Change Your Mind to Change Your Health
By: Dr. Peggy Malone
Just change your mind to change your health?
Can it really be so simple?
Well, it might be better worded ‘Change Your Mindset to Change Your Health’
Let’s talk about why.
In the past few months I have been reading and re-reading an amazing book called ‘Mindset’, by renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck.
It has helped me immensely in recognizing patterns of thinking and mindset that have been holding me back in several areas of my life.
The book is excellent and I highly recommend you read it. She discusses mindset and how it relates to success in learning, career, athletics, relationships, and parenting.
The book doesn’t specifically discuss mindset as it has to do with health and wellness but it got me to thinking…
What if we applied the concepts of mindset to getting healthier?
Then I got excited….and of course, I wanted to share that excitement with you.
Before we apply the concept of mindset to health and wellness, let’s first explore what it is.
In the following paragraphs, I have used a few excerpts from Dr. Dweck’s website and book to outline a good comparison of her definitions of mindset alongside my interpretations as they apply to health and wellness.
Your mindset is made up of your beliefs—beliefs about yourself and your most basic qualities.
Think about your intelligence, your talents, your personality. Are these qualities simply fixed traits, carved in stone and that’s that? Or are they things you can cultivate throughout your life?
Dr. Dweck has recognized and discusses 2 different types of mindsets:
In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. The believe that brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.
So if we apply these definitions to health and wellness, a fixed mindset might have people believing that their current state of wellness is because of ‘family history’, or because ‘they are getting old’.
Maybe they have been given a diagnosis or have been prescribed a certain medication and they believe that they will always be in that situation and that’s just the way it is.
(For example: obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes)
Many people look at others who are fit and healthy and they believe that must be ‘genetic’ and they don’t’ have to do anything to be that way. This equates to what Dr. Dweck mentioned when she said that those with a fixed mindset believe that ‘talent’ alone creates success—without effort.
People with a fixed mindset believe that their traits (ability to be healthy or not) are just givens. They have a certain amount of brains and talent (health, fitness, energy) and nothing can change that.
If they have a lot (they are superfit and healthy), they’re all set, but if they don’t… they’ll never be able to change it.
People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. (meal planning, educating themselves on good nutrition, eating healthy, decreasing the crap that they previously put in their bodies, lowering toxin exposure, and exercising or training) Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, (or fit and healthy) but that’s just the starting point.
They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things without years of passionate practice and learning.
They don’t just have success in their sport or in their health and wellness because they were born with it. They have dedicated thousands of hours to education, good nutrition, fitness and maintaining good health.
Having a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity not only in the worlds of business, education, and sports. It enhances relationships and it gives people a huge advantage in having better health and wellness.
Research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you commit to and accomplish the things you value.
Do people with this growth mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable), that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training.
This applies to health and wellness too. People with the growth mindset in their health and wellness don’t believe that they are going to live forever. They don’t believe that they will never get sick.
There are going to be situations in health and wellness where things come up that are beyond control, but keep in mind that no matter what the situation or the diagnosis or the health challenge…
…the way that you think about it has a HUGE impact on getting past a current bad health habit or getting healthy again or managing something chronic or even terminal.
It is now abundantly clear from research that brains and talent and genetic ability alone don’t bring success.
The same holds true for people who are extremely fit, healthy, full of energy and living life to the fullest!
These people are typically no more genetically ‘gifted’ with health and wellness than others.
In fact, people who at a young age could eat whatever they wanted without exercise and without any weight gain often struggle with their health habits later in life.
Think about the superfit high school athletes who ended up gaining a tonne of weight and descending into ill health.
This is most likely because, believing too much in the power of their brains, talent and genetic ability, they did not put in the effort that all great accomplishment requires.
In short, believing in brains or talent or great health and wellness as something fixed and all-powerful works against long-term success in school, careers, and life in general.
It’s the wrong mindset.
You can start today to change your mind and switch your fixed mindset into a growth mindset. Just being aware of these two different types of mindset is often enough to encourage people that there really is hope for change. This applies in any area of their lives that are a struggle, but for our purposes today we are discussing health and wellness.
For more information on the fixed mindset and the growth mindset and how to start to make the switch from one to the other, check out Carolyn Dweck’s website: www.mindsetonline.com
You really can change your health, and as a result, your life, if you start by changing your mind.
Are you ready to change your mind?
Dr. Peggy Malone is a health care provider who encourages her patients every day to create better habits associated with their health and wellness. She is wife to the hilarious and heavily bearded John, with whom she takes many adventures as well as Cat Mom to the floofy ragdoll Amigo.
Dr. Peggy is also a human being on a mission to create better habits for herself and by doing so, she hopes to inspire others to take up the challenge with her!
You can join her on these adventures every week by tuning into The Improvement Project podcast