Image provided by Dana Lookadoo
After spending some time thinking, I’ve come to the conclusion that the culture that we are brought up in is pretty crazy.
It just doesn’t make sense.
We live in a culture where, against all logical reason, we think that our emotions telling us not to do something is a good enough reason not to do it.
We may know that we need to go to the gym, but since our emotions tell us that we are tired, we don’t go. We may know that we shouldn’t eat those cookies on the shelf there, but since our emotions tell us that they will taste good, we eat them anyway. We may know that we should try a little harder in the gym while we are there, but since our emotions tell us that will feel uncomfortable, we ignore our thoughts and quit early anyway.
Then, when we are asked about it later, we excuse ourselves by saying, “I was tired, hungry, and fatigued.. I just couldn’t do it.”
We even tell that to ourselves, AND WE BELIEVE IT.
Why do we do this? Well, it’s just plain easier. It takes less effort to make up excuses than it does to put in the work, time, energy, and self-control.
But does it?
Maybe. But maybe it doesn’t. What if it only takes less energy to make up excuses in the short term.
What if over time, you start to think back and feel bad about yourself for not doing what you knew needed to be done? This would cause you to experience a whole host of negative emotions including self-doubt, sadness, and sometimes even depression, self-hate, and worthlessness.
While I am definitely not saying that you should feel these emotions for not following your head, most of the time, some of these end up surfacing eventually if these types of habits continue for a long time.
These types of negative emotions can become extremely painful – much more painful than the workout would have been and much more painful that restraining yourself from eating those cookies.
But we don’t think about that.
In the moment, all we are thinking about is what our emotions are telling us. So, we end up giving in and then feeling bad about it later on. No wonder there is no much depression nowadays.
I think it’s time for a change in our culture. Of course, it will take decades for a culture to change its teaching, but it won’t take that long for you to change your own individual way of thinking and responding to your emotions. It will take practice and time, though, as it is never quick and easy to change a habit, but it will be well worth it over time.
Here’s another idea:
We are surprisingly bad at estimating and predicting what will give us pain or pleasure.
However, that statement shouldn’t be too shocking. Just think about that examples above. Of course, eating that cookie gave you some pleasure, for about 45 seconds. Afterwards, at some point, you might have experienced some pain in the form of negative emotions. Now, each individual experience is isolated, but over the long-term, the negative emotions normally tend to outweigh the short periods of pleasure gained from ignoring your head. Thus, by following your head and doing what you personally know needs to be done, you actually end up making life easier and more pleasurable for yourself, rather than making it harder.
Physical energy is not the only way we drain ourselves. More often, emotional energy drains us much, much more.
SO HOW DO WE CHANGE?
The first step is to realize what emotions are. Emotions are produced from the chemical signals in your brain. They are the combination and ratio of various neurotransmitters running through various areas of your brain. The main point?
They are just chemical signals.
They have no meaning. They are not logical. They do not come to conclusions or put pressure on you to do something for your own good. They only act how they are programmed to act from evolution and run on instinct.
If this is all emotions are, then why do we place so much importance on them? Because we think, in the moment, that if we follow our emotions then we will be rewarded. However, as we discussed above, much of the time this is not the case in the long-term.
THE FIRST STEP TO CHANGE IS NON-RESISTANCE
Resistance is sort of an eastern philosophical concept, but it is generally defined as not accepting whatever is happening in the moment. Much of the time when you feel bad or negative emotions, you resist them because you don’t like them. You might get tense, start worrying about things you can’t control, or do anything you can to make the feeling go away.
Non-resistance essentially means that, since all emotions are just chemical signals, they are not inherently bad or good, nor do they really give you much meaningful information that you could not have known otherwise. Thus, there is no need to resist them or try to change them.
By practicing non-resistance, when you feel a negative emotion, instead of trying to make it go away, you just accept it.
If you are feeling lazy, for example, you accept that you are feeling lazy. Fully feel the emotion and do nothing to make it go away. The more you resist the emotion, the more power it will have over you. Once you learn to just accept how you feel at any given moment, since it doesn’t really mean anything anyway, you start to take the power back and you become in control again.
After you have stopped resisting and have instead accepted the current moment for what it is, you can then feel free to make any choice of action based on your logic, instead of your emotions.
That is, even though you are feeling lazy, you have accepted that and now you decide to go to the gym anyway because it is what you know you need to do. Once you start practicing non-resistance for a while, it’s surprising how free you feel do what you know is right.
In eastern philosophy, this is called Right Action.
Right Action sort of seems paradoxical to non-resistance, but if you can learn to accept this paradox, changing your habits and behaviors can be easier than ever – and lead to a much happier life.
Right Action essentially is, after accepting and relaxing into the moment for what it is without judgement, you can feel free to take whatever action you know, intuitively, is Right, whatever that is for you at that moment. Not what you should do, must do, or ought to do based on society or other people’s standards, but what you know is right to do, for yourself or for others, based on your standards, morals, and values, whatever those may be.
So, there is a two part equation here: First, accept the moment for what it is, without feeling the need to change how you feel or what is happening. Then, though, take whatever action is right and do what you can to do what is best based on yourself, but do not feel attached to the outcome, because you will accept any outcome, even though you are aiming for some ideal.
Furthermore, while non-resistance and Right Action will get you closer to living a more fulfilling life in the long-term, both concepts are ideals, and you will never be able to practice both 100% of the time. Instead, think of it at a signpost or something to aim for, then do your best, remembering that you are human.
Once you start practicing these concepts though, your life can seem liberating.
No longer will you think that just because your emotions tell you not to do something, it is reason enough not to do it.
You will start to develop self-trust and core confidence, two aspects that will most likely extent into other areas of your life besides fitness and nutrition.
Also, you will start to develop a better self-image and be happier in the long-term. the short-term effort of Right Action is nothing compared to the ongoing and continuous baggage you place on yourself when you give into your emotions and go against your intuition repeatedly.
Of course, it might take some time to implement these two new ways of thinking, but it will be well worth it over time.