Teddy Roosevelt On Personal Responsibility

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was truly an American original. Despite being born in extreme3163451_orig wealth in he year 1858, Roosevelt knew suffering and hardship. He suffered from ill health, almost dying multiple times as a child from asthma. He entered his teenage years at about 90 pounds, was forced to wear thick eyeglasses because of his terrible vision, and was the epitome of what later became known as the “97 pound weakling.” His father, Theodore Roosevelt Sr., was worried that  despite the family’s affluence, he wouldn’t be able to protect his son indefinitely. By age 13 his father had him embarking on a regimen of physical fitness that included daily exercise, weight training and, after young Teddy took an embarrassing beating from two bullies, boxing. By the time Teddy entered Harvard University in 1876, he had built himself into a remarkable physical specimen. Upon leaving New York for Boston his father advised him to, “Take care of your morals first, your health, and finally your studies.”

Roosevelt was married for the first time on his 22nd birthday. Two years later his wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, died in childbirth, and 11 hours later Roosevelt’s mother, Mittie, died of typhoid fever. In typical Roosevelt fashion, he went through a period of deep depression for a period of approximately a month, emerging from it with resolve to do the best he could with what he had.

“People are doing the best they can with the resources they have available.”- Unknown

This quote, from an unknown author, is one that is quite frequently dismissed by those who hear it. I’m not sure where I first heard it, possibly from my mother growing up, or from some of the nuns that taught me in elementary school. I do know that, for most of my life, I didn’t believe it. Almost 20 years ago I had a career change and became a practicing counselor and psychotherapist. As part of my job I have interviewed thousands of people, and spent countless hours asking them probing questions about their motivation. I’ve come to the conclusion that the above statement is, more often than not, pretty accurate. I’ve also, much like Teddy Roosevelt, concluded that the biggest challenge anyone can have in life is to take personal responsibility, as much as possible, for their life and their behavior, regardless of their circumstances.

I’ve interviewed a everything from doctors, lawyers, ministers, murderers, prostitutes, hands_1496899c     and white-collar criminals. Many of them will admit in the solitude of a counseling session that they have done some pretty terrible things while trying to cope with some pretty horrific circumstances. The common thread in most of these behaviors is that, at the time, what they did seemed like a good idea, or at least the best choice they had in the moment. The therapeutic challenge in working with such people is to present them with better options and choices. For some, these choices are presented through the careful give and take and introspection of psychotherapy. For others, the best course of action is the legal system or the natural consequences of their behaviors. The reality is that some people’s minds are wired in such a way that criminal behavior does not result in feelings of guilt, shame, or remorse. I’ve seen it in clients and it’s pretty scary. In some instances the behavioral control provided by the legal system is the only way to correct dangerous behaviors. Other times, the client has to fail a number of times and learn from the natural consequences of bad choices. In both cases however, the statement is true. Regardless of how bizarre it may seem to most of us, they believe they are doing the best they can and making the best choice available to them at the time.

The point here is to take the two similar quotes, one from Theodore Roosevelt and the other from some unknown sage, and find some practical application. In times of crisis, overwhelm, and despair, we would all do well to break down Roosevelt’s advice and try to follow it to the best of our ability. Quite often, when life gets a little overwhelming, we ask ourselves questions that disempower us and make the situation worse than it needs to be. “Why me,? Why now,? What’s next,? Now what,?” are just some of the kinds of instinctual thoughts we have, or are things that we say silently or out loud. This normal human reaction, however, needs to be nipped in the bud as soon as these thoughts are recognized. If you examine most of the automatic negative thoughts that you have in a crisis situation, you’ll probably find that most are disempowering and counterproductive. The key is to ask yourself questions that empower, rather than disempower, allowing you to do the best you can, with what you have, where you are.

Self-help guru, Tony Robbins, often states that the quality of our life is determined, to a large degree, from the kind of questions that we ask ourselves. In order to problem solve more efficiently, we have to ask ourselves better questions. Self imposed questions should be focused on solutions, rather than the current negative situation that you find yourself in. The first step is acceptance of your current situation or negative emotion. Please note that acceptance does not mean rolling over and playing dead, (See http://mindbodycoach.org/acceptance-true-wisdom/ ), it simply means not going into denial. Acceptance places you in the “where you are,” portion of Roosevelt’s advice. It means you recognize and acknowledge the current, unpleasant situation.

Better quality questions tend to be solution focused. “How can this be resolved?” “Who or what might be able to help me with this?” “Where can I get information and help to deal with this?” It’s often quite helpful to sit down with a pen and a notebook and put these thoughts down on paper, literally creating a roadmap to get yourself out of the situation or to solve the problem. Sometimes, the exercise allows you to notice that you are overreacting, in the moment, to a situation that is not going to be a big deal in a day, month, or a year. Asking yourself some questions and putting those random, disjointed thoughts on paper, often allows you to realize that the solution is to simply let go of your emotional attachment in a “this, too, shall pass” manner. If you are more visual, then drawing a picture, chart, or a diagram to assist is often helpful. It is important that, when asking yourself these questions, you write down your thoughts in some way, as this leads to a clarity of thought and objectivity that is not available to you through self talk. This activity emphasizes the “what you have” portion of Roosevelt’s advice.

The final phase of this activity is to implement a plan of action. Things don’t always go according to plan, so be flexible. Be willing to change the process while maintaining focus on the goal. The idea is to problem solve, not stick to a rigid plan that isn’t working. Be willing to adjust and change your methodology. “Do the best you can,” and accept responsibility for the outcome. The outcome may not be perfect, but all you can control is your effort.

We humans are great at comparing our situation to that of others. We often believe that if we are doing as well, or better, than someone else, then our lives are okay. There’s no shortage in the world of people doing bizarre, stupid, and even criminal activities that the Internet and news sources make available to us at the twitch of a finger. We wonder why or how someone could do that and then go away thinking that we are doing the best we can. Ironically, in many ways, those weirdos that are out there are doing the best that they can too. (See http://mindbodycoach.org/people/ )

Next time your waist deep in life’s alligators, consider Roosevelt’s advice, and next time History_Ultimate-Guide-to-the-Presidents_The-Talented-Mr-Roosevelt_SF_NEW_HD_still_624x352you find yourself making judgments about others, remember that they are probably doing the best they can as well.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena..” – Theodore Roosevelt



P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

‘Tis The Season : Holiday Survival 101

“Sing we joyous, all together, Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Heedless of the wind and weather, Fa la la la la, la la la la la la la la” – from Deck the Halls

We are well into the holiday season, and the mindless rush toward the end of the year. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus doesn’t matter, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s a time of the year that takes many ancient, religious traditions and adds them to our calendar with the intention of reminding us what is important before another year ends, a time to focus and reflect on our values, family, friends, and what we are all about. Sort of like a post game wrapup for another year. In theory, it should be putting us into a better position for an improved 2015. Yeah, right…images

The reality of this time of year, for most of us, is that our stressors actually increase and we are more stressed out than at any other time of the year. We have more internal and external pressures imposed upon us, and you may find yourself saying, “I can’t wait till this is all over.” We often vow that we are not going to buy into the holiday commercialism, but much like that junior high dance, (you know, the one where you said there was no way you were dancing?), you find yourself out on the floor mindlessly thrashing around with everyone else. And, you also probably found yourself pretty annoyed that the commercialism begins the day after Halloween. But, after you declare “That’s ridiculous,” you find yourself in the mix with everyone else. By the time that day you celebrate with your tribe arrives, you’ve pretty much had it.

