So many of my clients want to change something in their lives, but they feel stuck. They try to change how much they are moving their body, or the type of food that they are eating, and yet they find themselves stuck. And unable to make those changes. In the 4 part series on the podcast about change we talked about some of the ways to support yourself in change, and I wanted to give you another one that can help you as you see things that you want to do differently. This episode is all about setting yourself up for yes.
What do i mean by that? So often when we want to make a change, we find that we need to say no to the old habits or patterns that we have been relying on. This could be thoughts in our heads or food that we reach for or ways to deal with emotions. This can be really challenging if you find that you have to say no all the time to the things that you are used to saying YES to.
You can feel like a young kid
My son was saying the other day about a babysitter that “she always says no” and it really struck me because there are lots of ways to say YES to children or others. For my son (and for me too), we both love sweets and I don’t want sugar in his body. For both of us, I want to find ways that when my body is craving sweets, I can find a way to say YES that still makes me feel good about what I’m putting in my body.
For example, I make these oatmeal cookies that are made out of 4 ingredients: bananas, gluten free oatmeal, walnuts and raisins. That’s it. He can eat as many of those “cookies” as he wants to because it’s really oatmeal in a cookie form. When he wants a cookie I say YES. I’ve set up the situation to say yes: I found something that feels like a “sweet treat” but doesn’t lead to an insulin overload for either of us.
Saying yes to you changes that part of the brain. So often my clients come and say they can’t change what they are eating because they don’t like to be deprived. They don’t want to have someone telling them what to do. This is because that NO puts you in a defensive position. I’m being told no, so I need to armor up and fight back!
Our brains are like toddlers!
We need as many YES times during the day as possible, just like toddlers do. Our brains work much better when we are supported from a compassionate, loving place. Then there are fewer tantrums, just like when my kids were little. Part of this is changing the way we communicate with ourselves. Instead of just outright saying no to all things pleasurable (which the brain often wants to talk us out of) we find ways to say yes.
Setting yourself up for yes more often in your life
First one way to make changes is to focus on adding things into your life instead of focusing on removing. For example, you might focus on just simply adding in more vegetables in your life. That might be your first step. Adding in carrots with your lunch. Or having two vegetables at dinner instead of one. Adding a veggie into your smoothie. These can be great ways to focus on adding instead of subtracting. Subtracting brings the focus on deprivation and “NO.”
Another idea is to notice what you typically go for: this could be sugar, wine at the end of the work day, or carbs when you are stressed. Watching what the pattern is that you typically carry out and then finding alternatives that may fill that need. The oatmeal cookies I make for my son, or the Nice Cream I’ve mentioned (bananas and cacao powder are the only ingredients!) are great alternatives if you mind wants to tell you that you need a sweet treat at the end of the day.
In the same way, if you want to have chocolate but don’t want the sugar, there are no-sugar dark chocolate options that you can have in your house instead of having regular, sugar-heavy chocolate in your house. You are providing an alternative to fill your need. You are craving sweets: is there something that nourishes your body and still can bring you pleasure?
The third way to set yourself up for YES is to look at the thoughts around whatever it is you are wanting to change. You could change your thought could be “Not eating sugar is so hard” and you might try “I’m learning to care for my body” or “I’m trying a new way of eating” That change in the word can be a really helpful way to be able to say YES to yourself.
Finally, setting yourself up for yes happens when you add in more pleasure in your life and coming up with pleasurable alternatives that you LOVE. The chocolate ice cream after work may be a no, but yes to spending time with friends, watching your favorite show, or reading a good book. Saying yes to joyful and pleasurable activities (not ones that are destructive) is a great way to help that part of you.
So often we reach for things that give us immediate pleasure (sugar, alcohol, food) in order to give ourselves the pleasure that we are so desperately seeking. The more things that you love – that feel like joy – that are in your day, you don’t need to fill your Joy bank account with the immediate gratification approaches. This one is really great to try right now: think of something you love that is nourishing (so the apple pie in the fridge doesn’t count). Is it feeling the sun on your face? Taking a nap? Dancing in the living room? Laughing with a friend? Find 5 minutes of joy in your day today. That’s one way of saying yes to you that is powerful, and relatively easy to do.
This are just some of the ways you can find ways to have more YES in your life. What is it that you crave? What is it that you want? If you are tired and you crave more energy, instead of reaching for the sugar, maybe it’s creating time for a relaxing ritual before bed: a beautify bubble bath with flowers, reading a book, or listening to a favorite podcast.
Find pleasurable ways to say YES to yourself so you toddler brain feels cared for and nourished by this wiser adult you :).