New Year and many people are thinking about how to “improve themselves”, whether its “dry January” or starting a new exercise regime or eating plan. New Year resolutions are generally made to better ourselves or our situation….. Mine, if you’re interested, is to keep up my mindfulness meditation and to practice gratitude daily….. well actually that isn’t really a “New Year” resolution, just a resolution that I still need to keep reminding myself in a compassionate and encouraging way, until it becomes a good-enough-habit, that it’s an old habit!
Whenever you decide to make change, New Year or mid-year, it takes some effort, it doesn’t just happen! Its far easier to keep treading the path you know well and forgetting there’s an alternative route!
Currently everywhere I look I see adverts for gym membership and slimming clubs…… then I wonder, is someone trying to tell me something?! Well yes – of course! They want the business and they’re offering us a service; they know a lot of us want help to achieve change. And New Year is traditionally when people make their resolutions to change. Human beings are creatures of habit and are also generally social creatures, so being in a group of like-minded people gives a sense of belonging (we don’t like to think we’re alone and the only one with a ‘problem’), having another person to support and motivate us can feel good so it seems like a good idea – and indeed it CAN be a good idea! There's nothing wrong with joining a group, getting a personal trainer or roping in your 'bestie' to help you.
But some New Year resolutions just don’t last long, at worst, less than a day!!! Thinking about making change and putting a plan in place doesn’t always mean putting change in to action is straightforward, let alone maintaining it!
Setting a goal, making it achievable, developing a plan can certainly help but oh, how good are we, at sabotaging our good intentions?!! How many people have paid for gym membership and not used it?! The idea that paying for something will motivate us doesn’t always quite pan out that way ☹
There’s an old saying, “old habits die hard”, well the truth is that old habits don’t “die”. After all, think about it, the ability to ride a bicycle doesn’t “die”; we don’t forget how to ride a bicycle, if we haven’t done it for a while, we might be a bit rusty and less agile but once the behaviour is learnt we don’t unlearn it. The same goes for other, often less helpful, behaviours we’ve learnt - we don’t forget how to or lose the ability to drink alcohol, to smoke or to eat unhealthily. And on top of that when we’re trying to change these particular habits we also have to struggle with things like survival instincts and brain chemistry e.g. we need food for energy and growth, we might like the experience of drinking alcohol or eating chocolate, or crave nicotine ….and then there’s stress and temptation etc etc
BUT we CAN keep learning new things and learning to do things differently. New habits ARE hard because the old behaviours (that we’re most used to) are easier, even when the consequences of doing them might be harder on us…. and well, because old habits don’t “die”!
But what we CAN try and do is put old habits to bed and let them “go to sleep” (like the now rusting bicycle in your shed perhaps!) So….. what we need is motivation and strategies, to let old habits “doze off” while we bring new habits ALIVE & nurture them ….and to stop THEM from going to sleep! Zzzz
Whilst the physical/chemical/ biological element might be important to acknowledge and manage e.g nicotine withdrawal, missing the sugar / endorphin rush etc etc, the important factors in starting and maintaining change, are going to be the two things that are totally ours to change: our behaviour …and our THOUGHTS!
Change your behaviour but not your thought processes? You might start off ok but you could soon find the old behaviour waking back up and singing a merry tune! And THERE you have the self-sabotage…. That inner voice…. “oh I can’t be bothered today”, “I’m too tired”, “I don’t have time” “x, y, z is more important right now”, “I deserve a treat”, “one won’t hurt”, “I can’t do this”, “It’s too hard”, “I’ll do it tomorrow”, “Oh well I’ve done it now” etc etc. That’s YOUR inner voice becoming increasingly unhelpful, unmotivating and to top it all, quite possibly self-critical!
In the same way we learn habits in our behaviours, we also learn habits in the way we think. Getting a personal trainer, joining a group or getting your 'bestie' on board to help you with your behaviours also means you hear a helpful (external) voice which hopefully helps to influence your internal voice but you do need to hear that motivation as consistently as possible internally too! Unfortunately sometimes the internal voice and it’s argument for the old habit or against the new one wins. But we CAN successfully train that new voice to stay “awake” when we find and maintain our own meaning / importance in change and when we recognise unhelpful / sabotaging thinking processes. We’re the only ones who can answer our internal selves back when the old voice starts it’s argument! Yep! That's right talking to ourselves is a good thing 😉
Oh yes, and that’s where I might be able to help you 😊 with strategies to discover, understand and manage your own internal voice so you can succeed in making the change you would like to see…..
And today I will make room for mindfulness and for gratitude.... (perhaps a blog on those another day!?!)
Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, Integrative Psychotherapist, Nurse Specialist (Mental Health), Mum, Youth Worker, Trainer.......