After all, we live by our beliefs, which we inherited from brainwashed family, friends, and society. Right? We’re born as blank slates, as hardware with only basic software installed in the form of instincts and drives.
If you’re into how beliefs work, there may be no greater teacher than Professor Jordan Peterson. Forget his politics – look into his work on beliefs. It’s profound.
What is this meaning of life? What’s important for happiness? Who are the best people to admire? Which activities are fun vs. boring? That’s all to be learned in the context of socialization. We learn what to believe by experimenting with and modeling other people, albeit it unconsciously.
If you’re willing to consider socialization as a type of brainwashing, it’s one of epic proportions. Most of us believe our particular brainwash is “the truth.”
If the results of your brainwashing do not encourage a healthy lifestyle, you might consider brainwashing yourself into some different attitudes and beliefs. The results might transform existing behavior.
1. If you turn to junk food or drink to find satisfaction or stress relief, that’s the result of (unconsciously, probably) believing it’s the best, or only, option to reward, calm or distract yourself. There are a thousand ways to get rewards, calm and pleasant distraction. But your brainwashing directs you toward unhealthy habits as the favored solution.
2. If eating a healthy diet leads you to feel you’re “missing out” on wonderful food and drink, then you’re living out another aspect of your brainwashing. There are tons of enjoyable foods and drinks that are healthy. Some people find great pleasure and a mental health boost in healthy food. Others who maintain discipline in spite of being the only health-conscious person in their family – they feel great pride in setting an example or going against the grain.
3. One common form of dietary self-sabotage happens when people start to make progress on a healthy living protocol. They start to feel great. They lose weight. Then, mysteriously, they lose interest. Why? It’s often the case that they come from a family of folks who look down in obvious or subtle ways on healthy lifestyles. In a strange way, we can feel like we’re betraying our family of origin when we get healthy. We’re not one of them anymore. Brainwashing.
4. Essentially, everything you believe about health creates the motivation or lack thereof to pursue it. If you’re not motivated, you could have brainwashed yourself to believe that it’s not worth it, or impossible, or pointless.
Can you just choose what to believe?
Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Mostly no, in my opinion. It’s not a simple choice like what to have for lunch. Beliefs are deep-seated and take time to form and transform. You spent a lifetime nurturing existing beliefs so it can take time to escape the trap of limiting beliefs.
It does help tremendously to discover the irrational beliefs that show up in your behavior. You can do this by asking yourself the question, “Given my behavior, what must I believe to be true?”
If you can and want to exercise every day, but talk yourself out of it or lose motivation, then some belief must be showing up. Given that you avoid exercising, what must be true for you? It is a waste of time? Do only health freaks exercise? Do you believe you will ultimately fail anyway, so why try today when you don’t even feel like it? Maybe you believe you shouldn’t have to do things you don’t feel like doing.
Start with a list of irrational beliefs that may be getting in the way of your health habits. Challenge them. Consider what you’d rather believe instead. Act on the new, desired belief as much as you can. Look for evidence that the new belief is valid. And you’re on your way.
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