You know those weeks when you are doing everything right?
You wake up when you said you would, you eat something green for breakfast, you only drink one pot of coffee, you go to yoga or the gym and you actually brush your teeth twice every day?
You’re feeling great, this new you TOTALLY ROCKS, you’re a super time ninja and all around awesome human—-
You wake up one morning and feel like crap. Your to-do list looks daunting, you really want a donut, your snarky perfection monster woke up perky and chattering in your ear, and is that a zit on your chin?
But… all that hard work!
All of that joy and happiness and easy, freewheelin’ living has appeared to vanish overnight, and you are back to your somewhat cranky “don’t-talk-to-me-until-noon-and-ugh-I-don’t-wanna-go-to-the-gym-today” self.
And it feels like,
“Noooooooo! Body!! Why have you betrayed meeeeeeeeeee?”
So… what happened?!
Obviously your body hates you and you aren’t good enough.
KIDDING. But I’m guessing that thought crossed your mind at least twice.
As I wrote about last week (scroll down about halfway), if your default way of being is to be really hard on yourself and your body and for most of your life feeling anxious and worried is pretty par for the course, your body and subconscious are going to FREAK OUT when you start being kind to yourself and relaxing.
Totally not fair, I know.
Why your body (and subconscious) are freaking out about your new good habits
There are a couple reasons for the sudden apparent betrayal. I’ve definitely mentioned these before, but they are worth repeating because they are easy to dismiss or overlook.
First of all, everything we think, believe, and do has some sort of benefit in our lives.
Every habit we have, everything we believe about the world, every resulting action is in place because it has benefited our lives in some way. Depending on the thought or habit, this may seem counter intuitive. I mean, how would binge eating pizza and ice cream and hummus (it’s not healthy if you eat the whole tub guys, trust me, I’ve tried that argument) and telling myself I’m stupid benefit me in ANY way?
Well, the reasons might be different for everyone. I used to binge eat when I was feeling emotionally uncomfortable or I felt super overwhelmed by all the thoughts in my head and just needed to feel comfortable again. That’s what ‘comfort food’ is- it’s usually a bit heavy (grounding you back to your body), flavorful (all those sensations send pleasure signals to your brain), and familiar (reminds you of a time you felt safe or loved).
The physiological process of taking in and ingesting that food requires energy that was being directed at emotions or sensations I didn’t want to feel. The benefit (short term) was that it brought me to a place I felt comfortable. Not so great in the long term, maybe (stomach ache, weight gain, berating myself), but the cravings and urges are there for a reason: to bring me back to a place of safety and comfort.
Second of all, your body and brain have only one real goal: Keep you alive.
Your animal brain (the part that takes over during any perceived danger or threat to your environment/survival) is pure instinct. The cells in your body respond to various signals and stimuli from your environment, your brain, and what you absorb into your body.
Survival is the number one thing we are programmed for. No matter what, we are going to make it through.
The stories you have about the world and yourself?
Give you a point of view that has kept you alive so far.
The habits you’ve create in your life?
Well, you haven’t died yet, right?
Even though we know on an intellectual level that we desire ‘improvement’ (I kind of hate that word), or at least different ways of being beyond our default, until we begin to acknowledge the functions of our animal brains and bodies and work WITH them instead of FIGHTING them, we aren’t going to be able to make lasting changes.
In order to change your way of being, you need to show yourself that these new ways of being are safe on a physiological and psychological level.
How to actually experience what you desire without fighting yourself
So you want to make lasting changes and keep those feel-good days rollin’ in, yes?
The first step of doing this is to recognize that not every day is going to feel super perfect cheery happy-go-lucky and awesome.
Creating sustainable practices of love, happiness, joy, ease, and freedom doesn’t mean that you are getting rid of all the bad stuff. Period.
What we ARE doing is learning how to listen to our bodies and our instincts- how to make our bodies our allies instead of constantly being at war with them and trying to control everything to death.
Releasing Control and Feeling at Home in Your Body
First things first- your subconscious and instincts to survive are powerful. They take over when we are in life-threatening situations, and ultimately are driving the majority of our thoughts and actions.
A lot of times we try to build new habits by fighting our subconscious and controlling our bodies. We deny our cravings and tendencies by gritting our teeth and stubbornly refusing to give in- until that day that we do, of course, and spiral back down to that place we SWORE we would never be again.
Don’t get me wrong, part of building new habits IS creating a plan and sticking to it. I would never have built up my daily yoga practice if I didn’t do it whenever I didn’t feel like it.
It’s the WAY that we deal with resistance that matters here.
When you resist doing something that you know you want to do (or your body appears to betray you by RUINING ALL OF YOUR HARD WORK), what that really is is your body responding to what it thinks is a threat or a danger to your survival.
So instead of freaking out or ignoring that instinctual response (thus triggering further threat signals and sending you into full fight-or-flight mode), here’s the new plan:
Dealing with Resistance and Giving Up the Fight
This is the time to tune in. When that resistance comes up, you’ll be savvy to it. You know that freaking out or saying terrible things to yourself isn’t gonna help, even though that’s all you want to do.
Instead, give up.
Give up your urge to push through and fight for what you are doing and what you are trying to change. Take a few minutes, stop, and actually listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
Do you want to eat that donut because your body is really missing its morning sugar fix?
Are you tired and cranky because for most of your life that has felt easier than being cheerful?
Does your body suspect danger because it’s asking to rest after your 10 day yogathon?
Is there some other pressure in your life (like a deadline) that is causing these stress signals?
It’s simple to check in, and it can take time to bypass your ego mind and listen to what your body is telling you. Practice this as often as you can.
Knowledge is power. When you decide to make a change or want to befriend your body, you have to get real about why you do what you do, and the benefits you and your body are getting from it. When you know why, it is much easier to check in and understand where the sabotage is coming from.
When you know why and understand where it’s coming from, THEN you have a choice. You are acting with intention and trusting your body. However you decide to be then is truly in your power- not the power of your subconscious, not the power of survival instincts, but yours.
So.. ball’s in your court now. Are you ready to befriend your body?