Back in May I brought up the idea of idea of mental conditioning in addition to your physical conditioning. As a Derailleur, I see so many examples of my clients whose bodies are as fit as an elite athletes but their mental conditioning is lacking. Thus they perform exactly as they “think” they will perform – poorly. This leads to the inevitable “bad ride” that weighs heavy on us for days long after the ride is over. And often that memory of the last bad ride leads into the next ride…and guess what happens? Yup, you have another bad ride. One key to fight off these negative thoughts is to make sure that our mind’s nutritional plan is healthy and “clean”.
Right now, eating “clean” or eating a Paleo diet is getting massive support in the medical community. Clean eating means eating less sugar, carbs and other items that make use feel sluggish. Bringing in “clean” mind food for mental conditioning is based on the same ideal. Clean, healthy thoughts make us feel less weighed down…more clear. Positive or clean thoughts drive peak performance.
So what does your current diet of mind food look like?
A diet of “can’t, must, won’t, shouldn’t, or only” is a diet full of mind clogging food. Nourishing your mind with the negatives leads to nourishing your body with what you “can’t” do. Positive thoughts like “can, will, want, or am,” can be just the power foods your mind needs. A multitude of studies, data and anecdotal evidence supports the notion that optimists experience less stress, stronger immune systems and overall better health than their Debby Downer counterparts. But it’s not always easy to look on the bright side — in our overbooked and over-connected lives, getting caught up in a cycle of worry, anxiety and negative thoughts is a norm in many of our lives.
But just like nutrition, it is easier to add a salad in than to take donuts away at first. So in this case, just “stop thinking negative thoughts” is like going on a starvation diet. Instead of negative thoughts, you must actually replace them with different thoughts. Your mind won’t “stop” thinking, so you have to give it a different thought train – so it is a great time to welcome in positive thoughts.
Positive thoughts or mind food helps you to maintain your self-confidence during difficult times with realistic, positive self-talk. You can use this powerful mind food to regulate thoughts, feelings and behaviors not only during competitions but also in your everyday life. Whether it is a full sentence, a brief, descriptive word or a mantra that you create to bring in positive thoughts, the idea is to bring in healthy, forward moving ideas to the brain.
Positive thoughts, affirmations or mantras can include:
· I am in control.
· I find all solutions within me.
· I make positive healthy choices.
· In all situations, I remain balanced.
· I choose to change my challenges to opportunities.
· I focus on the successes in my life.
· I achieve great and successful results.
· I feel confident and secure.
· I am filled with the energy of confidence.
· I persist with confidence.
· I am worthy.
· I kick ass!
Another idea for filling up your mind with positive mind food is to view life as a white painting with a small black spot in the middle. Most of us keep looking at the black spot and forgetting all the whiteness around, which is why a lot of people are miserable. But if we focus on more than the black spot, we have a new perspective that often leads to a bigger picture of what is really going on.
If you’d like to start watching what your mind eats, a quick first step can be to look around your daily environment to see what messages you are currently taking in. Do you sit glued to the TV watching the daily news? It’s ok to be “in the know” of what is happening in our world, but if you want to shock your system a bit, try skipping the news for a week. What you will find is that can stay very informed but you can monitor the messages that you take in. More messages of good than bad. More messages of “wins” than “loses”.
Another scan of your physical environment can be focused on your physical surroundings. Are your surroundings supportive of your new diet? Are there positive messages or images that surround you or is your office or home full of “junk mind food” designed to help you fall off the positive message wagon? Are there images of growth, life, love and happiness? Or is that pile of old clothes you meant to take to Goodwill months ago cluttering up your space and your mind with “I can’t even pick up this pile of clothes” – this can lead to “what good am I”, etc. A simple small step to make sure your environment is designed to support you can be key to your success.
My own personal mind food diet consists of a heavy dose of daily gratitude, 3 servings of “what I can do”, 5 servings of “I am statements”, 2 servings of “what I am working towards and why” and for dessert, a “pat on the back”. It is a balanced diet designed to support me in my current life and inspire me in my future goals. Sure do I “cheat” once in a while and a negative thought slips in…no one is perfect. But my negative thoughts are far and few between and I am able to catch them quickly and replace them with a positive thought instead. You might not be able to catch all of them at first, but try to catch it before you believe it. Just like chewing and swallowing food that lacks nutritional value, you always have a chance to spit it out before you swallow it!
Being mindful of what thoughts you are putting into your brain is as important as being mindful of food you put into your body. Both forms of fuel can either break down your performance or get you through the worst of times. And just like food, you have a choice as to what you allow to bring into your mind’s diet!
Amy Magyar is a Derailleur. She helps her clients across North America change their gears, their pace, and their direction. She is the essential piece of equipment to get you where you need to move forward at a different pace and with a different power. As an industry veteran and a Certified Performance Coach, Amy works with individuals who are athletes, were athletes, or wish to be athletes, on navigating change.