All of us have to realize that, if we have any kind of relationships with anyone, there are going to be indexcompromises that we must make during the holiday season. Our children, wives, significant others, and friends all will demand some of our time and attention. This is the real reason for the season, so we need to be sure that we attend to this. There is only so much energy and enthusiasm that most of us have for partying, so use your partying muscles wisely. Do you really need to go all in for that holiday party at work? More importantly, should you? Do you really want to get stuffed, drunk, and stupid with the people from shipping and receiving or the marketing department? If you do, great, just be careful that it doesn’t burn out the energy and enthusiasm that you might have for those that are more important to you.

Any good survival plan, whether it’s in the Amazon Jungle or coping with the holiday season, starts with you. I’ve written about this in the past, (see http://mindbodycoach.org/lessons-american-history/ ), but it bears repeating here. Getting through the holiday season sanely can be distilled down to three basic points to keep in mind:
⦁ Attitude-Check your attitude by asking yourself some honest questions. What’s my attitude? Before going into the local mall for shopping, that office party that you don’t want to go to, or that Yankee swap that you’ve been pressured into participating in, ask yourself, “What is my attitude?” Am I positive, negative, looking forward to this, or going into this with feelings of dread and impending doom? If your attitude is not good, then change it to the degree that you can. If your attitude towards something is a poor one, then don’t over think or over analyze your situation. Just do what you need to do in the most mindful, in the moment, manner that you can. Remember, those uncomfortable, awkward moments are fleeting. Don’t allow yourself to wallow in the negativity of a bad attitude.
⦁ Energy-Check your energy levels frequently throughout the holiday season. It’s always a good idea to keep your energy levels in check, but it is even more important to do this during times of stress. By energy, we are referring to physical as well as mental energy. Keep your physical energy in check by attending to proper sleep, diet, and exercise. Many people have a tendency to let these things slide between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. This tendency, probably more than any other factor, is part of the reason that many people dread the holidays. If you do not have physical energy in the tank, then of course you’re not going to be bringing a positive attitude towards anything, let alone fawning over that holiday fruitcake that your sister-in-law put in your stocking. If sleep is lacking, find the time to sneak in a nap. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/nap-nap/ ) Pay attention to your food consumption as well. Occasional binges on holiday staples such as fruitcakes, gingerbread men, and other assorted treats is part of the deal. Just be sure that you are also consuming quality proteins, are consuming enough water, and are not over indulging on alcohol. Nothing will sap your energy faster than lack of sleep and a hangover.
⦁ Focus-During these stressful times, ask yourself, “What am I paying attention to? Where is the focus of my attention? What thoughts am I dwelling on?” What you focus on becomes your reality. If you go into that holiday party at work after spending two straight days telling yourself that it’s going to “really suck,” then of course it’s going to “really suck.” If you adopt a wait-and-see attitude going into it, and focus on the present moment while you are there, you’ll probably find that it wasn’t so bad after all. If you are a parent, then try not to focus so much on your children’s behavior during the holiday season. Don’t stress if your kids get cranky, nagging, or demanding at times during the season. Chalk it up to visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. If you have teenagers, is it really a disaster if your son decides to wear that concert T-shirt with the flaming skulls on it to a family gathering? It will be if that becomes the focus of your attention. If it’s not a big deal to you, then it’s not something that’s going to cause you stress.

One of the most positive things you can do to keep your attitude, energy, and focus sharp during the holiday season is to keep up with your regular regimen of exercise. If you are not able to do your usual workouts, don’t make it an all or nothing proposition. If, for example, you are a three times per week cardio person, then squeezing in walks outdoors whenever you can will keep you on track. If you train with weights at the gym, then a vigorous routine with calisthenics and body weight training at home, when you can work some in, may provide a refreshing change in your routine. If yoga or martial arts are your thing, then clear out some space in your family room and get yourself in motion. Bruce Lee believed in home workouts, so I don’t think your routine will suffer too much.

Keep in mind the Hallmark phrase, “Reason for the Season.” Whether your interpretation is a religious,happyEnding spiritual, or a familial one is entirely up to you. Keep your attitude, energy, and focus in check, and enjoy the holidays like you did when you were a kid.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas



P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

Bigger Body, Smaller Brain: The Weight – Dementia Link

In the 21st century, virtually everyone is aware of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and maintaining an ideal bodyweight. Most people try to maintain an ideal weight for cosmetic reasons, others for health reasons, and others because they want to live longer to be available for their family and their friends. If indexyou are a health conscious person, then once a year your primary care physician remind you are the benefits of optimum weight on your blood pressure, cholesterol count, blood sugar, and a variety of other “numbers.” What your doctor is probably not telling you is that being overweight is also wreaking havoc on your brain.

It appears that as a person’s weight rises towards obesity, brain size goes in the opposite direction. Numerous neurological studies have shown, for reasons unknown, there is a connection between being overweight and smaller brain size, brain shrinkage, and corresponding loss of brain functioning. A study done at UCLA showed that compared to people of normal body weight, overweight people have 8% less brain tissue than their peers of normal weight. This is not an insignificant difference and overweight people are at considerably higher risk for all brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s and dementia. People who were merely overweight had brains that looked 8 years older than normal, and people in the obese category range had brains that looked 16 years older. Researchers believe that these differences are not merely cosmetic. Another long term study done in Northern California of 6,500 people found that those who were overweight in their 40s experienced a far more rapid decline in brain functioning over the next few decades, and were much more likely to die of dementia in their 70s. While brain atrophy is a normal part of aging, studies indicate that being overweight accelerates the process tremendously.

