The mind trick to get you healthy
Do you remember that fad ‘The Secret’?
The Secret was a book and movie about positive visualisation and manifesting your desires to get what you want. It came out around 2006, sold 19 million copies and lead to a lot of people saying crap like, “Put it out to the universe” – as though the universe was a kerb to which one drags a wheelie bin full of wants.
Top 5 greatest stupid fads
- Tamagotchis. An electronic pet that lived on a keychain and was originally conceived to alleviate the pet-owning desires of apartment-bound Japanese kids, they swept the world for ten whole minutes before being swept into the bin.
- 3-D movies. Around the time of ‘Avatar’ all movies had to be 3-D, even if it added nothing, gave you a headache and created enough plastic glasses landfill to build another New Zealand.
- Waterbeds. In 1987, your parents owning a waterbed was proof they still had sex (with each other). When they gave up their water bed in 1989 citing leaks and sore spines, it was actually them hanging up their genitals once and for all.
- Yuppies. There was always some confusion here but Yuppies then were like hipsters now except with less hair and self-consciousness and more of a Charlie Sheen sheen.
- 50 Shades of Grey. If I were re-writing this book now I’d call it 50 Sharts Were Grey.
I was never into ‘The Secret’ but I confess that years before ‘The Secret’ existed I used a similar idea to quit smoking.
A lot of my friends were smokers, and for a time I played in a band where everyone smoked except for the singer, Mel. Mel just didn’t smoke. It wasn’t an issue anyone thought twice about, but I noticed that when we were all hanging out, the three smokers would smoke more than usual, because, y’know, rock n roll!!, but Mel never wavered, because she was a non-smoker.
In my years of trying to quit, I was a “reformed smoker” or a person “quitting”. When I finally nailed it, I pictured myself as just like Mel. If someone offered me a cigarette, or people headed outside to light up, or one of those circles of cool people formed on the periphery of a party because they were all hanging out smoking and being “cool,” I stopped consulting with myself – “Am I allowed just one?” Or “Is this the moment I start smoking again?” The option to smoke no longer existed because I had visualised myself as a non-smoker. The non-smoker doesn’t ask herself, “Should I have a ciggie?” She just doesn’t (BTW, you can still hang with your mates while they smoke. They don’t mind).
A new study published in Self & Identity helps explain the science behind this, but put simply, if you picture yourself as a healthy eater, you’re more likely to eat healthily!
It sounds stupidly obvious but in the test group they had women think of themselves as, for example, “Fruit Includer”, or “Homemade Meal Maker”. Compared with the control group over a six week period, the test group maintained better eating habits and interestingly, reported ongoing success in their improved diets.
The message here is, if you want to make small changes, tell yourself they’re already in place and believe it. It’s no great secret.
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