Why “Should-ing” Doesn’t Work

As adults, we all know what we “should” do to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to take the best care of ourselves.  Eat your veggies and nutrient-dense foods, exercise, get 8 hours of sleep, engage in stress-reduction activities (yoga, meditation, prayer), have meaningful social connections, and limit your alcohol intake.  According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to 1 drink/day for women and up to 2 drinks/day for men.  (Of note: The Dietary Guidelines do not recommend that people who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason.)

We know exactly what we “should” do.  If that is the case, then why don’t we do it and stick to it?

When you do things from a place of “I should”, it feels negative, like guilt or shame.  This negative space or energy is not helping our brain generate feelings of motivation or inspiration.  Our brains begin to focus on the guilt and shame of not doing the activity in the past.  These thoughts keep us past-focused.  And staying past-focused keeps us reliving our past which got us the results we have now in our life.

With future-focused thoughts we allow our brains to generate positive energy and feelings that will get us moving in the direction of our goal.

The solution: Change these “I should” thoughts to something more future-focused.

With future-focused thoughts we allow our brains to generate positive energy and feelings that will get us moving in the direction of our goal.  Instead of thinking, “I should cut back to 1 drink”, focus on the future person you want to be and change the thought to something that works for you.  By recognizing that the action you are taking now affects your future self, your brain now sees the situation in a different light.

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