Scientists are not sure why being too fat would affect the brain this way, but they have some ideas. A study done in 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences identified a possible genetic link. The gene, which they called FTO, appears to play a role in both obesity and brain functioning. They also concluded that genes are not necessarily the whole story. The gene may be affecting the brain through already well-known problems that being overweight causes, such as sleep apnea, which can lead to the brain being starved for oxygen during sleep. Other diseases associated with obesity such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes, cause immediate problems for many starting in their 40s, but also drastically increase the likelihood of developing dementia by your 70s.

Whatever is leading to the increases in incidence of dementia, it is now at epidemic proportions. By the year 2050, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is expected to quadruple, and 43% of those with the disease will need a high level of care, such as a nursing home. Part of the reason for these increased numbers is due to the fact that more of us will be living longer, but certainly maintaining optimal health in the early and middle adult years couldn’t hurt any of us. An alarming thing about the statistics is these apply only to Alzheimer’s disease, and don’t include other forms of dementia.

While there are a number of things that can be done to maintain brain health, by far the most important thing is to maintain normal body weight through a wellness program that includes proper diet, exercise, and healthy ways to manage stress. Traditional dieting is not enough. Most people when trying to lose weight deprived themselves of calories and pay little attention to nutrients, many of which are necessary for brain functioning and brain health. They also tend to look at bodyweight in terms of what shows up on a bathroom scale. Yes, the scale indicates total body weight loss, but recent studies show that only about 5% of people succeed with weight loss programs that do not include a comprehensive wellness program.

Here are some things to consider when making those lifestyle changes that will maintain your brain’s optimal health:
⦁ Food consumption-While less calories has been proven over and over in studies of brain health and longevity as being of critical importance, do not deprive yourself of proper nutrition. Diet should be well imagesbalanced and include enough quality protein in healthy fats to maintain brain functioning. Many will balk at the idea of fats in the diet, but proper consumption of healthy sources of fats through things like olive oil, coconut oil, and nuts and seeds are required to keep your brain functioning well. These can be high in calories, so adjust your total calorie consumption to compensate. Avoid salted seeds and nuts, consuming them in their raw state.
⦁ Cut back on sugar-Keep in mind that sugar also includes corn syrup and fructose. A diet that is top heavy in fruits and fruit juices can be a source of hidden sugars. Too much sugar has been shown consistently in research studies to create “brain fog,” and an accumulation of this over the years leads to the long-term problems discussed in this article.
⦁ Increase your consumption of vegetables-The typical person trying to “clean up their diet” tends to gravitate towards fruits rather than vegetables because they are easier to consume. You can simply grab an apple and eat it, whereas if you are consuming raw vegetables you may have to peel, slice, or make some other kind of concerted effort. While raw vegetables are best, increasing your amounts of cooked vegetables is a good idea as well.
⦁ Eliminate or cut back drastically on alcohol-Alcohol, or any substance that slows down brain functioning to any noticeable degree can be damaging to the brain. Obviously, an occasional use, or even overuse, of alcohol won’t have long-term impact, but keep in mind that the once a week “mild buzz” that you’ve been getting for the last few years may have an impact on brain functioning down the road.
⦁ Consider nutritional supplements-Omega-3 fish oils are the number one improvement that people should be making. Fish oil is easy to consume in tablet form, is a source of healthy fats which creates that “good cholesterol” that your primary care physician is always talking about. It also has been shown in a variety of research studies to improve levels of depression, mood regulation, and overall brain functioning. Vitamin D3 is also a must. Most of us spend far too much time indoors as opposed to our grandparents. Vitamin D3 is deficient in most people in developed nations. Like fish oils, vitamin D3 is easy to consume in tablet form, and plays an important role in neurological functioning.
⦁ Increase your consumption of water-Most of us mindlessly sip something throughout our day-coffee, tea, or soft drinks. Replacing these drinks with water is a great idea and a simple thing to introduce into your wellness program. Dehydration is a major cause of brain fog and the brief periods of emotional confusion that most of us try to resolve with a quick cup of coffee. While coffee works, water is equally good in the short run, and far better over the long haul.
⦁ Improve your sleep-Sleep is one of the most important things for overall physical and emotional wellness. Most people drastically under estimate the amount of sleep that they need. Just because you can “get by” on six hours doesn’t mean that you should. Try going to bed in the evening when you are tired, rather than pushing yourself to stay up a little longer to watch that TV show you’ve been waiting for. TiVo that sucker and go to bed. You’ll probably find an improvement in how you feel and function within a few days.
⦁ Exercise-Yeah, you knew I was going to get around this one. Any kind of exercise is preferable to none, but choose something that you enjoy and will stick with consistently. If you can, find something that you do regularly outdoors in the fresh air. If exercise has never been your thing, then take small steps like parking your car farther away from your destination, use the stairs instead of the elevator, and maybe fire your landscaper or housekeeper and start doing it yourself.
⦁ Breathe well and deeply-Learning to breathe deeply from your abdomen instead of your chest. Finding periods of time throughout your day for some deep breathing, in through the nose and out through the mouth, will increase mental alertness and energy. If you can, step outside even for a few moments to do this. Certainly, there’s no excuse not add this to your lifestyle!
⦁ Meditation-Whether meditation is formal, informal, spiritual, guided, transcendental, or merely sitting still and quiet for a few moments doesn’t matter. Finding times throughout the day to “go inside” and sit quietly calms the mind down, allowing you to function and optimal level after.

Keep in mind that of all the brain healthy hints listed above, maintaining a healthy body weight is the old women yoga pilates exercise class great shape lean active energy energetic confident benefits group boot camp older senior citizen female workout benefitsmost important, provided that your weight is maintained through a well-balanced lifestyle. Remember, your brain, more than any other factor, always determines the quality of your life. It is the most important body part to take care of.



P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

The Seven Habits Of Highly Happy People

“Habits of thinking need not to be forever. One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last 20 years is that individuals can choose the way they think.”-Martin Seligman

Despite the incredible amount of technological, medical, and societal advances of the past 50 years, many people continue to live unfulfilling lives devoid of meaning. Having access to so many things almost instantly can be somewhat overwhelming, and it can make attaining life satisfaction somewhat difficult. This is an age of instant news, instant coffee, instant breakfast, instant access, instant information, instant, instant, instant. There is an expression that you may have heard that applies to being impatient which goes, “I want what I want when I want it.” It’s kind of ironic that now that we can have what we want, when we want it, many remained dissatisfied and unfulfilled. What most people want is to be happy

What many are not aware of is that behavioral science, in the latter part of the 21st century, has happy-couple-1attempted to give people what most of us want, a source of happiness. Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania have been working to quantify what makes human beings happy. Seligman is no fly-by-night, pop psychologist. In 1998 he chose Positive Psychology as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association, the premier scientific and professional organization in the field of behavioral health. His work was meant to offset the medical model used in behavioral health, which focuses on mental health problems as a disease. He decided to take an opposite approach, rather than focusing on why people were dysfunctional or “mentally ill,” he decided to study what made people emotionally healthy and what went into emotional wellness.

