(This post was originally released on Easter)
I hope you are having a wonderful Easter and also enjoyed eating some easter eggs (chocolate ones included). Often we feel guilty when eating chocolate and not just when eating chocolate. I have something I would like to share with you about these guilty feelings. Please read on if you would like to explore this topic with me.
Do you sometimes feel guilty?
If we pay close attention to our thoughts and our beliefs, we will probably notice that we often feel guilty. One study found that if you add up all the moments you spend feeling mildly or moderately guilty, it adds up to a substantial chunk of time. Apparently, we experience about 5 hours a week of guilty feelings. We can feel guilty about many things including eating (what we eat or how much we eat), about not exercising, about using technology too much, not being a good parent etc. Read on if you like to find out where it comes from and what to do about it…
Where does feeling guilty come from?
One theory on the evolution of guilt is that it may have developed because of our tendency to live in socially connected, mutually supportive groups. A lot of human behaviors are traced back by evolutionary scientists to our social past; to survive as a species. And that survival was based on fear.
When we feel guilt, we are experiencing a conflict at having done something that one believes one should not have done or conversely, having not done something one believes one should have done. And the experience of this conflict is linked to the creation of anxiety and fear. Fear of doing harm to ourselves or others, fear of getting caught or fear of the repercussions of our actions etc.
As Dr. Wayne Dyer says, there are only two emotions and one of them is FEAR and the other one is LOVE. And all negative emotions fall under the headline of FEAR, including guilt, and all positive emotions under the headline of Love. But why do we have these FEAR-based beliefs? (And remember what FEAR stands for: False Evidence Appearing Real – or – Fantasised Events Appearing Real.)
It turns out that this negativity and fear is ‘normal’ and that we can thank evolution for this ‘negativity bias’. This ‘negativity bias’ comes from our survival days back in when we were cave dwellers – our brain is wired to always see the negative first and to focus on that to survive. But although our cave-dwelling days are long gone, our brain and mind still operate the same way. This bias was discovered and documented by the psychologists’ Paul Rozin and Edward Royzman in 2001. You will find more info here.
The good news is that we can train our mind to be more positive and less anxious. And one great tool to do this is learning and practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is not obscure or exotic. It’s familiar to us because it’s what we already do, how we already are. We all already have the capacity to be present, and it doesn’t require us to change who we are. And we can cultivate these innate qualities with simple practices. While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice daily. That’s when the real magic happens, and we will re-wire our brain to be more positive, focused, happy and more. There’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re remodeling the physical structure of your brain.
A great practice to start with and that also works on feeling guilty is mindful eating.
Mindful eating is eating with intention and attention. Eating is a natural, healthy and pleasurable activity for satisfying hunger. However, in our food-abundant culture eating is often mindless, consuming and guilt-inducing instead. Mindful eating is an ancient mindfulness practice with profound modern implications and applications for resolving this troubled love-hate relationship with food and becoming more aware of how we eat.
Chocolate is a food we have a lot of conflicted feelings about and that’s why it is good to use for mindful eating. It’s good to choose a food that you love and crave. But you can use whatever food you like. If chocolate causes you too much anxiety, you can also use any other kind of food. Maybe you would like to eat a raisin, a piece of apple, a strawberry or anything else.
See my video here about mindful eating and give it a try. You could use a chocolate Easter egg, a piece of chocolate or any other food that you have on hand. Alternatively, listen to my mindful eating audio recording here.
Be well, best wishes to you,