CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A few weeks back, a reader sent an email that said, "This sounds like something you'd like." Attached was a file labeled "Seven-day diet."
Since I was already on a diet at the time (like always), I didn't open the attachment right away. I figured it was yet another fad that would have me cooking a kettle of cabbage soup or downing some strange food combination. But I was nicely surprised when I eventually opened the file and saw it was for a seven-day mental health diet. Keep the pounds, but shed the negativity.
I like to believe I'm generally a positive person, but my road's had so many potholes lately that I haven't maintained as good an attitude as I'd like. The diet's arrival was well-timed.
I was intrigued enough to do a little research. Turns out there are a number of mental diets, many of which are for seven days, but others lasting 21 to 28, because researchers say that's how long it takes to establish new behavior as a habit.
The diet is simple: Each time you recognize yourself thinking or speaking a negative thought, you stop. If possible, you should try to reframe the negative notion to see how it could be viewed differently.
I have a friend who is a perfect example of reframing the negative. For several years, this friend has had the most baffling collection of random medical ailments. At times, she's even wondered if she wasn't losing her mind because doctors couldn't determine what was causing the problems. Finally, though, an actual diagnosis was sort of tripped over, and after all that time, there it was. Her answer.
But it wasn't a very good answer.
She was, for a very short time, devastated by the news. Even though it isn't fatal, it's likely going to be hard. She has a long road ahead. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized that she now knows her opponent. He's no longer a ghost she has to swipe wildly at and hope to hit. She can see him. Knows his name.
I've been impressed by how she took her negative and is turning it into a positive. She could've curled up and felt sorry for herself, but that wouldn't have moved her forward.