Seligman and his colleagues have published thousands of well research studies on the topic of what many call the Science of Happiness. Their work can be distilled down to seven basic principles to live by. Researchers have found that happy people live more skillfully in the following areas:
⦁ Relationships-People who have one or more satisfying and close friendships tend to be happier. What they found is that a larger social network is not necessarily fulfilling, and sometimes leads to the exact opposite. This would explain why people who have 437 Facebook friends may feel socially isolated. Researchers found that it is the quality, rather than the quantity, of relationships that makes the difference for happier people. It doesn’t matter whether they are friends or relatives. What does matter is that you have people that you can go to when life hits the fan.
img_1401⦁ Kindness-Happy people tend to be other orientated, meaning that they are more likely to volunteer, do things for others, and be considerate of the feelings of other people. These kind actions do not have to be huge or grandiose, in fact they are actually better if they are the opposite. Spontaneous and small acts of kindness, performed daily and routinely, lead to greater levels of happiness.
⦁ Exercise-Happy people tend to exercise, or at least keep moving. They tend to be more active than people with low levels of happiness. Studies indicate that exercise is a distraction from negative thinking, creates positive changes in brain chemistry leading to optimism. It creates feelings of self efficacy in those that exercise and are active. Your old coach was right, action trumps reaction every time.
⦁ Flow-Happy people have activities and goals that they pursue that put them in a joyful state which positive psychologists call “flow.” The flow state is a state where someone is participating in an action or pursuing a goal that gives them great joy and satisfaction. The pursuit of this goal is, in and of itself, satisfying. People with high levels of life satisfaction tend to have hobbies and interests that consume them in a positive way. (For more on this see http://mindbodycoach.org/find-flow/)
⦁ Spirituality-Happy people tend to identify themselves with spirituality and religion. Studies have found that whether or not the religion is formal is not the primary reason for the benefit. People who are connected to religion and spirituality, organized or not, tend to enjoy greater feelings of connectedness and attach deeper meanings and interpretations to negative life events. They see their role in the universe from a wider perspective and are more insulated from feelings of despair in the face of catastrophic life events.
⦁ Strength identification-Happy people tend to have a pretty good idea of what their strong points are. While by no means are they self-centered or conceited, they do tend to know and recognize their positive qualities. This acknowledgment of their strengths creates a better sense of self-esteem, enabling them to be more resilient and self aware.
⦁ Mindset-Happy people tend to have more optimism, gratitude, and awareness. They have a tendency to spend more time in the now, and mindfully appreciating routine life events. They tend to be more optimistic, seeing the glass as half-full, appreciating life’s simpler pleasures. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/optimism-bias/)

The first step in becoming a more happy individual is to recognize where you can implement these seven principles in your own life. If you are a naturally optimistic and happy person, congratulations and stay the course. If you are not, recognizing the seven principles and applying them to your day-to-day life can create greater happiness. A period of daily reflection, where you review these seven principles and seek to apply them to events that have occurred during your day, is a great exercise to perform. Studies at the University of Pennsylvania show that if a written exercise such as this is performed for a 90 day period, it can have a beneficial and positive effect on a person’s outlook on life and their worldview.

While Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 advice, “Don’t worry be happy,” might be a little simplistic, Martin 1318197330_bobby_mcferrin_dont_worry_be_happy_4Seligman’s is not. Recognizing and applying these seven principles have been scientifically proven to lead to happiness. Give them a try and see if you notice a difference in your life.



P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

Who Does That? : Why People Do What They Do

One of the interesting phenomenons of living in the information age is the impact that the media has on our language. There are many slogans, sayings, and buzz words, that enter the language in a matter of a few months. In the last 15 years we’ve all learned to LOL, avoid TMI, and not panic when something “goes viral.” It’s almost as if there is some kind of subtle, peer pressure, and we inadvertently find ourselves using the same lingo as everyone else. All very interesting, if you can keep up with it.

“Who does that???”

I’m sure you’ve heard this expression. It doesn’t mean what it would have meant 20 years ago. It’s an b3b952a88e001103f41e0735fe675f06expression that has taken on a subtle change of meaning in the information age. It’s usually meant to be rhetorical, not really looking for a explanation. Rather, it is meant to point out the obvious. It implies that the person who did whatever “that” is has some serious problems or some mental, emotional, spiritual, or intellectual defects. It usually is applied to a situation where someone has done something so incredibly off base that normal people- whoever they are- are taken aback by the behavior. It usually refers to actions that are bizarre and extreme, such as hoarding, neglect of children and animals, disrespect of societal norms, and brazenly self-centered behaviors.

“All behavior has a positive intention.”-John Bandler

This makes the perfect addendum to “Who does that?” It doesn’t necessarily answer the question in a literal sense, but it does give the rest of us some insight into the bizarre behaviors of others. If we are indexwilling to play Columbo and ask some general questions, we can often uncover the presumed positive intention of a lot of strange and unusual behavior that the media puts in front of our face 24/7. Finding the positive intention in these bizarre, unusual, and, in some cases, criminal behaviors by no means justifies them. It merely gives us a glimpse into flawed logic, stupidity, selfishness, and mental illness. Finding the presumed positive intention always explains the behavior, but only sometimes justifies it.

If you examine your own behavior, good or bad, it’s easier to understand this principle and later apply it to others as well. For example, if you are, or ever were, a cigarette smoker, then you can get an idea of what I am talking about. Many begin smoking in late adolescence and early adulthood. It is perceived as being a way to relax, take a breath, appear confident, connect with others, and perhaps get outside and think for a moment. Smoking is by no means a healthy behavior, but those who engage in it have a positive intention. They need that break, connection, or interruption to their routine that smoking provides. Yes, it does become physically addicting, but at least initially there is a perceived benefit. People who abuse alcohol also do so with a positive intent. They are looking for the physical and mental diversion that it can provide. Those who are alcohol dependent never begin drinking with the ideas that they will become an alcoholic. Their positive intention becomes too overwhelming to resist, and they become dependent on alcohol in an attempt to get physical and emotional needs met. Even extremes of behavior, such as criminal activities, have a perceived benefit to those who are committing the crimes. The criminal usually begins in young adulthood to find ways to satisfy physical and emotional needs through antisocial methods. If they are not reined in by bad luck, society, or the law, crime becomes a way of life, allowing them to get their needs met. While it is never justified, it does at least explain why a criminal does what he does.

