When it comes to healthy living, we all know what we should be doing. It’s incredibly simple (and most of us understand it intuitively).
However, there can be a large gap between what we should be doing, and how we are actually living our lives.
The problem is temptation. We start out with great plans and ideals, and then desire for the things that we know are bad for us takes over. We just can’t help ourselves.
You’ve probably been in this situation yourself. You’re eating healthily and everything is going well, then a group of friends invites you out for dinner. You tell yourself you’ll get the healthy option, but when the waiter arrives at your table, you order the burger.
The key to overcoming these problems is to learn how to deal with temptation, even when it is staring you in the face. If you don’t, you’ll remain the victim of your own compulsive behavior and never move forward with your life.
Sunshine Behavioral Health – a rehabilitation clinic – deals with extreme examples of this all the time. Patients arrive at the facility in a last ditch attempt to get themselves unhooked from substances that they depend on. They know that unless the patient remains in the facility and under supervision, problems will continue.
So what can you do about temptation (other than just grit your teeth)?
Focus On The Outcome
Many people throughout history have been able to maintain healthy lifestyles throughout their lives. The way they managed this was almost entirely psychological – they imagined being their future selves if they made a negative decision.
Whenever you make a health-related decision, it impacts the quality of experience for you twenty, thirty or even fifty years from now. Hence, the decisions you make today impact your quality of life in the future.
People who stick to their plans always remind themselves that they will eventually need to bear the pain of their bad decisions. This, in turn, stops them from doing harmful things in the present.
Use A Distraction
Imagine you’re at a restaurant with your friends and everyone is ordering unhealthy food. In situations like this, it can be difficult not to go along with the crowd. What’s more, you’re often focused on the food, looking forward to the short-term pleasure that it is going to bring.
The trick here is to distract yourself from this way of thinking. Yes, the food is pleasurable, but there are plenty of other ways that you could occupy your mind. For instance, you could prioritize the social aspect of the occasion, instead of the eating.
When you do this, you’ll find that you’re able to avoid the worst of the temptation. Focusing on something else helps you to defuse your inner situation.
Remove Yourself From The Situation
If temptation remains an issue, you may want to remove yourself from the situation. For example, if you walk into a coffee shop and start eyeing the donuts, it is probably better for your health if you walk straight back out again, even if you’d just planned on getting a green tea.
When you remove yourself from the situation and carry on with your day, you’ll find that temptation vanishes. It doesn’t last for long. When your brain realises that it can’t get what it wants, it’ll stop pestering you and just accept your ultimate decision.
Don’t Forbid Any Acts
If you forbid yourself from ever eating sugar again, it’ll make you want to consume it more. You’ll spend all your time daydreaming about how wonderful it would be to eat chocolate or candy.
That’s why you should never outright forbid yourself from eating anything. If you put restrictions on yourself like that, your brain will try to work around them in whatever way it can. Eventually, your defenses will fail and you’ll be back to square one.
The trick here is to allow yourself to eat and do anything. When you are in this frame of mind, you always have the option of choosing something unhealthy, even if you don’t.
Use Visualisation Techniques
Lastly, some people find visualisation techniques helpful when dealing with temptation. The idea is simple: you practice resisting something unhealthy in a mental role play, preparing you for the situation in real life.
When you successfully resist temptation in your mind, it gives you confidence that you will be able to do the same in reality. For instance, practising saying no to cake in your head can make it easier to resist the lures of the office cake trolley.Infographic created by Clover Network – a leader in restaurant POS systems