Tag Archives: emotional

3 Ways to Immediately Live a More Fulfilling Life

westie painting leftoversHave you ever thought to yourself, “there must be more to this life?”

There is. You just have to figure out what it is.

Stop living your life absentmindedly, going through the motions, and self-medicating with food, alcohol, or illegal drugs. Stop hating your life each morning, swearing under your breath as you brush your teeth. Stop yelling at your spouse or kids because you are so stressed at work and stop being disgusted with yourself. The time to act is now. Grab a pen and piece of paper, and find out what you need in your life to be happier.

1. Do what you love. Stop what you don’t.

There’s no point wasting your time being miserable. Focus on what you enjoy in your life and make a strong effort to replace time-wasting activities with activities and hobbies that make you smile or lose track of time.

DO: Try drawing in a sketchpad, painting on a canvas, reading a good book, hand-writing in a pretty journal, taking pictures with a real camera (not your iphone), going outside and laying in the grass. What makes you happy? Munching on chips probably makes you (temporarily) happy, but choose a more spiritually rewarding or creative task. The key is to replace a negative aspect of your life (what is harming some aspect of your life in any way, big or small, literally, morally, spiritually, or mentally), with something constructive and positive.

STOP: Get rid of mindless web surfing, bad television show-watching, sitting on the couch, sleeping in, toxic friends, smoking, over-consumption of alcohol or indulging in high-caloric food, social media….and anything else that bring no worth to your pleasure or career, things that give you anxiety or are tedious, and things that are not critical to your life and have no sense being in it.

Consciously remove yourself from that negative situation (caught yourself in front of daytime TV again?). If you cannot leave the room or environment (you hate your job, but you need to pay bills? See number two), use some quick relaxation exercises to calm yourself down and bring yourself in the present moment mentally. Stop shutting out your emotions and realize what behaviors or feelings are bringing you to desire this harmful activity.

Example: I mindlessly surf Facebook when I am bored.
What is at the root of this activity? What am I feeling? Boredom.
Why do I feel bored? Because I have no one to talk to, and I feel lonely. Because I can’t sleep, so I’ve logged onto the computer to waste time and distract myself.
What am I distracting myself from? My current financial situation.

This example shows how to write out and get to the root of your stress/worries that is causing the negative behavior. Free-write uninterrupted until you hit the gold-mine.

The next step, of course, is to figure out proactive ways to solve your problems. But first:

  • Remove yourself from the situation.
  • Calm yourself down and get back in the present. Realize why you are doing this behavior.
  • Physically get up, change gears, and begin doing the activity you’d rather be doing — the one that brings you joy, is productive and creative, and more fulfilling to your life.
  • Keep consciously changing gears until you replace the bad habit completely.
  • Feel infinitely better and more creative.

2. Get a job you love – the smart way.

It is easy for self-help books and blogs to say, “if you don’t like your job, QUIT.” But seriously, we all need to pay the bills. Sometimes the only job out there is one that is mind-numbing, below your pay rate or skill levels, or has a horrible and stressful work environment or co-workers. The smart way to do this is to look for your dream job — on the side. Keep your job for the necessities in life: utilities, rent/mortgage payments, car payments, gas, food, clothes, and insurance. But when you’re out of work, fill an hour or so per week hunting down that job. Update your resume, make an account on Linked In or SnagaJob, search Indeed or Monster for open positions, practice job interview questions. Glassdoor is a great resource for getting the inside scoop on job interviews, salary levels, and workplace satisfaction. Discover companies in your area and contact them.

Make a deadline for when you would like to quit. If you find it hard to work without pressure, type your letter of resignation now, and seal it in an envelope addressed to your manager. Bring it to your manager in the two weeks before your previously chosen last day.

Note: you may be tempted to find a job and rush in there, tell off your boss and stick up the middle finger and waltz out the door. DON’T. Remain professional and civil, and you will keep a reference for your future jobs. Also, most managers will not provide a positive reference to your employers if you do not provide the two-weeks-notice or more; please see your employee handbook for specific information for your job. Do not lose out on your reference, especially if you’ve been at the job for more than six months. Consider this a stepping stone to your true job.

