When it comes to your health, self-care, relationships, your happiness and wellbeing, there’s only one thing that drives it all – yes, the link is what you think.

Try to imagine an emotion – happiness, sadness, worry, calm, fear, anger, love – without a thought first creating it. It can’t be done. Every emotion you have first begins in your head.

So when a young man who was having difficulty sustaining his exercise program recently contacted me to discuss his lack of motivation, naturally the first place we collaboratively explored was what he was thinking about working out. And to do so thoroughly, we relied upon the lens provided by David Burns. MD in 1980 bestseller, Feeling good: The new mood therapy http://www.amazon.com/Feeling-Good-The-Mood-Therapy/dp/0380810336

You see, creating a positive approach to exercise – or eating healthy, achieving success, being productive or any healthy lifestyle goal – doesn’t ordinarily come naturally. It’s a decision you make, daily. When you get your mindset moving in the right direction, so will your life. I have yet to see someone, in my 40 years of practice as a psychotherapist and transformational behavior coach, who has not created his/her own obstacles when it comes to living an optimally healthy lifestyle.

So when my colleague at the University of Pennsylvania, David Burns, came out with his list of cognitive distortions decades ago, it disrupted the way we collaboratively helped people begin to change their mindset and move towards success in the goals they created. Step one is to recognize the lens through which you are looking at, let’s say, working out (but it can be any endeavor of life). Read through the list below and see if any sound familiar to you. Do any of these sound like what floats in your head?

1 All-or-nothing thinking: You look at things in absolute, black-and-white categories.
“If I can’t do ALL of the reps in the set, I’m not cut out to do ANY exercise.”
2 Overgeneralization: You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
“Since I couldn’t get the lunges right today, I’ll NEVER be good at them.”
3 Mental filter: You dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives.
“I may have been able to hold a plank for 30 seconds but so what? I can’t do a single leg glute bridge at all!”
4 Discounting the positives: You insist that your accomplishments or positive qualities “don’t count.”
“BIG DEAL…I walked on the treadmill for 30 minutes. That’s nothing.”
5 Jumping to conclusions: (a) Mind reading — you assume that people are reacting negatively to you when there’s no evidence for this. (b) Fortune-telling — you arbitrarily predict that things will turn out badly.
“I CAN TELL that you think I’m doing a lousy job.”
“I KNOW THAT I’LL fall and hurt myself in these plyometric jumps you want me to do”
6 Emotional reasoning: You reason from how you feel:
“I FEEL LIKE I look like an idiot doing these reverse flyes with supine 90-90s, so I must really be one.” Or “I don’t feel like exercising today, so I’ll put it off.”
7 “Should” statements: You criticize yourself with “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts.” “Musts,” “oughts,” and “have-tos” are similar offenders.
“I SHOULD BE ABLE to do a kneeling overhead toss without falling over.”
8 Labeling: You identify with your shortcomings. Instead of saying “I made a mistake,” you tell yourself “I’M SUCH A JERK,” or “a fool” or “a loser.”
“I dropped the barbell when I was doing a bent-over barbell row – UGH I’M SUCH A JERK AND A LOSER!”
9. Magnification or minimization: You blow things way up out of proportion or you shrink their importance inappropriately.
“OMG that set KILLED ME!” or “Skipping working out is NOT THAT IMPORTANT.”
10. Personalization and blame: You blame yourself for something you weren’t entirely responsible for, or you blame other people and overlook ways that your own attitudes and behavior might contribute to a problem.
“Hey I’m so SORRY I RUINED THE GROUP’S WORKOUT today.” “I can’t stand working out with those people…THEY DESTROY MY CONCENTRATION!”

Next, ask yourself if there’s any degree of truth to your thoughts? Believing these irrational, erroneous thoughts cause you to suffer, let alone stay away from your goals. You are not your thoughts. You can tell if your thoughts are false if you feel sabotaged, or feel badly or don’t like the emotion you feel.
Then, reject those thoughts. After all what would you tell a friend about those thoughts if s/he were carrying them around derailing life’s joys and health?

Finally replace the thoughts with those that are more accurate, logical, and factual, that promotes and advances you towards your goals. Replacing these erroneous inaccurate thoughts, choosing to be positive, will determine how you live your life going forward.

The more you talk negatively to yourself and about yourself, the more you call that into your life and you talk yourself out of your happiness, health, career advancement, even going to the gym. Speak in terms of victory, not defeat and watch your life take off – and those abs turn into the six packs you’ve been talking yourself out of ever having.

Author's Bio: 

Michael R. Mantell earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.S. at Hahnemann Medical College, where he wrote his thesis on the psychological aspects of obesity. His career includes serving as the Chief Psychologist for Children’s Hospital in San Diego, and as the founding Chief Psychologist for the San Diego Police Department. He also served on the faculty of UCSD’s School of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry.

After retiring from practicing clinical psychology for 40 years, he has become a highly sought after transformational behavior coach and power mentor for professional and elite amateur athletes, senior executive business leaders, and trains the nation’s top leaders in fitness in transformational leadership. He has worked in the media for nearly 40 years, appearing on every major talk and news show, and has been interviewed in, and written for, every major health and fitness magazine.
Michael is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Council on Active Aging, the Chief Consultant for Behavior Science for the Premier Fitness Camp at Omni La Costa, and served as the Senior Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for the American Council on Exercise.

Michael is an Organizational Advisor to Fitwall, Rock My Run, amSTATZ, Outburst Mobile, and speaks regularly for Rancho La Puerta and the Asia Fitness Conference in Bangkok, in addition to numerous other fitness-health organizations throughout the nation. He has been a keynote speaker for the University of California’s system wide “FitCon” and for UCLA’s “Stress Less Week” as well as for the Transformational Leadership Council.

He is a best-selling author of three books including the 25th Anniversary updated edition of his 1988 original “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, P.S. It’s All Small Stuff,” and his 1996, “Ticking Bombs: Defusing Violence in the Workplace.” He is listed in greatist.com’s 2013 “The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.” His fourth book is due out soon.