What We Feel Affects What We Think What We Think Affects What We Do

Ideally, in the world of self-regulation we want to institute and move towards health behaviors that enhance our body/health/lifespan and move away from health behaviors that in the short term or the long term threaten to diminish our physical functioning/health status/longevity. Albert Bandura, the seminal researcher in social cognitive theory, suggests that what we feel, affects what we think and what we think affects what we do. This is a stepwise framework that guides us through information and then understanding that ultimately can inform our choices.

When we feel or become aware of something inside of our body it is referred to as interoception; some examples are the sensations of hunger, thirst, fatigue, and satiation. The thinking is, the more we are connected to or aware of our internal bodily sensations, the more capable we are in incorporating these messages, heightening our ability to self-regulate. For purposes of illustration this means, if we receive and are aware of the sensation of being satiated, i.e.—having ingested an adequate amount of food—we stop feeding.  Using the feel, thinkdo model—we feel our body (blood sugar, stomach contents decreased urgency to feed), we think to ourselves that the need to feed has been met, and do what is next—stop feeding.

Exteroception is an awareness of stimuli outside of the body including things like what we see, smell, or touch.  Being aware of what is going on externally provides us with information through which we can better navigate our choices and behaviors. A simple example of this would be noticing that we respond to the wafting aroma of butter-drenched garlic bread, and with that information considering if ingesting the bread is a health-enhancing decision or might we just enjoy the aroma and move on.  In our world of feel, thinkdo we feel our interest peeked through exposure to the wonderful aroma, we think about how pleasant that aroma is as well as whether that would be health enhancing to ingest or even if our body is calling for feeding in that moment, and what we do is in response to that thinking.

Our decisions can become a bit dicey if we omit feel and/or think before we do. We can move right to think without stopping to experience our feelings, but this omits all the information that can be transmitted from both inside and outside of our body. This includes emotional feelings that can at times be difficult to sit with or experience. The habit of disconnecting from our emotional feelings can leave us in a less-informed state, lacking knowledge or data that might otherwise prove useful before we move on to what we think about and how we act on those feelings. Similarly, disconnecting from our physical feelings or sensations can prove to be at worst, deadly, as our body will eventually cease to live if our health-related behaviors result in disease and early death. We can also drive right through feel and think and just land squarely in the “do” category. This essentially looks like we are engaging in actions without feeling or thinking, disconnected from any available information or potential consequences, with the doing ostensibly a solution unto itself.

Our bodies were built to survive and thrive with the most intricate and profound machinery known to man. Information is available from both inside and outside our body that is meant to inform and contribute to our health behavior management. How we navigate our functioning is ours to win or lose—let’s be in it to win it!