When it comes to fighting the urge to over indulge, there aren’t many months of the year more challenging than December. For many people, this time of year often means more parties, more drinks, more food, more sweets, more everything! Everywhere we turn we are faced with offerings and temptations that at any other time of the year aren’t something we have to deal with. It is no wonder that by the time January rolls around many of us have crept up a notch or two on the belt buckle.
Thankfully, there are many strategies we can employ to help slow down the expansion of our waistlines through the holidays and one technique that often gets overlooked is how we use our minds.
Mental skills training and thinking proactively can help in many ways. If we use them to our advantage they can be a great tool for motivation, focus, positivity and a way of staying true to our core values and goals.
One of the key mental skills we can practice to help stay on track with our eating is visualisation, or the ability to vividly imagine situations. It’s easy to brush off a concept like visualisation as something that won’t work in real life but if we make a committed effort to engage and participate wholly in this practice it can be a very powerful tool. To your brain, seeing is doing, so the better you can visualise the outcome you want, the more likely you are to get it. The things we imagine are, to our brain, essentially the same as the things we do. As an example, when we remember exciting events, like our favourite team winning a game, we can often get a physical response as if we were back at the match again. That’s the power of visualisation.
Athletes use visualisation all the time to imagine, in detail, the points at which they might be challenged in their performance. Then, they visualise how they will work through those challenges as a way of preparing i.e. their brain makes it real for them and when it’s time to perform they are ready for anything. Visualisation used in this way can work much better than just words and will-power for tackling tricky lifestyle challenges as well.
The family Christmas dinner is classic example of a challenging time when we are all tempted to overeat and this situation gives us a great opportunity to work on our visualisations skills.
Set the scene in your mind, who’s around the table? What things can you smell? What things can you feel and hear? What are the challenges you are going to be faced with? Will relatives put pressure on you to eat or drink more? Will there be “danger” foods all around? Try to make these as real as possible.
Next imagine yourself overcoming those challenges and handling them confidently and calmly. Imagine the words you might use in response to unwanted offerings. Imagine the end of the day when you are feeling great because you didn’t over eat or drink too much. Instead, you made good choices and stayed true to the health and fitness goals you are working towards. Each time you do this type of visualisation you increase the chances of making it a reality.
The best thing about tackling these tough and tempting situations with visualisation is that you can do it and use it anywhere. Plus, you can practice working through a successful scenario as many times as you like.
One important tip to take away if you are considering giving visualisation a go, is that you must keep it real. It’s a much more powerful tool if you imagine your true self in the situation, and not a flawless and unlikely version. So instead of visualising yourself as being unrealistically perfect, simply imagine working towards making better choices and decisions in the given situation.
What are going to be your challenging scenarios this Christmas and how do you imagine yourself successfully handling them?