In a book I’ve just read, The Diabetes Lifestyle Book, by three PH.D.s Jennifer Gregg, Glenn Calaghan and Steven Hayes, they examine from a psychological perspective, how we can commit to achieving better health. They employ something called, “acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)” to move patients through the obstacles that get in their way and talk about how you can overcome your own barriers. If you’ve a mind to do some mind-work, this is a good read.
Here’s an example of mind-shifting from their book– it’s a pretty simple, a gentleman had trouble committing to exercising. He, like many people the authors say was using “weather” as an excuse not to exercise. Ted is fifty-five with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular complications whose doctors are asking him to exercise. Ted made it clear to the psychologists that he would only walk for exercise and that he wouldn’t walk in the rain under any circumstances.
The authors asked Ted how firm that decision was for him on a scale of 0 to 100. Ted said 100. Wow, that’s pretty firm! Then they asked Ted why he was coming to their clinic. He said he’d been sent by his doctor so he could better manage his diabetes. Then they asked Ted why would you want to better manage your diabetes? Ted said somewhat confused, “to improve my health.” The authors then asked Ted whether he thought he could do things to improve his health even if they were difficult, and Ted said “of course.” The authors then asked Ted “So why would you be able to do difficult things?” and Ted said, “because I want to live a long life to to see my grandchildren, whom I have a special bond with, grow up.
Hmmmm….O.K. Now the authors asked, “What if in order to see your grandchildren grow up you have to walk in the rain?” Ted thought a minute and then said, “I think I need to get an umbrella!” Eureka! The authors then asked Ted again how firm his belief was on a scale of 0 to 100 that he would not walk in the rain. Ted did not even pause before saying “about a 10.” So what happened? The psychologists linked what Ted REALLY wants — seeing his grandchildren grow up — with how he could get it. That’s what was meaningful to Ted, as opposed to the abstract notion of just being healthier if he exercises. The book is filled with exercises, examples, linkages and stories like these to help you see where you can make stronger links for yourself, more tightly connected with your desires and values, to better manage your diabetes.
When I give my motivational presentations I always ask people, “Are you spending more time focused on the everyday tasks of diabetes or what the tasks are giving you – better health, a longer life, more energy, more time with the grandkids, etc? It’s important that we see the benefit of all the work we’re doing. Look to the life you truly want to be living and see your diabetes work as the road. It can be smooth or bumpy, depending upon how you regard it.
While you do the work shift your mind from looking down–it’s hard, takes time, hurts, not fair, why me? to up–it gives me more energy to travel, I can wear that great dress at my son’s wedding, and boy, I’m pretty amazing handling all this! You can only start where you are, so start there and don’t resent or beat yourself up that that’s where you are. Enough said, and keep Ted in your thoughts. Right now I imagine he’s racing down the street in the drizzle with a smile on his face because his grandkids are waiting at the end.