If your employment relationship includes either an explicit or implied contract that says you must give two weeks notice of resignation and you don’t, your employer might have the right to take punitive action. For example, your employer might legally have the right to deny you termination benefits, such as accrued vacation pay. (source)

You may consider taking this hour or so every week to contribute your time to starting the business you’ve always dreamed of (see youngentrepreneur.com), starting a website to monetize/sell products/blog, or advertise for handy man work or cleaning positions on your local Craigslist. These side endeavors, with some hard work, and time/money investments (dependent on the nature of the project), will lead to a decent side income or may even a replacement to your paid-per-hour or salary job position. (See SmartPassiveIncome.com)

3. Be a constant learner.

A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study.
~Chinese Proverb

One of the greatest joys of life is that there is much to be learned — everyday. Seek out opportunities to learn something. Whether it’s a new word (like this one), a new language (great list of free language learning tools and sites), a program (like Photoshop), or something extremely out of your element (for me, it’s politics), the most fulfilling life is one that is full of constant learning. Here are just a few amazing online free resources.

  • Khan Academy – online courses/videos.
  • W3Schools – learn HTML, Javascript, CSS, ASP, PHP, etc.
  • Codecademy – interactive code-learning program for beginners.
  • Reddit.com – millions of amazing subreddits with opportunities to learn everyday with user-uploaded content and interesting debates like r/psychology, r/science, or this question/answer format r/IAmA (posters claim they are some interesting person, prove it, and answer reader’s questions). You can literally search anything and they will most likely have a reddit for it.
  • Tell me why? – random tidbits of knowledge and facts in a blog format.
  • DumbLittleMan has this great list of free online resources for learning something new everyday.
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Why You Eat When You’re Sad

This is an extension of the post I did a few days ago called How to Stop Emotional Eating – For Good. Emotional eating can take many forms, but most people can probably agree that it is when you are sad that the cravings for cookies and ice cream start calling. I wanted to do a more in depth exploration of why this happens, and of course, ways to help overcome it.

Stress.

The number one reason we will eat is due to the stress that negative emotions cause us, especially sadness. Most times, stress goes hand in hand with depression and can either be a symptom or a factor in being sad. When we’re stressed, our bodies release the hormone cortisol, which creates cravings for unhealthy foods and stores these extra calories in the belly, the visceral fat region which is a danger zone for heart attacks. Some people also feel the need to soothe their oral fixation caused by anxiety or any other emotion, which can be soothed by the repetitive motion of picking up handfuls of food into the mouth.

So how to reduce stress? There’s plenty of techniques, but here’s just a few to get you started:

  • Meditation – it sounds corny, but it really does work. Search around for some meditation videos on YouTube like this one or this one, and lay down face up (or however you’re most comfortable) with arms down your side and preferably headphones on. Listen to the music, or the music with guided meditation (helps with imagery). A good meditation session will leave you less stressed and relaxed like you’ve just woken for a nap.
  • Nap – if the meditation isn’t your thing, then you can take an actual nap. It doesn’t quite solve anything, but it does help you to sleep on some hard decisions.
  • Deep breathing – breathe deeply through your nose for about 5 seconds, hold for just a sec, and slowly release through your mouth for about 5-10 seconds. Do this for a couple of minutes, especially at moments of high stress, and see how you feel.
  • Yoga – yoga is another thing that’s not for everyone, but if you like it, you’ll love it. You can also do some basic stretching (not yoga-y) while using the deep breathing technique to really reap the benefits. You can do a quick pose when you’re feeling stressed at the office, or you can do it every time you wake up (and do the Sun Salutation).

Numb or Distract Ourselves.

Going back to the pain/pleasure principles discussed in the How to Stop Emotional Eating – For Good article, people don’t like to feel pain and will instinctively find any way to stop pain and increase pleasure. This often includes distracting ourselves from difficult news or emotions. Food is a way to distract ourselves from the pain and to induce pleasure with the chemicals and sugars found in foods. The repetitive act of eating is soothing, as well as the sensations of food which cut off our thoughts.

Habits/Learned Associations, such as from Childhood.

Most moms can admit to using an ice cream cone as a pick-me-up for their children when they get a minor injury, such as falling off a bike. However, if used enough times, the child can learn to associate good feelings with food. Food is seen as the way to make the pain go away, or to stop crying. Maybe moms should start using carrots instead of cupcakes, and the world will be a better place 🙂 Ahh, but even though this may be an ingrained response from childhood, it is fairly simple to unlearn the association. One way is fear – imagine spiders and other gross things on your favorite junk food item or literally throw dirt on your junk food item before you’re about to eat it (a waste of food yes, but for an important point). Or as soon as you feel a craving for that specific treat, such as ice cream, pinch your wrist very hard. Soon you will learn to associate the junk food with pain.

