrition can and should be strengthening, energizing and empowering components to your balanced and fun-filled life. With the right approach optimal health is very achievable.

So keep moving, learning and enjoying the process. Amy :)

Dr_Amy_Atkin_Psychotherapist__150Amy is a Strategic Psychotherapist, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Coach. She is passionate about helping people not only feel better but also do better.

She is also a busy mum and a tragic disco music fan.

You can find her here: The Modern Mind Clinic.

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