One of the best ways to understand the rationale behind another person’s behavior is to put yourself in their position, trying to view the world as the other person sees it. Don’t try to moralize or judge, rationally view the other person’s actions in the same way you would some other type of animal. Recently, I read an article that explained how hibernating bears often wake up so hungry that they will eat another bear’s cubs. The article explained that it was purely for survival reasons. A bear wakes from hibernation in a state of extreme starvation. In that state, and other bear’s cubs are viewed as food, pure and simple. The bear is simply being a bear, doing what a bear does to survive. Applying this logic to humans can often give us a better understanding of why people do the strange things that they do-they are striving to attain some benefit that they believe to be beneficial. Their means of satisfying that intention is just out of proportion and out of control.

Examining why others do what they do helps us put the world in perspective, allowing some level of acceptance of life’s cruelties, explaining, but not necessarily justifying the way things are. It also was beneficial to apply this logic to personal relationships. Next time someone you, or someone you care about, does something that bothers you in some way, take a step back and evaluate the situation from their perspective. What could possibly be the perceived benefit that they are looking for? What could be their positive intention? Don’t project your values onto their behavior, remember to view their behavior in a detached way. Your values and morals aren’t necessarily going to be the same as theirs. This enables you to make a decision on how you feel and act as a result. If, over time, you find that their intentions are not consistent with your values, it might be a relationship or situation that you may want to terminate.

If you have negative habits yourself, figure out what your positive intention is. For example, if you are a chronic procrastinator, you may find that you have a fear of failure. You can’t fail if you don’t try, right? If you are lazy and know that you should exercise but don’t, then perhaps you are dreading the pain or indexperceived physical suffering that you think will come with getting yourself in shape. If you overeat, you may feel, on some level, that there is something physiologically pleasurable to be gained from the foods that you are over consuming. If you engage in gossip, then you may find that this is a way to inject some excitement into your life. If you find any of these behaviors unacceptable to you, find what you’re positive intention is in find a healthier way to satisfy that. If you love gossip, then stopped doing it in your own life and fill that gap with reality TV. If you dread the pain of exercise, then ease into it with low level activities that you find pleasurable, such as a morning stretch and brief walks. If you overeat certain foods, make healthy substitutions, for example yogurt in place of ice cream, strawberries dipped in chocolate instead of Hershey bars, or freshly baked wheat bread instead of cake.

It’s important to remember that finding someone’s positive intention never, ever, justifies bad behavior. Nor does it absolve someone from responsibility for what they have done. Taking this big backward step, and answering that philosophical question, “Who does that?,” enables us to view ourselves and the world around us from a more logical and realistic perspective.

“What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.”― Pablo Picasso



P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

An Attitude Of Gratitude

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”― Epicurus

Autumn is winding down and we are moving into the holiday season. It’s a time of year for focusing on 2235200801_09d119c972_owhat is essential in our lives and what should already be making us happy. This time of year is designed to be spent with, family, friends, and focusing on what we should be grateful for. Many of us get all stressed out over the holiday season, missing the point of it entirely. We approach the holiday trifecta-Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah, and New Year’s with feelings of dread and anxiety. We grumble about the cold of the season, having to figure out what to buy for whom, which parties we will attend, and complain about the traffic, stress, and commercialization of the whole thing. As a result our stress and anxiety goes through the roof, diet and exercise programs get put on hold, and we feel lousy. As Vince Lombardi would say, “What in the hell is going on out there?!”

A big part of all of this is losing the focus on what holiday seasons are supposed to be all about. It’s not meant to be a time of goal seeking, go out and get something, behavior. It’s supposed to be a season where we take notice of the good things we already have and express gratitude for them. We really shouldn’t have to go out and get anything for anybody, or receive anything special from anyone else. It’s a time to notice the good things that are right in front of our noses every moment of every day.

If you follow this blog regularly, then you know that I write a lot about human motivation, lifestyle improvement, goal setting and achievement. A person doesn’t have to be miserable or ungrateful in order to pursue these things, they merely need a desire to change. Seeking to improve things does not mean that we should ignore the simple gifts that life grants us every day. One can strive for improvement while living their life in an attitude of gratitude. By all means, we should always be striving for personal development and self improvement. We just need to notice what we already have.

imagesPerhaps the best story I have ever heard that illustrates the spirit of this thought is this one:
One summer, many years ago, a banker was vacationing in a small village on the coast. He saw a fisherman in a small boat by the pier with a handful of fish that he just caught. The businessman asked him how long it took him to catch the fish, and the man said he was fishing for only a couple of hours.
“So why didn’t you stay out there longer to catch more fish?”
The fisherman said he catches just enough to feed his family every day, and then comes back.
“But it’s only 2pm!” said the banker, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman smiled and said, “Well, I sleep late everyday, then fish a little, go home, play with my children, take a nap in the afternoon, then stroll into the village each evening with my wife, relax, play the guitar with our friends, laugh and sing late into the night. I have a full and wonderful life.”
The banker scoffed at the young man, “Well, I’m a businessman from New York! Let me tell you what you should do instead of wasting your life like this! You should catch more fish to sell to others, and then buy a bigger boat with the money you make so you can catch even more fish!”
“And then what?” asked the fisherman. The banker’s eyes got all big as he enthusiastically explained, “You can then buy a whole fleet of fishing boats, run a business, and make a ton of money!”
“And then what?” asked the fisherman again, and the banker threw his hands in the air and said, “You’d be worth a million! You can then leave this small town, move to the city, and manage your enterprise from there!”
“How long would all this take?” asked the fisherman. “15 to 20 years!” replied the banker.
“And then what?”
The banker laughed and said, “That’s the best part. You can then sell your business, move to a small village, sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take afternoon naps, go for an evening stroll with your wife after dinner, relax, sing, and play the guitar with your friends. You would have a full and wonderful life!”
The fisherman smiled at the banker, quietly gathered his catch, and walked away.

As you race around this week getting ready for Thanksgiving, think about this story. Do you really need all the build up, stress, and anxiety in order to be grateful? You can travel miles by plane, bus, or gratitude-vidya-sury-1automobile to be with family and friends. The stress and anxiety you take on this holiday season is your choice. Most of the negative associations that people have with holidays are self-inflicted. They are thoughts that arise because we’ve lost focus on what this season is all about. Change the focus of your thoughts this holiday season and focus on the gifts in your life that are always there. Enjoy your Thanksgiving!


