Behavior and Lifestyle Change

“Head Trash” and Change


serotoninAs we approach the midlife years between 39 and 65 we have been bombarded with depressing news of the midlife decline in health and productivity.  The real problem here is that we buy into a way of thinking that becomes self-defeating and filled with “Head Trash.”  The key to moving into and celebrating these years of wisdom and greater meaningfulness rests in knowing the facts, and refusing to be defined by the Western Cultural message that less productive means less worth as a person.  Other cultures such as those in the East see aging as wisdom.

From developmental psychology we know that men and women go through various stages of life complete with physical, emotional and social changes.  This means that weight control, exercise, following your doctor’s advice, working, playing and laughing are all important in maintaining a healthy balance.  In order to make the transition into these mature years of wisdom and venturing past the routine of life and the “rat race of keeping up with the Jones” we must take inventory of our personal values and train our minds to settle for nothing less.  Cognitive Psychology tells us that if the thoughts are changed, the behaviors and feelings will follow.   Therefore, if we follow a few easy guidelines as we move into the mature years the stereotypes of midlife prove not true.


The first step is making any change in our life starts with getting a clear focus on what we want.  Many folks have some vague idea of what direction they may want to go but have no clear vision of what arriving there may look like.  Doing our research and getting the facts may help us decide if we really want to go there. For example, if weight loss is our goal then how many folks have really tried to see their body thinner, with more energy, smaller sizes, less anxiety and being emotionally happier because they are healthier?  For most, we start down the “I want to lose weight path” but do not get very far before we are talking ourselves out of our focus with a host of reasons why we will fail, or we have not really decided we want to change in the first place.  In my Counseling Practice I have seen many folks come into the first session saying “I want to make a change” like lose weight, stop drinking, take up a better work/life balance or improve their relationships but really do not have a focus or real determination to do so.  Some start the process because someone else suggested they work on an issue or their focus is not strong or clear enough to warrant success. Those folks often stop their counseling and suffer from the agony of defeat until one day, when they have suffered long enough, they come back to counseling determined to make the change and…they do it!

There is a childhood story that has helped me with many goals in my life.  Once there were two runners who ran an important race, each with a different approach to the race.  The first, focused on every step of the race making sure each step was perfect, calculating every movement while worrying about what it would be like to lose.  The second runner kept their eyes focused on the finish line and moved with determination.  When the paths of the two runners were examined the runner whose focus was on the finish line had a straight line path to the finish but the runner who worried about each step had a path that was not straight.  The trophy went to the runner with the straight line focus.

Recently I have taken up the sport of running after many years of seeing it as boring work.   What I am finding is if I am clear about the benefits of running and keep the goal of mastering a certain distance at each run in my mind then I am able to keep running until I meet my goal.  My attitude about running has changed and I find it quite enjoyable now.  If the mind is focused the body and emotions will follow!

This brings us to the second step in making a positive change in our lives…managing the “head trash” that may sabotage our success.

“Head Trash”:

“Head Trash” is defined as the brains negative way of holding off anxiety by finding excuses on why one should bother to really solve the problem in the first place.  Sound ridiculous?  It is! In the short run the brain’s negativity and derailing of focus holds off the pain of the perceived task at hand.  In the short run it may seemingly work well for us by reducing the anxiety of making a change.  However, in the long run it never solves the problem or gets us to the finish line of success in accomplishing our goals.  You see our brain is a problem solving device that must be trained to operate productively and positively instead of negatively with pessimism.  The brain is very powerful in our success in anything!

It seems that head trash is like a defense mechanism designed to take our focus off what we perceive as painful for hard work.  The problem with defense mechanisms is that they never fix the problem but simply delay or prevent the real lasting sense of accomplishment in achieving our goals.  The result is the anxiety of defeat and an unfulfilled life.

I have found a recipe necessary for keeping the “head trash” from robbing our success.

Recognize—Reframe—-Reach—Rejoicevison and objective

If we can train ourselves to recognize the negativity, laziness, derailing attitudes/thoughts and excuses that are generated in our own minds about making changes then we can reframe them for success.  If we remember that the brain is processing passing stimuli while holding off perceived pain then we can see why we often hold ourselves back from accomplishing anything new.  Reframing is simple changing the negative associations about the perceive change to positive reasons tom maintain our focus.  After reframing we must realize that reaching our goals may take some work, effort, sweat, time and patience but the payoff will give reason to rejoice!  This all might sound rather simplistic and even “cheesy” but have you ever known anyone successful that achieved their goals with a negative outlook, head trash and the refusal to work for it?