Weight Management: Using Positive Thinking
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It can be hard to get to and stay at a healthy weight. It takes healthy eating and regular exercise. These can be hard changes to make. But you can help yourself succeed just by thinking that you can succeed. If you tell yourself negative things—"I can't do this. Why bother?"—change will be harder. But if you encourage yourself with thoughts like "I can do this," you can raise your chance of success.
With time and practice, you can change what you say to yourself. You can learn to think in a positive way even when you make a mistake.
If you would like more information on how to stop negative thoughts, see the topic:
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Positive thinking, or healthy thinking, is a way to help you stay well by changing how you think. It's based on research that shows that you can change how you think. And how you think affects how you feel.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, also called CBT, is a type of therapy that is often used to help people think in a healthy way. CBT can help you learn to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. These negative thoughts are sometimes called irrational or automatic thoughts.
Working on your own or with a counselor, you can practice these three steps:
The goal is to have positive thoughts come naturally. It may take some time to change the way you think. So you will need to practice positive thinking every day.
Test Your Knowledge
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can help change how you think about yourself.
You need to see a counselor to do CBT.
Positive thinking—along with healthy eating and being active—helps people reach a healthy weight.1 It can help you stay on track when you have a slip-up. And it can keep you from getting discouraged.
Say you've been limiting your portions and eating more vegetables and fruit. But you go to a party one night and eat several slices of pizza and a big piece of cake. All the way home, you get angry at yourself for eating so much. "I don't know why I bother trying to lose weight. I have no will power. I might as well forget about it."
The more you talk in a negative way to yourself, the harder it is to stay focused on all the good changes you've made. The negative thinking makes you feel bad. And that can lead to having more slip-ups and more bad thoughts about yourself. It's a cycle that's hard to break.
But with practice, you can retrain your brain. After all, you weren't born telling yourself negative things. You learned how to do it. So there's no reason you can't teach your brain to unlearn it and replace negative thinking with more helpful thoughts.
Positive thinking is good for your health in other ways. If you feel bad about yourself, you could feel anxious or depressed. Positive thinking also can help you handle stress better. Many people eat too much because they are stressed.
Too much stress can raise your blood pressure and make your heart work harder, which can increase your risk for a heart attack. Stress also can weaken your immune system, which can make you more open to infection and disease.
Test Your Knowledge
Positive thinking can keep you on track with healthy eating.
Positive thinking can help your health in other ways.
Stop your thoughts
The first step is to stop your negative thoughts or "self-talk." Self-talk is what you think and believe about yourself and your experiences. It's like a running commentary in your head. Your self-talk may be positive and helpful. Or it may be negative and not helpful.
Ask about your thoughts
The next step is to ask yourself whether your thoughts are helpful or unhelpful. Look at what you're saying to yourself. Does the evidence support your negative thought? Some of your self-talk may be true. Or it may be partly true but exaggerated. There are several kinds of irrational thoughts. Here are a few types:
Choose your thoughts
The next step is to choose a positive, helpful thought to replace the unhelpful one.
Keeping a journal of your thoughts is one of the best ways to practice stopping, asking, and choosing your thoughts. It makes you aware of your self-talk. Write down any negative or unhelpful thoughts you had during the day. If you think you might not remember them at the end of your day, keep a notepad with you so that you can write down thoughts as they occur. Then write down helpful messages to correct the negative thoughts.
If you do this every day, helpful thoughts will soon come naturally.
But there may be some truth in some of your negative thoughts. You may have some things you want to work on. If you didn't perform as well as you would like on something, write that down. You can work on a plan to correct or improve that area.
If you want, you also can write down what kind of irrational thought you had. Your journal entries might look something like this:
Test Your Knowledge
Which of these thoughts is an example of positive thinking?
I'll never be able to stick to a healthy eating plan.
I made a mistake eating so much, but I can try again tomorrow.
How can a daily journal help you have more positive thoughts?
It makes you aware of your self-talk and can help you correct irrational thoughts.
Writing in the journal every day will help positive thinking come naturally to you.
Now that you have read this information, you are ready to practice positive thinking to help you manage your weight.
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