P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

“Would’a Turned Pro” And Myths Of The Glory Days

“Yeah, just sitting back trying to recaptureimages
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days “- Bruce Springsteen, Glory Days

It’s a pretty common characteristic of getting older that we look back at our lives and think of who we were then and who we are now. We like to think we’re the same person but, the reality is, we are not. Many people redefine their past, recreating memories of the old days in ways that serve them better. Growing up, our parents, teachers, and friends, defined us by placing us into categories such as the student, the athlete, the cheerleader, the “good kid,” and the “troublemaker.” Most of us outgrow these monikers without any residual damage. Perhaps the two categories that can create the most damage to our emotional and physical wellness are the athlete and the cheerleader.

In our youth and adolescence, we often define ourselves through our physicality and our physical prowess. Athletes and cheerleaders enjoy a special place in the hierarchy of most American high schools, finding it easier to make friends, develop an identity, and to have positive self-esteem. For many, it’s one of the first ways that one defines themselves. But, alas, the glory days end and one becomes the former, as in “former athlete,” or “former cheerleader,” or even worse, the dreaded “used to be.” The critical element to this change of identity is how one internalizes this change. Most adjust, create a new self-image, take their life into a different direction, and move on physically and emotionally healthy. Others struggle with the “I used to be syndrome, “as in I used to be in great shape, I used to be 115 pounds, and I used to be able to ___________.” Some even re-create their past with biographical reinventions such as, “I would’ve turned pro but I blew out my knee.”

“Youth is wasted on the young.”-George Bernard Shaw

050308_shaq_vmed_6p.widecYoung athletes usually take for granted the resiliency of their bodies. Yeah, they train hard at that period of their life, but often abuse their body through poor eating habits, lack of sleep, and ignoring injuries. There’s really no way around it that that age, it’s part of the intellectual makeup of both the youth and the athlete. After playing days are over however, the young athlete must make some adjustments in both lifestyle and self perception. If not, they run the risk of the “What happeneds,” as in “What happened to him?,”or “What happened to her?,” as their weight, health, and looks deteriorate. Athletes often face a problem when their playing days are over with weight control, health, and general levels of fitness. Many make a slow transition from active athlete to sports fan in an attempt to stay in touch with the glory days. We all know that guy, the former athlete who knows their sports inside out, can quote statistics, standings, and trivia as well as any broadcaster on ESPN. He’s carrying about 40 pounds over his best playing weight, sucks in his gut really well, and the most exercise he gets is lugging that 30 pack to his car from the liquor store. He still a great guy, but inside he’s likely to be suffering.

It’s more difficult for former athlete to regain athletic condition than one who discovers athletics and fitness later in life. The former athlete has, more than likely, an array of nagging injuries from his or her competition days. As kids, we all laughed about how we would be hurting when we got older, or never thought we would get older, or looked at our friends who played through injuries in awe. Playing through pain was a source of admiration, status, and pride. We sucked it up, played through it, and now pay the consequences. Starting a fitness regimen for a former athlete is difficult because a former athlete will probably never get back to levels of fitness that they enjoyed as a youth. For all too many, this is the reason that exercise consists of mowing the lawn once a week.

I’ve studied sports psychology and enjoy working with athletes and performers. One of the first things that needs to be identified when working with an athlete is whether they are primarily internally motivated or externally motivated in their pursuit of excellence. Those that are externally motivated tend to focus more on accolades, rewards, trophies, and medals. They enjoy competition and the thrill of victory. They usually hate practice and training, but do it 100% because they want to win and enjoy all that comes with it. Those that are internally motivated also enjoy victory, but they tend to also love the process. To the internally motivated athlete, it doesn’t matter who’s in the stands or what the stakes are, they’re going all out because they love the process. These are the guys love the training, love the practice, and love the pure physicality of it.

If you were once a competitive athlete, think about it for a moment. Which were you? What motivated you to be your best? There are generalities for sure, but before you say “I was a little bit of both,” consider what your motivation was. If you were mostly externally motivated, then it was probably harder for you after your competitive days were over. And, it doesn’t mean anything negative about your motivation either. Muhammed Ali is one of the best examples of an athlete that was externally motivated. He once said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” If you were externally motivated, then you’re certainly in good company.

Regardless of what motivated you then, it’s important to find motivation now. The first step is to have some clearly defined health and fitness goals. It is important to assess who you are now, emotionally as well as physically. As a former athlete, it is important to come to grips with the fact that you probably will not be breaking any of your previous personal records in many things. Starting from a new baseline, and throwing away that highlight reel that was your past can be difficult. Get over it Princess! There’s still a tough competitor in there!

If you find it hard to work out just for the sake of it, or being in shape is not motivating for you, then find some competitive activity that you can get better at. Golf, bowling, bocce, horseshoes, it doesn’t matter, bocce ball 8_3_11as long as it’s something physical. Create a training regimen designed to make you more competitive in this activity and train like an athlete. Try some things that you thought you couldn’t do anymore and see if that is really true. Consider some activities that are close to what you once did. For example, if you were a baseball player, then take a look at slow pitch softball. If football was once your thing, then take a look at flag football or two hand touch. If you were once a cheerleader, then consider Zumba or some kind of dance class. Many fitness facilities have classes that are close to, but not exactly the real thing. Boxing training for example, minus the sparring, is a great workout, and if you want a combat sport where you can safely spar, then karate might be exactly what you’re looking for. Becoming an athletic official, a referee, umpire, or judge is another way to stay in touch with your favorite sport. Just try to find one that requires you to be in good physical condition. The attitude in which you approach this return to athletics is very important. Approach it with an open mind, as if starting for the first time. Forget who you were, and focus on who you are in the process of becoming. (See also http://mindbodycoach.org/beginners-mind/)

Focus on the pure joy of athletics, get in touch with the experience you enjoyed during the glory days. The goal setting, camaraderie, goal attainment, thrill of victory-agony of defeat process-all of it, it’s never too late to have fun, stay in shape, and put whatever is left in you on the line. Be flexible and realistic, both mentally and physically in your pursuit. Focus more on fun and health, wellness, and life satisfaction will follow.

“And now you gotta get it back, and the way to get it back is to go back to the beginning. You know what I mean?”-Apollo Creed



P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

Going Unplugged In The Age Of Distraction

“Don’t you understand what I’m trying to say? Can’t you feel the fears that I’m feeling today? I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation. When human respect is disintegratin,’ this whole crazy world is just too frustratin’.”-Barry McGuire, from the 1965 song Eve of Destruction

The world has changed drastically in the past 25 years. Perhaps the most notable of these changes is alsoimages one of the most subtle. Travel anywhere in a metropolitan area and you’ll notice at least half of the people have some kind of electronic device visible on their person, a cell phone, iPhone, iPad, or laptop. Notice how many of them are engaged with their devices and notice their level of absorption. It’s also safe to assume that those that don’t have a device visible probably have one on them somewhere. Progress? Maybe.

