Words matter. Perhaps especially to me since as previously mentioned, I am a self-professed logophile and I know that my love language is “words of affirmation.” However biased I may be though, there is a lot of evidence which supports my claim. According to Gretchen Rubin, “research shows that people who use language that emphasizes that they’re acting by their own choice and exercising control (“I don’t,” “I choose to,” “I’m going to.,” or “I don’t want to”) stick to their habits better than people who use language that undermines their self-efficacy (“I can’t,” I’m not allowed to,” or “I’m supposed to”). There’s a real difference between “I don’t” and “I can’t.”” When I chose to do my very first Whole30 years ago I was, like so many others, initially shocked by the strict rules of the program, but understood immediately that instead of fixating on what I wasn’t eating, I was far more likely to succeed by focusing on what I was eating (real, nutritious meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, etc.). And in the years that have followed as I have continued to eat a mostly Whole30-ish diet, I am admittedly irritated when someone asks me if I am “allowed to eat XYZ.” The fact of the matter truly is that I am an adult and can and do eat whatever I like, but I actually like not eating processed foods, sugar, etc.. I know I feel my healthiest and happiest that way, which makes it easy for me to stick with the habits. But especially when starting out or when we encounter discouraging experiences or setbacks, the way we view a situation and what we say to ourselves and about our circumstances is important because words matter.
One of the most transformative mental health treatments to date has been cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy has been proven to be an effective means of treating depression, with at least equal efficacy as anti-depressant medication, but without side effects and also potentially longer lasting remission because patients not only resolve the presenting problem, but also learn tools and skills which can continue to be applied in a variety of ways in the future. Those who undergo cognitive therapy learn how to “reframe” which involves the identification of irrational or maladaptive thoughts followed by an attempt to apply a different filter and more constructive interpretation or perspective. Reframing means shifting our mindset in order to allow ourselves to consider alternative reasons or causes for a variety of events which might otherwise lead us to feel discouraged or defeated. And although the effectiveness of this technique has been well-substantiated among those suffering from depression, it of course can be a useful tool for anyone. When we reframe, we become more resilient because as Linda and Charlie Bloom wrote for Psychology Today, “when we change our point of view on any given situation, the facts remain the same, but a deliberate shift is made in how we see it… [and] as we shift our thinking about our situation, there is a change in emotional tone and the meaning that we give to our life circumstances [allowing] us an expanded view of our reality.” Those that embrace a growth mindset and maintain optimism are better at reframing problems as challenges which allows for a rising to the occasion as opposed to becoming overwhelmed or defeated. It involves taking a step back and considering the frame or lens which we are applying to our situations and the words that we use to describe them.
Not only do I love words, but I also love all things habit related. I’m someone who really thrives on working towards goals and enjoy making and keeping resolutions. And in light of the research on the extent to which words matter, throughout the entirety of my Happiness Project I have tried to find “positive” ways of phrasing the habits I want to form. Multiple studies have suggested that people who set resolutions to “stop,” “quit,” or “reduce” have a harder time keeping them than those that conversely have aims to “start,” “do,” or “add.” It seems it is easier and more amenable for us psychologically to take on a positive habit as opposed to dropping a bad one. Lately, I have become increasing cognizant and convicted about the amount of complaining that I do. I don’t want to have a bad attitude, but have struggled with finding a better way to frame “stop complaining” which seems a bit ambiguous, hard to measure progress, and well, negative. I would love some advice from anyone who has had firsthand experience and success in this area. I think I am quite good at expressing gratitude for the good things, but I still allow the setbacks and inconveniences to be excuses for grumbling. And of course complaining has never lifted my mood! I need to reframe the situation and be careful of what I say because words matter.
And as I was recently reminded – context also matters. During a coffee/breakfast session at the studio with Julette last week, she asked what I was eating. I described it as something like a Whole30 version of a classic breakfast option – Sausage Biscuits and Gravy. Julette was genuinely puzzled and asked me for further clarification on what I meant by a “biscuit.” I was so fixated on trying to explain the type of flaky, buttermilk, bread/scone-like biscuit that I meant that I completely forgot to take into account the fact that here in Ireland, a biscuit is what an American would call a cookie! Certainly, I was not eating this ground turkey with a creamy coconut milk gravy over those type of biscuits! But I was caught up in trying to describe the type I was referring to that I didn’t consider what she would have thought upon hearing the word. The whole thing ended in laughter naturally, especially because in reality there was no biscuit of either type, just delicious oven roasted sweet potatoes. And this cleaned up version of the classic is so tasty, that no matter what you might call them, I guarantee you won’t miss those traditional “biscuits” either way.
- Medium Sweet Potatoes, Diced 4 each
- Ghee, Melted 1 TBSP
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper to Taste
- Ghee 1 TBSP
- Ground/Minced Turkey 1 lb. (400 g)
- Ground Sage 1.5 TSP
- Fennel Seed .5 TSP
- Chili Powder 1 TSP
- Sea Salt 1 TSP
- Ghee 1 TBSP
- Medium Yellow Onion, Minced 1 each
- Garlic Cloves, Minced 3 each
- Nutmeg .5 TSP
- Black Pepper .5 TSP
- Sea Salt .5 TSP
- Bone Broth/Chicken Stock .5 cup (120 ml)
- Tapioca Flour 1 TBSP
- Full Fat Coconut Milk 13.5 oz (400 ml)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Dice the sweet potatoes and toss in a bowl with 1 TBSP of melted ghee and sea salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until baked through (crispy outside and soft center).
- Meanwhile heat 1 TBSP of ghee over medium high heat in a skillet and then crumble the turkey into the pan along with the sage, fennel seed, chili powder, and 1 TSP of sea salt. Cook until browned throughout and then remove to a side plate, draining any excess grease.
- In the same skillet, melt the last TBSP of ghee and then add the onion, allowing to cook until softened and slightly translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the minced garlic and all remaining spices and allow to cook for about 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Then add the bone broth/chicken stock and the tapioca flour whisking well to ensure that ingredients are fully incorporated.
- Allow the mixture to come to a light simmer and then add the coconut milk.
- Allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes and then add the turkey back in for about 2 more minutes to bring it back to heat.
- Build your plate with a layer of sweet potatoes and then spoon the sausage and gravy over the top.