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7 Toxic mindsets that stop you from building healthy habits (and their healthier alternatives)

Having the wrong kind of mindset when trying to build healthy habits can be one of the biggest obstacles to your success.

Even though it may feel like you’re doing everything right, the way you think about and approach your health and fitness may be undoing so much of your hard work.

The wrong mindset can leave you feeling frustrated, hopeless, and demotivated.

But the good news is that with enough awareness and practice, we can all change our minds for the better. Here are some common toxic mindsets that may be stopping you from building healthy habits as well as alternative mindsets that you can adopt.

❌ Toxic Mindset #1

😇 All-or-nothing 👿 thinking

All-or-nothing thinking is when you tend to only think in extremes, two polar opposites, or two mutually exclusive either-or-choices.

  • If I don’t have time to do a full 60-minute workout, I might as well do nothing at all.
  • If I break my meal plan and eat chocolate, there’s no sense in sticking to the plan for the rest of the day. In fact this whole week is messed up and I’ll just re-start on Monday.

✅ Alternative Mindset:

Thinking on a ↔️ Continuum

The alternative to all-or-nothing is thinking on a continuum. We sometimes call this always-something thinking. This is where you imagine your options as a spectrum of choices that range from better to worse and you’re comfortable moving back and forth along the spectrum as needed.

  • “If I don’t have time to do a full 60-minute workout, I could do a shorter and more intense 30-minute workout instead. Or, I could spend 30-minutes stretching and foam rolling so that I can be more prepared and recovered for my normal workout tomorrow.”
  • “If I break my meal plan and eat chocolate, it’s not the end of the world. I can get back on track immediately and learn from the situation in order to avoid it happening again.”

❌ Toxic Mindset #2

🤯 Catastrophising

Catastrophising is when you tend to ruminate on the worst case scenario, without acknowledging other likely options. You magnify the problem, making it seem much worse than it is.

  • “If I don’t hit this weight goal, I am probably going to die of heart disease.”
  • “If I don’t feel more confident in my body, I’ll probably never date again.”

✅ Alternative Mindset:

⚖️ Acknowledge Other Likely Options

The alternative to catastrophising is to explore and acknowledge other likely options. Sometimes these other options aren’t immediately obvious, but being able to identify when you’re catastrophizing and what emotions you’re feeling at the time can help you to correct this irrational thinking. Giving yourself time to pause and look for other options can help reduce anxiety around the situation and free up your mind to help find other solutions.

  • “I’m feeling overwhelmed today and that is why I feel like I won’t hit this weight goal. But I know if I just take things day-by-day everything will work out OK.”
  • “I’m feeling tired because I didn’t get enough sleep this weekend and that is why I feel like wanting to give up. But I know if I just eat a healthy dinner get some extra sleep tonight I’ll feel much better in the morning.”

❌ Toxic Mindset #3

🛑 Fixed Mindset

A fixed mindset is when you believe that things and situations can’t be changed. You believe that you either have what it takes (e.g. luck, talent, natural gifts, etc) or you don’t.

  • “Some people are just naturally better at healthy eating, not me though.”
  • “I think I was born with a slow metabolism.”

✅ Alternative Mindset:

🌱 Growth Mindset

The alternative to a fixed mindset is a growth mindset. This is when you believe that with enough effort and practice, most things can be improved.

  • “I’m just a beginning right now, but if I keep doing my workouts consistently, I’ll get stronger.”
  • “I learned to speak French and how to play the piano, so I know that I can learn how to do this too.”

❌ Toxic Mindset #4

🌍 External Locus of Control

Having an external locus of control is when you view yourself as a helpless victim of circumstances, other people’s wishes, or other events outside of your will. In other words, things external to you.

  • “The food was there, and I found myself eating it.”
  • “I never seem to have the time to go to the gym, my work, family, and friends, always seem to take up all of my time.”

✅ Alternative Mindset:

🧘‍♀️ Internal Locus of Control

The alternative to having an external locus of control is to have a more internal locus of control. This is when you view yourself as an active participant in your life. You feel able to take charge of events and respond to them effectively.

  • “I noticed I eat whatever food is convenient and nearby, so I went to the store and stocked up on healthier choices that I actually like and enjoy eating.”
  • “I blocked out time for two workouts in my calendar this week and told my family that this was ME time! I also organised with my friends to go for a coffee and 5km walk on Saturday morning to catch up.”

❌ Toxic Mindset #5

🏷️ Labeling

Labeling is when you see yourself as a stereotype, fixed in time and unchanging. It is just who you are and you can’t be anything or anyone else.

  • “I am a failure, I’m lazy, and I’m incapable.”
  • “I am a sugar addict who can’t say ‘No’ to junk food. I don’t have enough willpower.”

✅ Alternative Mindset:

🚀 Identity-Based Growth

The alternative to labeling is to focus on identity-based growth. This is where you decide what kind of person you want to be or identify as, and then find small ways to become 1% more that kind of person each day.

  • “I want to be the kind of person who can wake up early and get up without hitting the snooze button. I’ll practice this by setting my alarm just 5 minutes earlier.”
  • “I want to be the kind of person who can say ‘No’ to junk food. I’ll start by keeping less junk food around so that the temptations are less and I need less willpower. Then, when I’m feeling good, I’ll actively go and put my self in a situation where I have the opportunity to say ‘No’.”

❌ Toxic Mindset #6

☹️ Negativity Bias

A negativity bias is when you mostly see your circumstances through a negative lens. Out of everything that you COULD see, you choose to focus on the negative.

  • “This car accident sucks! Why do bad things always happen to me? My car is ruined and now I’m late for work!”
  • “I failed last week. I only worked out 3 days and slept in after my alarm twice.”

✅ Alternative Mindset:

😄 Positivity Bias

The alternative to a negativity bias is a positivity bias or at least a more balanced perspective between the two. Out of everything that you COULD see, you choose to focus on the positive. This is not necessarily about being an optimist, rather, it’s more about choosing to focus on the good and deliberately seek it out.

  • “Oh my word! I’m so lucky! I can’t believe I survived that accident with barely a scratch. I’m so grateful that I get to live another day and go home to my loved ones again!”
  • “Last week wasn’t my best week, but I still managed to workout 3 days a week and got out of bed when my alarm went off on most days. I’ve had worse weeks.”

❌ Toxic Mindset #7

⛈️ Doomsday Thinking

Doomsday thinking is when you find yourself trying to do “good things” for “bad reasons”. You’re trying to run away from pain or fear, making life seem overly negative and miserable.

  • “If I don’t eat healthily, I’m going to get Diabetes or cancer.”
  • “If I don’t exercise regularly, I’m going to put on too much weight.”

✅ Alternative Mindset:

☀️ Focusing on a Bright Future

The alternative to doomsday thinking is focusing on a bright future. This is where you’re doing “good things” for “good reasons”. You’re running towards pleasure or rewards that get you excited about what life has to offer.

  • “If I eat healthily, I’m going to much longer, healthier, and happier life.”
  • “If I exercise regularly, I’m going to have so much more energy and be able to still play with my grandkids one day.”

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