I read something last week which said that current versions of the iPhone give us more computer capability in our pockets than President Clinton had in the White House in 1994. Pretty mind-boggling, if you’re old enough to remember the era of shoebox size cell phones. We have instant access to anything going on anywhere on the planet, as much information as a small town library, and the ability to speak with anyone, virtually anywhere, at any time, no matter what that person is doing. It would appear that everyone is someplace physically, and another place mentally, and not fully aware of where they are currently.

While many of us turn our noses up at those who text and drive, talk loudly on their cell phones in public places, (why do people seem to speak louder when talking into a cell phone?), use texting for personal things, such as breaking up with a significant other, and use their cell phone as a status symbol, most of us are distracted more than we’d care to admit. We don’t need to have our phones on in order to be distracted by them. Just having that phone, iPad, or laptop nearby is enough to frequently pull us out of the present moment. While many of us, myself included, love this instant access, it’s probably a good idea to put this all into perspective.

hqdefaultIn 1989, MTV began a series called MTV Unplugged, showcasing music that was usually played on amplifying instruments, such as electric guitars and synthesizers.The music was performed on more traditional instruments such as acoustic guitars and piano. The mere act of switching the instrument dramatically changed the listening experience. Yes, it was the same songs but it was difficult not to appreciate the difference in sound and tempo. Very subtle, but very cool, a different look at something that we thought we knew well.

Going unplugged in our daily lives, at least occasionally, can have positive benefits for our emotional and physical well-being. Shutting off the phone, computer, iPad, and even the radio and TV for periods of time can make a big difference. Yes, you may go through some withdrawal and “what if, what am I missing,” emotions, but that’s okay. If you set aside regular periods during your week where you go unplugged and make technology off-limits, you will get used to it and learn to enjoy it. You’ll find that you will become more attentive to family, friends, significant others, and will experience a greater connection to nature and the world around you. You’ll become more in tune with where you are, both literally and figuratively. Despite what most people think, going unplugged occasionally leads to better time management, task completion, and problem-solving. Research studies have consistently shown that multitasking is, in fact, a myth.

indexModern technology has been both a blessing as well as a curse. The negative impact is that many of us live our lives in a constant state of hyperarousal and hypervigilance, waiting for what next, what if, other shoe to drop moments. Many of the maladies caused by technology, such as anxiety, fear, worry, and increased diagnoses of ADHD, can be traced in part to our addiction to being distracted. Going unplugged is good for your brain’s health, pure and simple.

If you follow this blog regularly, then you are familiar with some ways to cope with the detrimental effects of modern life. Here’s a recap of some ways to counteract technology and life in the Age of Distraction:
⦁ mindfulness activities
⦁ meditation
⦁ exercise
⦁ getting outdoors
⦁ learning to breathe correctly
⦁ connecting with supportive friends and family
⦁ going unplugged

The point is to schedule unplugged moments into your day. It can be as simple as going for a 15 minute stroll during your lunch break while leaving your phone at your desk, shutting off phones for 45 minutes for a family meal time, or unplugging for 10 minutes of meditation. Like many things that are good for us, there is a temptation to overdo it. If you’re not comfortable with going unplugged for long periods of time, learn to be comfortable with brief periods and learn to appreciate the benefits. There are not many things in this world that can’t wait at least 15 minutes.

“Silence is a source of Great Strength.”― Lao Tzu



P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

Food Addiction: “I Can’t Believe I Ate The Whole Thing!!”

“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!”-from an Alka-Seltzer commercial, 1972

You try to live healthy. You exercise regularly, eat well, see your doctor once a year, try to avoid Food-addiction-1negativity and gossip, hold doors open for people, donate to charity, and are even kind to animals…. but, every once in a while, there’s this dark side that emerges. Afterwards, you feel guilty, sick, and totally disgusted with yourself. You’re in denial. You rationalize with a series of yeah but types of statements. “Yeah but, my weight is good, Yeah but, my BMI is under 30, Yeah but, my blood pressure is normal, or Yeah but, I’ll work out extra tomorrow.” You can’t accept the obvious. You are a food addict.

Even if you are a healthy and physically fit person, there probably are foods that you absolutely, positively, cannot resist. In fact, there is even a conspiracy in the fitness and health industry to justify the occasional gorging on your “guilty pleasure.” It’s called a “cheat day,” where your regimented diet has a built in day where you eat whatever you want. Usually, this means overeating some food, dessert, or culinary delight that you struggled to resist the other six days of the week. If you do this as part of your diet, don’t feel guilty. It’s probably the only way to deal with food addiction. And, like everybody else, you probably have foods that you are addicted to. Yes, addicted!

If you grew up in the United States during the Baby Boom generation, then you were raised in the Golden Age of food. You grew up watching television commercials, singing along to advertising jingles, and slogans that have become part of our consciousness. Meals were something that were planned, prepared, and eventually ate. If there was any left, it was carefully wrapped and stored away for a smaller meal the next day. There was always a country somewhere-China, Japan, or Africa- where kids were starving, so you had a great deal of respect and gratitude for whatever your parents put on the table. Yes, we all had our occasional Twinkie, Yodals, or Pixie Sticks binge, but we seem to get by, purple tongues and all. The food production industry kept pace with the demands for food as well as our faster paced way of living. “Fast foods,” designed to keep up with the lifestyle and our compulsion for addicting foods became more and more a part of our diet. The manner in which these foods were preprocessed and produced is what led to food addiction.

Human and animal experiments consistently show that foods that are high in sugar, fat, and salt can be as addictive as drugs such as heroin and cocaine. They trigger the same pleasure centers of the brain that are activated by these drugs. Feel good chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin, flood the brain with pleasurable sensations. These chemicals can override the brain’s ability to perceive fullness, creating the need to overeat. As a result, people overeat, feel good about it at the time, and then later feel guilty.

It’s not just junk foods that can cause this addiction. It can also occur with foods that contain large amounts of sugar, salt, or even wheat. Some insidious culprits are:
⦁ White bread and pasta
⦁ Salty snacks of any type
⦁ Fatty foods, particularly fast foods. Probably anything you purchase through a take-out window or some guy delivers to your home will fit this category
⦁ Chocolate. Cacao itself, is healthy. The sugar used to remove cacao’s natural bitterness is what makes chocolate problematic
⦁ Sugar. This is the number one culprit and the big kahuna of all food problems. Sugar is not just granulated sugar, but includes fructose, lactose, corn syrup, and naturally occurring sugars

enhanced-buzz-32071-1369344088-17A recent study at Connecticut College compared laboratory mice’s responses to cocaine and Oreos. Researchers found that the mice not only preferred Oreos over cocaine, but that Oreos activated significantly more brain neurons than cocaine did. “This correlated well with our behavioral results and lends support to our hypothesis that high fat, high sugar foods are addictive,” Joseph Schroeder, associate professor of psychology at Connecticut College, said. Their explanation was that sugar addiction is hardwired into the human animal. We are capable of producing small amounts of naturally occurring chemicals that are released through breast milk, believed to be one of the ways that babies bond with their mothers. A baby associates sugar with nurturing and satisfaction. It’s the first pleasure that a human receives. We are biologically set to crave sweet things and consume as much of them as possible.

