The stick: Self doubt
The fix: Self-inquiry
Also known as ‘interrogative self-talk’, self-inquiry promotes acknowledging doubts as part of a process to overcome them. An empowering process, it demands articulating what you’ll do by turning them into questions.
How it works: Many negative thoughts originate from subconscious beliefs, which affirmations largely choose to ignore. Saying ‘I can’ and ‘I will’ works by making you more positive about yourself and your situation, but this has little sway if your fears surface and give you a list of reasons why you ‘can’t’ or ‘won’t’. By acknowledging these thoughts and bringing them into your full consciousness you can create congruence between what you’re saying to yourself and what you believe. A study in the journal of Psychological Science found that even something as simple as writing ‘will I?’ as opposed to ‘I will’ in an apparently unrelated writing task produced better intentions to exercise.
The stick: Doona-itis
The fix: Nudge theory
Referred to in psych circles as ‘automaticity’ or goal priming, nudge theory rests on the premise that small changes trick you into achieving substantial goals that can seem overwhelming or impossible. “Rather than trying to overtly change people’s behaviour, the idea is to subtly direct people down a particular path by tweaking their environment,” says health psychology researcher Dr Nicola Davies.
How it works: “This works by tapping into our two ways of thinking: automatic and reflective,” says Davies. Automatic thoughts are those you fall into habitually and action without much hesitation, like hitting the snooze button, whereas reflective thoughts rely on a conscious effort to do things differently. “Nudging is about making the healthier option easier to execute than the less healthy one, so that eventually the new way becomes automatic,” Davies says. A nudge can be “anything that influences our choices”. Like laying out your gym clothes the night before, putting your runners by the front door, or putting the vegies on the middle shelf. Priming your goals is about changing your environment so that it not only influences your choices, but also limits them. One Stanford University study found that the more we clutter the mind, the less likely we are to make reflective choices.