You know the feeling, when you arrive home after a long day at work, kick off your shoes, and hit the couch? Exhausted, you know you’re not getting up anytime soon, especially once the TV’s on.
You, my friend, have just gotten swept up in "the current." According to Dr. Susan Biali, a medical doctor and life coach from Vancouver, it’s very easy to get "caught in the current," getting swept up in the natural drift toward what we don’t want, pulling us away from the things we do want.
Biali recently examined this phenomenon for Psychology Today, and writes, "the only way to combat this natural flow is to be determined to swim against the current. There’s something in the human psyche that deeply believes that if something is hard to do, doesn’t feel comfortable or doesn’t come naturally, it’s better not to do it—yet."
We spoke with Dr. Biali to find out what advice she gives her clients and patients for battling against the current. Here are her four tips:
Downtime is important after a long day at work, but if zoning out in front of the TV is stealing time from things that will help you get to where you want to be, that’s a problem, Biali says. For example, Biali exercises every day but hates going to the gym. Instead, she takes brisk walks outside. If she skips her walk, she knows she’ll be crabby, won’t sleep as well, and is more likely to gain weight. If health is your goal, to resist the magnetic pull of the couch, Biali suggests maintaining your momentum from the day and get your workout in, leaving time to relax after.
Biali views her role as encouraging her clients and patients to be aware of their habits and to notice when they’re getting pulled along in a choice that’s against what he/she wants. So many of the things that sabotage what we want aren’t what we need, she says. If you’re hungry after work but trying to lose weight, it’s very easy to grab something fast. "The easiest choice in the moment is the last thing you want to do," Biali notes. It’s important to be aware of your decision points—the situations where you are most vulnerable to making a bad decision. If you sit on the couch after work and can’t get up, don’t sit down, Biali says. If you’re always allowing email to interrupt you at work, wait to check it until after you’ve started work on a project you’ve been putting off.
"The initial part of resisting the current is the hardest, and knowing that helps," Biali says. The point is to just get started. At work, we tend to put off the important projects and do the easy tasks that don’t get us anywhere, she notes. If this sounds familiar, Biali suggests paying attention to how you feel when you’re putting off working on that big project due at the end of the month, or the amount of time you spend thinking about the task instead of just tackling it, or how you feel knowing that it’s hanging over you. Devote 30 minutes to an hour to the project, without checking email, and notice how you’re feeling less stressed.
Biali says it’s important to ensure the changes you make aren’t too painful. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight but hate salad, instead of ordering fries, choose the sweet potato fries. The key is to make it somewhat enjoyable or else you won’t get past the first step, she says.
Everybody’s different in their ability to self-motivate, Biali says. For some, keeping a log of accomplishments will help remind you of how good you felt so you can bribe yourself the next time you’re tempted to zone out. For others, having an accountability buddy with a similar goal and regular check-ins is enough of a motivator. Regardless of whether you hire a coach, enlist a friend, or go it alone, be sure to identify small changes you want to see, and give yourself a few weeks to make them.
[h/t Psychology Today]