2 questions to help you practice self-control no matter the situation.
The cupcakes were on a three-tier stand right beside us. My seven-year-old niece was across the table from my sister and me when she told us she wanted another cupcake.
“Get another one,” I said. “It’s fine.”
She smiled shyly, hesitantly, but just continued to eye them. Then she said: “It’s cause my body wants another cupcake, but my brain knows that if I eat another one I’ll have a sugar rush.”
My sister and I looked at each other, shocked for a moment about what she’d just said. Then, I laughed because I couldn’t believe it. What kind of kid thinks before eating? What kind of a kid cares about a goddamn sugar rush? Mostly, I was astounded by her words. “My body says one thing, but my brain says another.”
Because she’s just a kid and I’m an irresponsible adult, I told her she could have another one anyway, but you know what she did? She ignored me. She listened to that little genius brain of hers and didn’t eat another cupcake.
Self-control isn’t easy — and not just when it comes to food. 50% of Americans under 45 binge-watch tv and the average Internet user spends 145 minutes a day on social media. We binge on bad decisions and then regret those choices afterward. But a seven-year-old has proven just how easy self-control can be with two questions:
- What does my body want?
- What does my brain say?
The best part is, you can ask these questions no matter what area you want to practice self-control.
How to stop binge-watching
As you know, shows are terribly easy to binge-watch. But by asking the two questions above, I’ve binge-watched only one seriesin the past two years.
I have a rule that I can only watch tv at night, so I usually watch an episode at around nine-thirty. At ten-thirty, when the episode is over, I’m always tempted to watch a second one. My body wants to stay on the couch and find out what’s going to happen next.
I don’t give in because my brain knows that if I watch another episode, I won’t be able to sleep, I’ll feel stressed, and in the morning I’ll be sleep deprived. I avoid those consequences by asking those two questions.
How to stop eating when you’re full
Self-control isn’t always easy, but it’s easier to apply in some situations than in others. To me, self-control is more difficult when it comes to food because I love food (yes, italicized and everything).
When it comes to food, the questions go like this: “What does my body want? More food. What does my brain say about that? It says that if I waited a few minutes I’d realize I’m full, but honestly, I don’t give a damn what my brain says, I’ll take that second serving, please.”
However, just because my self-control sucks when it comes to food doesn’t mean I’ll stop asking those questions. The reality is that the amount of food I eat now is less than what I used to eat a year ago because I talk to myself first. (note: I’m not telling you how to eat. This is just a suggestion.)
How to stop your “negative” thoughts
As crappy as thoughts such as, “I don’t know if I’m good enough,” make us feel, we actually secretly love them. When we feel bad, it’s an excuse to ignore work and sunlight and dive under the covers to read all day. Negative thinking is addicting, and another form of bingeing.
When I’m unable to write, for example, I tend to bully myself. (I’m not good enough, why did I think I could do this, etc.)These thoughts can be especially difficult to stop, but it’s possible.
- What does my body want? To continue feeling bad about myself.
- What’s the smart thing to do? Stop the thoughts before I make myself feel worse.
How to work more (or less)
When it comes to working, it can go both ways: you’re either not working enough or you’re working too hard.
Let’s say you’ve been avoiding work because you’re lazy. If you ask, “What does my body want?” the answer might be, “To keep laying in bed and avoiding reality.” That’s probably a bad idea, so now you can ask, “What does my brain say?” Grab your laptop and get back to editing that video you were evading. Listen to your brain. It’s smarter than you think.
When you’re working too hard, you might need to change the order of the questions: What does my brain say I need to do? Keep working, keep hustling, keep sacrificing sleep for the sake of productivity. But what does your body need? In this case, that’s what you need to listen to — your body. Because your body needs rest, to lay in bed, and you need to try to get your sleep schedule back in order.
Self-Control Isn’t Easy
These are just a few scenarios in which you can ask yourself these two questions:
- What does my body want?
- What does my brain say?
Despite their simplicity, they can be powerful. Whether you want to stop yourself from drinking yet another cup of coffee or spend another afternoon on the couch instead of going for a walk.
Self-control is really just another form of self-love for your body and your mental health. You can help yourself avoid decisions you’ll regret. Does it always work? No. But sometimes it does, and that’s what matters. That we keep trying.
If my seven-year-old niece can do it, so can you.
By: Itxy Lopez