As an example: One time I spent far too much time on Youtube watching gross videos about decaying animals, just for the curiosity of how flies and maggots play the role in the circle of life. I had also watched a fascinating time lapse of all kinds of fruit decaying and molding in a bowl. Unfortunately, the next day my sister gave me a cherry to eat, and I literally could not stomach the thought of eating that cherry. It disgusted me to look at the fruit and be reminded of that video. So it can be done. Next time I’ll try to find something about ice cream.

Ignoring the Larger Problem(s).

This is related to numbing/distraction, but usually the problem is far worse than normal thoughts throughout the day. Perhaps you have a dark secret that even yourself cannot bear to think about – do you have a sudden urge to eat potato chips or the like? Some people hide their disparity about their failing marriages or their cheating husbands by gorging on food at night because they can no longer cry about it, or the food helps them ignore the problem. This is when it is time to see a professional, to uproot these issues. Being raped or molested is another huge reason girls will overeat, as a way to provide a buffer so that they won’t be noticed by predators. Short of seeing a therapist, which is highly recommended (especially if you’re eating to cover up feelings about serious depression or suicidal/harmful thoughts), you can try these things:

  • Journal! Write it out, and tackle your feelings head on. Write a story about it, in third person if you must, and share it with someone. Chances are there are a lot of people who can relate, too. Sharing makes it easier to go through the experience.
  • Pick up a creative hobby to do instead of eating. Can’t write or talk about it? Try drawing or painting. You don’t have to be good at it, just do it for the therapy.
  • Try CBT therapy on your own. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a technique that many therapists are skilled in. You can try a simplified version by yourself, if you’d like: CBT’s goal is to find out the reasoning behind your behaviors and to try to alter your thinking patterns and inspire better behaviors. For example, your undesired behavior is that you eat too much, and your cognitive functioning is that you eat because you’re sad. Write out why you do this, and find the real problems. If you’re crying, or it feels hard, then you’ve found the real reasons. Once you’ve pin-pointed the thoughts that are making you do this behavior, then it’s time to find out how to change those thoughts and therefore your behavior. Whenever you think a negative thought, change it into a positive. Work on your self esteem. Change your surroundings so that you can change your problem. And then you can also consciously work on changing your behavior. The two are related, so you’ll start seeing improvement both ways. It’s usually a long, difficult and drawn out process – which is why professional help is recommended. I’ll write a post more about CBT later, however.
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How To Stop Emotional Eating – For Good

Eat Eat Eat Me... Hunger is a basic sensation that all creatures feel and respond to with the appropriate action: to eat. Hunger stems from the very basic idea of stimulus and response as well as the pain principle. The body realizes that there is a lack of nutrients caused by an empty stomach. The body then releases chemicals that inflicts an uncomfortable feeling of emptiness, weakness, and desire to eat (called appetite). The body searches for food to stop this discomfort. This then additionally becomes motivation – a call to action.

So hunger is already very complicated, even in the state of nature. Operating on biology, chemistry, motivation, the pain principle, and the most basic behavioral psychology of stimulus and response. This is important to understand. For a more thorough explanation, click here.

The pain principle – we don’t like feeling pain. It is a natural self preservation tool used to survive in the state of nature. Hunger pangs, terrible contractions of discomfort which begin 12-24 hours after not eating, can be so painful that it is difficult to concentrate on anything else. Add to this state the decreased level of blood sugar and general feeling of lightheadedness and anxiety, and hunger can be almost unbearable. Most people living in developed countries rarely feel real hunger pangs because they are able to eat at normal intervals – every 3-4 hours or so. However, the biological response is still rampant, and once the first sign of discomfort hits, many people instinctively race to stop the pain.

Motivation – The most basic ideas of motivation stems from the pain and pleasure principles. There are two types of motivation – extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic is when we are motivated by external things, like a piece of cake, when then stirs a biological response. Intrinsic motivation is internal, and could be anything from a thought or a memory that triggers the same biological response. Motivation is the desire to act to accomplish a goal or fulfill a need, such as eating or sleeping

Behavioral psychology – the most basic theories of behavioral psychology stem from the stimulus and response theory. A stimulus is noticed, a response follows due to that stimulus. The stimulus could be anything – a rabbit sees movement in the bushes, and flees to escape a preconceived notion of danger. the rabbit knew to flee because last time she saw movement in the bushes, a snake came out and lunged at her. The fear response kicked in from seeing the stimulus and caused her to flee. Now the rabbit knows that whenever she sees movement in the bushes, that she must run to avoid getting eaten. In humans this could transfer over to almost anything. The alarm clock makes an annoying buzzer sound, you shut it off and get out of bed. The commercial shows a delicious looking cheeseburger, you decide to buy from that restaurant that night.

