Thinking Differently about Diabetes can Help Improve your life
"The brain is like a bunch of plastic," says Sharon Begley, author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain (Ballentine Books,2007). Ms. Begley discusses how you can alter the hard matter of the brain with the way you think. Does the way you think about having diabetes get in the way of your happiness? Maybe you tell yourself, "I'll never be happy again, because I can't eat the way I want to" or "It's terrible having diabetes." Chances are very good that an awful feeling will be evoked instantly after thinking those thoughts. The vicious cycle begins because there's a good chance that you will get caught in the awful feeling which will lead to another negative thought such as, "I feel terrible about my situation."
Here's the bad news. You are now trapped in the vicious thinking/feeling cycle. If you feel badly, you are likely to have behaviors that emerge from feeling badly. You are more likely to go to bed rather than go to a concert featuring your favorite musicians. You are more likely to eat a large serving of the soothing food that is detrimental to your blood glucose level. You are more likely to engage in a negative behavior that will lead to more negative thoughts and emotions. Then you are more likely to avoid doing something that will bring about positive thoughts and emotions.
Here's the good news. If the brain is like plastic then that means it is pliable and it can change. Ms. Begley states that the brain is like a ridged piece of paper similar to the cardboard used for packing. The ridges are like human thought patterns. If you are depressed, the more times you say to yourself, "I'm so depressed because I have diabetes," the deeper the ridges become. With deep ridges, it makes it easy for thought patterns to automatically become the negative thought pattern, "I'm so depressed because I have diabetes." Ms. Begley's analogy is like this. If you have a little silver ball (a thought) and you put it onto the ridged piece of cardboard, it's likely that the silver ball will automatically land in the deep groove. The more times you repeat the negative thought to yourself, the deeper the groove becomes and the more likely you are to think that thought again.
Reprogramming is totally possible. You can reprogram yourself to think, "I'm going to make the best out of diabetes" or "Having diabetes can lead me to a healthier lifestyle and help me to avoid complications." These thoughts are true and having a groove related to these thoughts can do wonders for the emergence of different feelings and therefore more constructive behaviors.
One of the powerful techniques that I have used myself to overcome a sugar and refined carbohydrate addiction is discussed in my book, Break Out of the Sugar Prison. It is a thought changing technique making use of flashcards.
Here's how it works. Get some three by five index cards. For each card, write down a thought that is constructive, inspiring and true for you. Make up as many cards as possible. Read the cards every day without fail. It's helpful to read them first thing in the morning and anytime during the day that negativity is arising. Begin to bring the thoughts into your mind as often as you can remember. The idea is to create new grooves in the brain and therefore a new belief system. If you start to think something negative such as "I hate having diabetes," try not to finish the thought and instead bring in a new thought such as, "I can manage my diabetes well" or "I can live a good life with diabetes." By engaging the mind in this way, you will create new ridges in the brain and the chances are increased that you will think these thoughts rather than the old, negative, destructive thoughts. New and positive behaviors are then more likely to follow.
Allowing your thoughts to be your allies rather than your enemies is possible for anyone who really wants change. It requires determination, attentiveness and the willingness to practice new habits. Speaking from personal experience, I must say that the initial process of retraining the brain is not easy. The rewards, however, are insurpassable.