Mindset is more than a popular gym buzz word. It is has been studied in the fields of cognitive and positive psychology since about 1920, and that has provided a scientific foundation to help trainers like me understand how our beliefs influence our behaviors.
People in the wellness world are coming from two different mindsets, promotion or prevention. The promotion focused person may exercise with a focus on the improvements associated with living a healthier lifestyle. The prevention focused mindset might focus on avoiding medical issues and joint replacements. As a trainer, it is important for me to understand my client's mindset because I am able to encourage them in different ways. People with a promotion mindset tend to be sensitive to making gains and physical progress while being more responsive to positive feedback. In contrast, people with the prevention mindset are motivated by negative feedback, which intensifies their determination not to lose ground and strengthens their commitment to their goals.
One mindset is not better over the other and mindsets are not fixed. A study was done by the University of Minnesota to compare how well people with promotion and prevention mindsets succeeded at sticking with their decision to quit smoking or lose weight. At the 6-month follow up, promotion-minded people proved to be more successful at both. But a 1-year follow up found that prevention-minded people were more likely to be smoke-free and maintaining their weight loss. This is how they determined a promotion mindset of setting a goal to lose a few pounds by eating healthier foods may be helpful in initiating change and starting a new habit, while a prevention mindset to avoid junk food may be more effective once the weight loss goal has been achieved.
Scientists have also been studying the difference between growth and fixed mindsets. People with a growth mindset believe that conditions can change and people can improve themselves. A fixed mindset believes that one's fate is permanent. People with a fixed mindset don't seek out a personal trainer. The fixed mindset believes that their weight is completely out of their control. Lack of knowledge and means may be what they think is holding them back, but their mind is what truly holds them back.
Once I understand my client's mindset, then I can either understand how to work with it or how to work to change it. Aside from the fixed vs growth mindset and prevention vs. promotion mindset, there are also a wide variety of negative mindsets that can interfere with people's health and wellness goals. These are the ten most common negative mindsets or cognitive distortions that need to be shifted if you want to change your behaviors.
All-or-nothing Thinking: You look at things in absolute black or white categories.
"I'm not flexible enough to try yoga."
Overgeneralization: You view a negative event as a never ending pattern of defeat.
"Since I couldn't do the burpees right, I will never be good at them."
Mental Filtering: You dwell on the negatives and ignore the positives.
"I may have been able to hold a plank for 60 seconds today, but so what? I can't even do one single leg bridge."
Discounting the positives: You insist that your accomplishments or positive qualities don't count.
Jumping to Conclusions: There are two versions of this. Mind reading and fortune telling! If you tend to be a "mind reader", you assume people are reacting to you negatively when there is no evidence. Fortune tellers arbitrarily predict that things will turn out badly.
"I can tell you think I am lazy and not going to reach my goals." or "I know I will fall and hurt myself if you make me try box jumps."
Magnification or Minimization: You blow things way out of proportion, or you shrink their importance inappropriately.
Emotional Reasoning: You reason based on how you are feeling.
"I don't feel like exercising today so I will put it off."
Should Statements: You criticize yourself with "should", "shouldn't", "musts", "oughts" and "have-tos".
"I should be able to balance on one leg without falling over."
Labeling: You identify with your short comings. Instead of simply saying "I made a mistake", you tell yourself "I'm an idiot."
"I dropped the kettlebell while doing a bent over row. I am such a clumsy loser."
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 attitude and behavior contributed to the issue.
Do any of these cognitive distortions sound familiar?
I'm pretty sure just about everyone has had one of these cognitive distortions at least once in their life! But can you see how this thinking is not serving you and how it could be difficult to change behaviors if you mindset is holding you back?
Whether you need help with your mindset or you would like help building healthier habits, I would love to help you on your journey. I integrate mindset training in my holistic health coaching, personal training, nutrition coaching, yoga, and meditation sessions.
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