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Take up don't give up

What are you giving up for lent? 

Today is 'Ash Wednesday'. Even those of us who don't follow a religion often pledge today to give something up for the 40 days and nights preceding Easter Sunday. And even if you haven't, perhaps you started 2013 giving something up for January? Did you manage it?

Giving things up is hard. Really hard. Our attention system (Reticular Activating System in the brain, if you're interested) will ruin our chances by focusing us on all the things that we are trying not to have. The brain doesn't hear the 'must not have' part of our mantra, only the object of our 'disaffection'; chocolate, cake, alcohol, cheese... whatever it may be. And each time that thing is in view (or thought) it uses up that much more of our limited self-control and willpower. Edging us ever closer to breaking point.

Fortunately psychology has an answer that can help. Make it easier for yourself and choose to take up something rather than give it up. Have one salad a day, have 4 glasses of water, walk up every escalator. Achieving goals TO DO rather than NOT DO is not only more forward thinking, it's actually easier. And you can reward yourself (not with cake, perhaps with £1 towards a new outfit) each time you manage it so you experience positive emotion, rather than the resentment and guilt that comes with denying yourself.

I'm going to try 10 minutes a day of exercise. What are you going to take up?

Well being


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