Training for body transformation success comes with a host of challenges, many of which can be directly traced to the various doubts and insecurities that affect most of us on some level. For example, a degree of uncertainty as to whether one is mentally strong enough to follow through with the commitment to training, eating and living a lifestyle conducive to dropping the excess bodyfat and building sufficient shapely muscle can plague many a devoted trainee to where they begin second guessing their ability to go all the way. Also, critical feedback (while well meaning) can prove disastrous for those who choose to view it in exclusively negative terms.
The problem here is that we are biased in our propensity to mentally assimilate and act upon negative, rather than positive, information. In fact, the human brain is designed to preferentially scan for, register, store, recall, and react to unpleasant experiences. Our mental storehouse of negative implicit memories (those based upon previous experiences and which influence our actions without us being consciously aware of these experiences) naturally accumulate in number while positive memories (even when they outnumber the negative) do not grow nearly as fast. This is one reason why people, with limited information to go by, are more likely to make negative snap judgments about others. We are inclined, indeed biologically programmed, to err on the side of suspicion before making a more reasoned and rational assessment of another’s intentions.
Besides reflecting this negativity bias outwardly we also apply it within, which goes some way to explaining the excessive, needless emotional suffering many of the world’s population endures. And because we are neurologically conditioned to preferentially retain negative memories, the emotional pain we experience today will invariably lead to more emotional pain tomorrow. In fact, a single episode of major depression, for example, reshapes our brain circuits to where future depressive episodes are more likely to occur.
It is said that neurons (brain cells) that fire together, wire together. Thus, to override our negative conditioning we must mentally internalize the positive. We must pay more notice to the positive events in our lives; for example, every small fitness gain should be celebrated; we must also actively look for the positive in every training experience. In some cultures and societies, people are taught to downplay their achievements (as a misguided attempt to foster humility). Rather, to re-program our brain circuits to actively store more positive memories we must work extra hard to bring mindful awareness to such memories. Not in an attempt to cling to any associated rewards but to ensure that our achievements are carried inside so that we need not seek validation from the outside world, a process which may only lead to more negativity should no validation be forthcoming. We must savor each positive experience so as to crystallize it in our memory (the longer we hold a positive thought in our memory, the greater the neuronal firing and the stronger the consolidation of positive memories). By focusing on and letting linger in our memory a new personal best lift, or an additional weight loss achievement, for example, we also enhance the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine which, in turn, strengthens our ability to focus on and internalize such positive events the next time around while strengthening these events’ neural associations in implicit memory.