How many times have you heard these words:
“If I could just shift these last few pounds I’d be really happy”?
It might have been a friend saying it, or even you saying it to yourself! It’s certainly something I hear a lot in my Northamptonshire therapy room in Thrapston!
But have we got this the wrong way round?
Neuroscience has taught us a lot about how our brains work and we have learnt some interesting things about how this has an impact on our physical health, including our weight.
The link between our mental wellbeing and our physical wellbeing is becoming increasingly apparent the more we learn. For example, when we are stressed and anxious our primitive brain takes over to help us “survive” the situation which it perceives as dangerous. Our primitive brain is just that – primitive. If it thinks we are in danger it starts to go into survival mode and when we are in survival mode our body does different things with the food we provide it. As far as our primitive brain is concerned danger could mean that food is in short supply. Therefore any food we do put into our body it will hold on to as a fat store to help us get through the tough times. Also when we do come across food we will be encouraged to eat it even if we aren’t hungry, afterall, it doesn’t know when we will next come across food in this “dangerous” situation.
When we are stressed and anxious we tend not to sleep so well and this has an impact on some of the hormones we produce which are related to food – the ones that tells us we are hungry increases and the ones that tells us we are full decreases. If we really were in a dangerous situation then this would help us to increase our fat store and our likelihood of surviving.
Contrast this to what happens when we are feeling calm and happy and our more sensible, intellectual brain is in control. This part of our brain presumes that food is in abundance therefore when we eat it favours the food we provide to it as an energy source. We know that food is always available so there is no need to stock pile, it will only encourage us to eat when we are hungry. And we can decide that the instant gratification we get from eating isn’t as important as a future goal we have set ourselves – so we know we’d enjoy the chocolate cake in front of us now but we also know that we’ll feel even better if we don’t eat the cake so we can fit into that lovely dress we bought for a party next month.
So when we are happy and calm it is easier for us to manage our weight. Let’s be clear here – we are talking about the impact the chemical responses that go on in our brain have on our physical health. How we think determines which chemicals are produced and therefore what our bodies do with the food we put in them.
So if that’s the case, focusing on increasing our happiness should help us to manage our weight better. Which leads to the question “how do I increase my happiness?”
There are lots of ways we can do that but there is one simple technique that I teach all my clients to help build their happiness. It may be simple but it is backed up by a huge body of research. And it’s this:
Write down one good thing that happens to you every single day.
It’s as simple as that. they don’t have to big things – just small things like a smile as you walked past someone in the street, spring flowers coming up, blue sky coming through after a storm.
Seem to easy? Try it! By doing this one simple task you shift your brains focus away from the problems and worries of everyday life to the positive aspects of living. By doing this you allow your intellectual brain to be in charge rather than your primitive brain. And as an added bonus every positive thing you notice releases your feel good hormone serotonin. When you write it down you get another hit of serotonin. When you read back over the previous things you’ve written down you get another hit of serotonin. A nice steady flow of serotonin like this helps you to feel happier and keeps you in that sensible, intellectual brain – the one that knows just what to eat and when to eat it to keep you on the right track towards your weightloss goals.
Caroline is a Clinical Hypnotherapist practising from her therapy room in Thrapston, Northamptonshire. She works with people to help them reduce stress and anxiety so they can reach their full potential in their work and home life.
To find out more about working on a 1-2-1 basis with Caroline go to www.inspiredtochangebiz
To find out more about how your brain works sign up for Caroline’s free online training at www.trainyourbrainforsuccess.inspiredtochange.biz