There are so many layers to our experiences. Strands from the past make their way into our present moment experience. It can be challenging and frustrating to try to figure out why we do what we do, feel the way we feel, and how we can change deeply ingrained patterns of being and behaving. Consider the following scenario:
You’ve have a long and stressful day at work. You’re working on cutting out sugar and eating “healthier” (although you’re not quite sure what that means since there’s so much conflicting information!). You walk into your home, replaying a conversation from hours ago and beating yourself up about what you said. Flipping through your mail, you see an unexpected and very large bill. You become very stressed. You’re also hungry and tired. Sticking to your diet just feels way too hard right now. You decide to eat what you want, feeling angry at yourself for breaking your diet again.
There are a lot of thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and behaviors going on in that scenario! It’s important to note sometimes our actions are mental actions that are not observable.
You might find it helpful to take some time each day during the week to reflect on Activating Events and your beliefs/thoughts about them. Create a chart in your journal with columns for Activating Events; Beliefs or Thoughts; Results; New Beliefs; New Results.
Here is what to write in each column—
Activating Event: A specific situation, event, feeling, physical sensation, environment, etc. Examples: feeling hungry, feeling lonely, on a date, at a party.
Belief or Thought: What do you believe about the Activating Event? What are your thoughts about it? How do you interpret it? Examples: I cannot handle this discomfort; This is a sign something is wrong; There’s something wrong with me; I shouldn’t have said that.
Responses: How do you respond to your beliefs/thoughts? Is there a behavior or an emotion, or both? Examples: avoid, leave a situation, eat, binge, anxiety, panic, self-blame
New Beliefs: How can you reframe the Activating Event? What is a different perspective to view it? Could someone else have a different way of viewing/interpreting your Activating Event? What are some alternative beliefs/thoughts? Hint: Imagine the beliefs/thoughts a very wise person might have about your Activating Event. Ex: I can tolerate discomfort. It will pass.
New Responses: How might you react and respond to these new beliefs/perspectives on your Activating Event? What behavior might you engage in? How might you feel? Ex: let my cravings be there without trying to get rid of them.
I hope this journal activity is helpful for you! Try it for a week and see what you uncover about yourself. For many people, reaching for unhealthy food is an immediate response. New Beliefs and New Responses can help you challenge your habitual ways of being and responding to the Activating Events that drive you to food.
Progress this activity: For another week, whenever you feel pulled to break your healthy eating plan and binge, or eat a bunch of sugary junk food, grab your journal and fill out the columns described above. Consider some new perspectives on your situation. How does that impact your eating? What behaviors might you do instead? What other options are available to you, both in terms of your beliefs and thoughts, as well as what you actually do?
At least consider the possibility of a different way to respond to your Activators.