What does this have to do with emotional eating? Everything.

When we eat, it is meant to fulfill a need. In nature, this need is strictly biological. We eat to stop the hunger pangs, and we eat to gain nutrition and to feel satiated. As a complex society, hunger means something completely different. We eat because we’re hungry, yes, but we eat for other reasons, too. We eat because we are bored. We eat because we are tired. Angry. Frustrated. Stressed. Sad. Annoyed. Happy.

Eating just got so much more complicated. Eating is no longer just a necessity, it is a social function. Eating is everywhere, at funerals, weddings, work meetings, movie theatres, and eating is shared as a community. Eating is also done after buying or cooking the food, not after hunting or gathering for hours or days. Eating is an easy task, and we don’t even have to cook at all to eat – we just pay other people to. Eating is done on purpose, and it is done as a social obligation. It is also done absentmindedly, when one is not paying full attention.

How do we stop emotional eating for good? We start paying attention.

  • Next time you eat, take note of the time and how you felt right before eating. Note how hungry you felt (on a scale of 1-5) and your mood.
  • Then write down exactly what you ate, including portion sizes and beverages. Note the time when you are finished.

Do this for a day, or a few days, to get a better view, and then sit down in a quiet spot and take a good, hard look. Do you notice any patterns of eating when not particularly hungry (at a score of 1 or 2), or only waiting to eat until you are starving (5) and then eating a large amount in one sitting? How about your mood? Do you eat when you are happy, sad, or mad? How long does it take you to eat? If you are eating in less than 5 minutes, then you are waiting too long to eat, or you eat too fast and don’t feel satisfied because you don’t notice what you are eating. The general rule is that the body needs 20 minutes before it realizes that it is full.

  • If you are not eating when you are hungry, wait until you feel like you’re at a 3-4 before eating. Consciously force yourself to wait until you feel physically hungry. Don’t just eat because it is a certain time of the day (“lunch time”) or because that’s when you’re friends are eating.
  • If you are waiting until you are at a 4-5, find out why you wait until you’re starving until you eat. Do you have a pattern of eating large meals in-between longer periods of time? Do you, for one reason or another (which you should find out and write down), skip meals?

Steps to Stop Emotionally Eating

If you are eating when you are sad/depressed/angry, catch yourself the next time you realize what you are doing. Stop yourself in your tracks and ask yourself, are you really, physically hungry? Do you need to eat to gain fuel and nutrition, or do you feel sad and need to distract yourself with food?

Physically remove yourself from the eating area and go somewhere else where no food is allowed. Stay there for at least 20-30 minutes, if not more.

Bring something to do, such as a journal to write in, polish to paint your nails, or a favorite book to read. Keep a stash of things to do and keep them around you so that whenever the feeling strikes you, you can distract yourself.

Do this every single time you find yourself eating when in a depressed state. Soon the process will become automatic, and you will disengage the link of [sad + food] to [sad + something else]. 

A lot of people have found that writing is the most helpful, so that they can write out their feelings and get it off their chests and away from their minds. But you can pick anything that is not food and that is ideally creative and constructive, not destructive. Find something that you genuinely love to do and find yourself getting lost in.

List of things to Do Instead of Eating

  • write a poem
  • write a short story
  • draw a picture of yourself
  • draw a picture of your pet
  • make a list of things you love about yourself
  • make a list of your goals and how you’re going to reach them
  • watch your favorite movie
  • watch a new movie
  • play a video game
  • find an online game to play
  • write a letter (real or online) to a friend
  • call a friend
  • go to the movies and skip the snack line
  • go to the mall and just walk around the area, avoiding the food court
  • go to a new park and walk around or enjoy the view
  • go to the beach and read in the sun
  • go play tennis
  • go read a book
  • write a book
  • paint a picture
  • go through your closet and organize your clothes
  • clean your entire room
  • listen to music really loud and dance in your room
  • talk a walk around the block with your dog or a friend/family member
  • start a blog or website
  • talk to people on forums
  • play with your pet
  • use stumbleupon to find interesting new sites
  • go through your photos and re-organize them or make a scrapbook
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