Like all addictions, there is no standardized testing method to diagnose food addiction. A diagnosis of addiction is based on behavioral principles and an individual’s unique, subjective responses to a substance. Here’s some simple questions to ask yourself about food addiction:
⦁ Do you end up eating more than you planned when eating certain foods?
⦁ Do you get cravings for certain foods despite being full and after eating and nutritious meal?
⦁ What happens after you eat that certain foods that you are craving? Do you eat more than you intended, eat until you feel excessively “stuffed,” and feel guilty later?
⦁ Do you promise yourself after this gorging that you will limit future consumption, “I’m not going to eat _______________ like that again?” Do you find it difficult to keep the promise you made yourself?
⦁ If foods that you crave are presented to you unexpectedly, do you find it impossible to resist eating too much of them?
⦁ Do you make excuses to yourself and others about your consumption of certain foods?
⦁ Do you continue to eat certain foods despite being aware that your body and mind have a negative response to them? In other words, do you eat certain foods despite the fact that you know you will feel terrible afterwards?

Keep in mind that the typical food addict, much like the typical alcoholic, doesn’t always look like you think they would. Many alcoholics and drug addicts are highly successful, well put together people who are hiding a secret. Many food addicts are not overweight, but they are people that sometimes use food as a drug to satisfy emotional pain, depression, loneliness, and unmet needs. They rationalize with expressions like, “If my body craves it, then my body must need it.” Plausible, but often a rationalization for making a poor food choice.

Of course, an occasional binge on a forbidden food is pretty normal. Next time you are about to undertake that 12 inch stuffed crust Papa John’s pizza, or whatever your food of choice is, ask yourself some questions before diving in. Eat slowly and mindfully, allowing your brain to notice the pleasurable feelings, thus slowing the whole process down. If you find there are certain foods that are difficult for you to control, then don’t have them around. Don’t make excuses like, “The kids like them, it’s hard-to-eat-healthy-1Halloween, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, or Super Bowl Sunday,” without being fully honest with your intentions. If it’s an excuse for you to overeat and feel guilty, then rethink that decision.

Remember, food can be medicine or poison, the choice is yours.



P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching or cognitive behavioral therapy. Please check out my author’s page at amazon.com/author/johnsannicandro or using the Amazon link on this page. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and social media. Email me at john@mindbodycoach.org.

Beginner’s Mind

“The less we know about something, the more fun we have.”-Tom Maggliozzi

Shoshin is a concept in Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind.” It refers to having an attitude of indexopenness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject or performing a task. It even applies to studying something at an advanced level, just like a beginner would. The term is most commonly applied to the study Zen Buddhism and Japanese martial arts, but there is probably a lot of wisdom in this concept for all of us.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are a few.”- Shunryu Suzuki

Like many Zen concepts, the phrase “beginner’s mind” is likely to be overlooked, underestimated, and possibly ridiculed for being too simplistic. In Asian culture, most things are not what they first appear to be. A second, or even a third look, often brings a deeper insight or an “a ha” moment of understanding. Most Zen concepts are designed to be pondered at first, then understood, and then applied. The idea behind beginner’s mind is that you suspend judgment, self evaluation, and assessment when taking on a new activity. You just put your ego in check and just do the exercise. Get into the experience and perform the task as non-judgementally as possible. Suspend everything you know, think you know, believe, and imagine and just do.

If you look back over the course of your life, there are probably hundreds of activities that you learned to do, and eventually do well, because you possessed beginner’s mind. You were probably much younger and not so full of yourself. You learned through imitation, in a rote manner, because you didn’t know any better. You learned to do things such as tying your shoes, tell time, (remember non digital watches?) learned algebra and foreign languages, ride a two wheel bike, and drive a car. As a child, you did not possess the inner critic that often holds you back as an adult, the questioning, critical, “yeah but..,” self-conscious aspect of your personality that takes the fun out of things.

imagesWhen an adult is trying to apply the concept of beginner’s mind, the idea is to remain open-minded and to focus on the experience rather than the outcome. Rather than judge or imagine how you must look or appear to others, focus on the process so that you can see what you experience, getting curious about what you are doing. Almost 25 years ago I began studying an Okinawan martial art known as uechi ryu karate do. Learning a traditional martial art is an incredibly interesting venture. You are learning a skill that is, in its essence, athletic, but is taught in a very non-Western manner. You are welcomed by all the students, in fact they all line up, shake your hand, and introduce themselves. You then get into formation with the rest of them and imitate what they are doing. My first teacher, Walter Mattson, started the class by telling me, “I teach as though you are looking in a mirror, so you don’t have to think ‘my right, your right,’ just follow along as best you can.” For the next two hours I learned as I did when I was a child, looking at others and following along as well as I could. Over the years I’ve seen many students attend their first class and not come back. I often wonder if they did so because they were unable to handle an activity that was focusing on the activity itself and not them.

As adults, there are probably a lot of things that we wish we did when we were younger. Many adults think that these activities are no longer possible. We suffer from the “Tyranny of the Toos,” as in, too old, too late, too tired, etc. Next time you think of an activity that you wish you learned years ago, ask yourself why you are not learning it now. My guess is that after you identify some aspect of the Tyranny of the Toos, you will have some visual of yourself fumbling and stumbling through an awkward process and evaluating yourself negatively. If you are not careful, you won’t even attempt this activity. It won’t necessarily be because you can’t do it, it’s more likely to be because your ego gets in the way. You’re probably very successful in most areas of your personal and professional life, and your ego won’t allow you to risk looking stupid, even to yourself. Too bad.

No matter how old, wise, or experienced in life that one gets we are never too old to tap into our shoshinbeginner’s mind. In uechi ryu karate do there is an expression, “Even teachers have teachers.” No matter how good one gets in the art, or how long one has been practicing, there is always an instructor to be emulated and consulted. This keeps the performance of the art on target, but more importantly, preserves beginner’s mind. Next time you’re considering that new exercise class, studying that foreign language, taking up golf, or that cooking class you thought about, ask yourself what’s holding you back. Don’t let your ego rob you of the joy and wonderment of beginner’s mind.

“Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.”- Shunryu Suzuki



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