How to Stop the Cycle of Guilt


Guilt is probably one of the most destructive and negative emotions.

Guilt stops us from changing our unwanted behaviours and prevents us from thinking and acting in a more positive way.

Do you continue to beat yourself up? Do you seem to be stuck?

It can become a self-defeating cycle where you can become stuck. For example we either decide to eat more healthily or to exercise more often, we start off well then something pops up and we slip into a negative cycle. We then beat ourselves up about it – “Why do I even bother?”, “I knew I wouldn’t be able to stick with it!” or “I’m a failure!”.

Creating negative thoughts and feeling bad, we seek something that will comfort us, usually repeating the unwanted behaviour that got us here in the first place such as reaching for comfort food.  The trick is to catch yourself out when negative thoughts pop into your mind and quickly replace them with the postive thoughts. For example “I knew I would eat that cake at the party” quickly replace it with “I know I had the cake but I only had two alcoholic drinks”.

If this was a friend who had slipped up, would we talk to them like this? No, we would provide them with support and encouragement, telling them to take it for what it is ‘a slip up’. We would get them moving on and back on track to achieving success. For example “Don’t worry about that piece of cake, you have walked everyday this week and you are looking so much better”.

There are a few things we can do to help ourselves overcome the Guilty Cycle:

  • Take responsibility for your actions. Really think about what happened and why. What can you do to change your thinking and behaviour so it doesn’t happen again? Replace the negative thoughts with postive ones.
  • Accept that we are all human and ‘slip ups’ can happen. One slip up doesn’t doom the entire program. A large dinner and dessert one night or one missed workout isn’t the end of it all. Pick yourself up with positive thoughts and actions.
  • Forgive yourself. Treat yourself kindly, be patient and show yourself compassion as you would to a friend.
  • Don’t wallow in it. Feeling bad about what has happened prevents you from moving on. Let it go and get back on track to a happier, healthier you!

If you continue you to be stuck in a cycle of guilt resulting in self defeating patterns you may want to seek help from a health professional to support your journey to achieving the desired behaviour patterns and feeling much better.



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