Can you tell when your brain is lying to you?

There is a lot written about listening to our intuition. I believe that is good advice (if your intuition serves you well) but what about that voice in your head that tells you what would make you feel better? Most people who have an awareness of the importance of mindset are often wise to the negative voice that can try and steer us off course. I don’t mean that one. I mean the one that at the end of a particularly tricky day that tells us to have a glass of wine, or the one that tells us that we’re not in the right mind frame to go the gym and that we’d feel much better if we curled up on the sofa with a bar of Galaxy…

I listened to that voice for years and I can tell you that it did me no favours. During my busy corporate life I was on the hamster wheel of early starts (4am wasn’t unheard of) long days, lots of travel and I was under a significant amount of pressure. I would have takeaway 3 times a week as standard, eat ‘healthy’ crisps and cereal bars on the go and drink wine 3-4 nights a week, sometimes more. My brain was telling me ‘you deserve this, you’ve had a rough day, you’re working hard, treat yourself’.

In truth what happened was that I piled on weight, I was shattered from the pressure of my demanding job and the food and alcohol that I was consuming exacerbated that by interrupting my sleep. What my body needed was as good a sleep routine as my job would allow, minimal or no alcohol, food that nourished me, exercise and fresh air.

Having existed in the former routine for a few years I felt awful, I was in my early 30s and very often I asked myself if this is what life was to be like from now on. I had absolutely no awareness that probably 70% of why I felt so bad was due to things that I had control over, namely what I ate and drank and the resulting poor quality sleep.

Having realised that I couldn’t bear to be in the corporate rat race for the next 20+ years, myself and my husband took pretty radical steps to change our life, by going self-employed and moving to rural France! That’s extreme by most people’s standards but it has done our health the world of good. Our life is still busy but working from home and living in the countryside in an absolute Godsend.

We walk our dogs every morning, it wasn’t possible to have dogs with our corporate jobs so I may have over-compensated slightly as we have 4! In truth there are many dogs in need here and I couldn’t resist giving them a certain future, I have had to promise that 4 is the max though, otherwise I risk divorce & that’s not in my plan! Another part of the motivation for our move was to be able to have our horses at home, I manage the horses around my work so that keeps me active and riding is great exercise.

It’s easier to eat well when you work at home, you’re not passing shops that tempt you to buy something naughty and not commuting is a time saver. Takeaways are not the norm in our area and although it took some getting used to it’s a really good thing. I have always like to cook things from scratch and now I need to as the choice of vegetarian food here is akin to the UK in the 1980s, almost non-existent.

What there is a lot of though is alcohol, it’s a way of life in France and it’s cheap. In the UK I would probably have spent £8 on a bottle of wine, you can get very drinkable wine here for 2,50e. You hear of a lot of people coming to France and drinking a lot more than they would have done previously.

Interestingly in the last 12 months myself and my husband have gone the other way and have become very occasional drinkers. This is not something that I expected to happen, certainly if you’d told me 2 years ago that this would be the case I would have laughed, but it’s true and I can honestly say that I have never felt better! As a mark of how little we drink we recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and we didn’t drink at all. Normally we would have bought some champagne but we’re both feeling so good as a result of not drinking that it wasn’t even discussed!

It happened pretty organically (I will write another post about that at a later date) but as we drank less often and felt so much better for it, it became apparent that all of the times that our brains had been telling us that we should have a glass of wine, they weren’t doing us any favours.

I realised that if my brain had been playing tricks on me then, it was possible that it was doing so at other times too. As I started to notice that inner voice I became aware just how much it was tricking me. There have been times in the past when I would blame the weather for not riding, it’d be a bit grey and look like ‘it might rain’ so that would be my excuse. My brain would say ‘go inside, have a cup of tea and sit down, you can ride tomorrow’, tomorrow would arrive with torrential rain & gale force winds, meaning that riding was a definite no-no & I’d be frustrated that I hadn’t ridden the day before. As an amateur competitor me and my horse need to be fit and that means riding when I don’t always feel like it.

Since cottoning on to what my ‘lazy brain’ is up to I’ve learnt to ask ‘the real me’, it goes something like this:

Lazy brain – you’re tired, you can ride tomorrow.

The real me – go and get your saddle, you’ll feel better for having ridden, dedicated people ride even when they don’t feel like it, so stop being a slacker.

Since taking this stance in lots of areas of my life it is starting to become second nature. I rarely have to gee myself to do something because I’m more productive and focused. Another example is being organised with having food prepared, I make soups in winter and the other evening, despite being tired from riding and work, I made a double batch while my husband cooked us dinner. My brain told me to curl up on the sofa but the real me took over and the following lunchtime I was really glad that it had, we had lovely butternut squash soup which gave me the energy to do great work that afternoon.

That’s not to say that I don’t relax, there are times when I will absolutely curl up on the sofa and chill, I am a great believer in taking time out and self care, but the difference is that it’s a conscious decision to do so, not a reaction to feeling a bit tired and letting my brain take over.

On a recent work trip they did breakfast pancakes on the menu, I LOVE pancakes but I opted for porridge. I had a long day ahead and I knew that I wouldn’t be exercising like I do at home so porridge was the sensible choice. It was actually super tasty so it turned out to be no hardship. I heard on a podcast recently that what we eat can impact us up to 3 days later! Hearing that has made me even more determined to be mindful of what I eat.

I am sure that my younger self would find all this consideration and balance very boring, however the current me is delighted with how much control I have over how well I feel. I am rarely ill these days, that is despite recent multiple short haul flights, which would normally almost guarantee a cold. My mind feels strong and I am happier than I have ever been, even in the depths of winter! It was within my control to feel this good all along, who knew?

If you’d like to make a change in this, or any other area of your life, then get in touch for a free 30 minute consultation session about how I can help you.

Do something today that your future self will thank you for!

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