In this episode of the Feel Good Effect Podcast, I’m diving into the easiest mindset shift to integrate into your life to feel good now. This super tactical and research-based practice will help you rewire your brain to feel good for the long term.
Easiest Starter Mindset Shift Practice To Feel Good Now
I am not talking about a mindset in which we are only wishing for things to be different or just focused on being positive; I am talking about the science behind the way our brain works.
When you can change your brain, you can change your life.
I talk frequently about mindset and this episode is about helping you find an easy place to start.
The power middle, or flexible thinking, is the antidote to all or nothing thinking.
All or nothing thinking is part of the striving mindset, which includes the three wellness barriers to wellness, life, and feeling good that we’ve learned about from years of research.
The striving mindset is a way of thinking that causes you to feel bad and is a barrier to taking action toward the results you’re looking for.
All or nothing thinking is one of these barriers to feeling good, and this simple practice is about getting you out of all or nothing thinking into flexible thinking.
Importance of mindset
All or nothing thinking is such a prevalent and ingrained thought pattern, particularly in western cultures, but it’s also a normal part of cognition.
Our brains are actually wired in favor of all or nothing thinking.
Mindset describes this thing that happens behind the scenes, often out of our awareness, causing us to think we’re just not disciplined enough, motivated enough, or we just need a better day planner.
But it’s not actually about your motivation, willpower, or discipline.
It’s your mindset that gets you in action and gets you results.
All or nothing thinking
All or nothing thinking is this go big or go home, my way or the highway, if it isn’t a heck yes it’s an f-no, on the wagon and then off the wagon, etc. type of thinking.
Yes, there’s a place for this, but all or nothing thinking frames everything in what psychologists call a false dichotomy or false dilemma, a black or white view.
I used to live in this mindset, too, taking hours of my weekends to meal prep for the week until it became overwhelming and I would stop for weeks at a time.
I also used to commit to highly disciplined exercise programs that I could sustain only until something happened in my life, causing me to have to stop for a period of time, and then I was all-out again.
This all-in mindset isn’t sustainable and causes us to burnout and go all-out.
Some of these things work short term and might even feel good in the moment, but when it comes to feeling good and the feel good effect, we can talk about joyful, long-term success.
It has to be something you can do long term even when there are ups and downs.
Maintain and sustain.
The antidote to all or nothing thinking
This practice comes from my research and is talked about in my book, The Feel Good Effect, called the power middle, which is really about flexible thinking.
So often, it’s not actually black or white, there are options in-between.
Research has shown that people with flexible thinking can deal with setbacks better.
Flexible thinking is a research-based way of thinking that will help you deal with setbacks (and we know life is full of those).
Research also shows that people with flexible thinking are better at handling and performing difficult tasks.
It can help you reframe extremes.
Additionally, research shows that flexible thinking is one of the best predictors of avoiding weight gain and having a healthy body weight.
When we don’t have such rigid all or nothing food rules, we’re able to have a life of healthy eating.
Change your brain
All or nothing thinking keeps us from feeling good, keeps us from having sustainable wellness, keeps us from success, and from the results that we want.
So why do we do it?
Partly because it’s a normal part of cognition, partly because it is reinforced through marketing or other areas of life.
But a really amazing thing about our brain is that it’s malleable, meaning that it can change through mindset work and mindfulness practices.
All or nothing thinking can make it seem like there is not enough time or energy to do the things that you know will make you feel good, like preparing a meal, taking a walk, meditating, etc.
Use this 5-minute rule practice when you feel overwhelmed by starting a task because it feels too daunting or like there’s not enough time or energy.
Pay attention to your mental conversation.
Any time you hear yourself say or think, “I don’t have time” or “I don’t have the energy”:
- Set a timer for five minutes
- Do what you can in five minutes
Every minute counts.
When we think “I don’t have time to exercise”, we usually mean “I don’t have time for an hour long workout”, but every minute counts.
Five minutes counts.
Do you notice the resistance coming up for you when you hear this?
How interesting that we would rather not workout than workout for 5 minutes? Or 15 minutes?
Spending these short durations of time allows you to create a pattern of consistency, consistency without perfection, which is how you create a life of wellness.
The joy gap
Kelly McGonigal talks about the joy of movement based on the science and research of moving your body and exercise.
One of the things she talks about is the joy gap, which notes that it actually takes a little while as you are exercising to remember how good it feels.
The same is true for other areas of wellness, it’s getting started that’s hard.
Shortening the time to five or ten minutes can make a huge difference.
To make this mindset shift sustainable, I created the 4-P framework.
- Pay attention
Pay attention to all or nothing thinking (depending on who you are, this might sound like “this doesn’t count”, “I don’t have time”, etc.)
What comes up for you?
Pay attention without judgment.
Approach this with self-kindness, rather than shame and blame.
Tip: write it down when you hear it, and note the action you took (e.g. doing the thing, not doing the thing) and the result of your action (e.g. feeling good, not feeling good).
Then, interrupt your thought pattern with pause and insert your practice.
In this case, insert the 5-minute rule practice.
All or nothing thinking wants success now, but have patience.
We probably won’t eliminate all or nothing thinking, it’s part of how our brains are wired.
But with patience, we can actually shift our brains, which is the incredible power of the feel good effect.
With practice and patience, you can literally rewire your brain to quiet all or nothing thinking and strengthen flexible thinking, which becomes your default mode.