New Year’s Resolution
Now that we are several weeks into the new year, how are those resolutions going? Making long term changes in our habits can be very challenging. Often it involves will power, denial, guilt and hardship. The attempt to change an unhealthy habit often involves denial of something you enjoy e.g. giving up sugar, alcohol, fatty foods etc. This means that you spend most of your time feeling like you are missing out.
When you slip up, you punish yourself with feelings of guilt and self-blame, probably this is an attempt to punish yourself and associate failure with pain so as not to do it again. After all that, the benefits are often short lived. As the saying goes, “what you resist persists.”
Surely there must be a better way? The following is an alternative.
Start the process with accepting the habit you want to change. For instance, if it is eating sugary foods you want to stop, go ahead and have a pastry but be mindful of the experience. Are you really enjoying the pastry or just using it as distraction? What is the motivation? Is it because you are hungry, tired, stressed, depressed etc. It is important this process is undertaken in an atmosphere of acceptance, compassion and non-judgement, so the feeling of guilt and self-blame do not cloud the underlying motive. Often the underlying reason is not hunger but something else. Let’s say its tiredness. Perhaps there could be an healthier alternative when you are tired, such as a power nap, take a break, meditate etc. Each time you feel that urge to eat sugary products you could try the alternative habit. You then reward and/or congratulate yourself on undertaking the healthy alternative. The emphasis then is on reinforcing the positive habit, putting you in an empowered happy state, which leaves you even better placed to deal with the next challenge. This as opposed to making yourself feel guilty and self-blame, which leaves you feeling stressed, unhappy and weakened, the result being you are in a worse position to deal with the next time you are tempted. Furthermore, the method of positive reinforcement of the healthy habit has a much better long term success rate. This is because as you get into a positive feedback loop so you do more of the healthy habit.
At the core of this method is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing ones attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. In this instance we are concerned with bringing your attention to your thoughts and feelings you have about your actions. This can be practiced by several different means. You can start by sitting by yourself in the quiet without any distractions (including books or media devices) for around 10 minutes. You will experience many different thoughts. Let them come to you and go without any attempt to change them or engage with them; treat those thoughts with compassion and acceptance. Another method can be to sit in the same manner but this time focus on your breathing coming in through your mouth and follow it going down to the bottom of your lungs and then back up. If you get distracted by thoughts, return your focus to your breathing. It is important to note that while these systems seem very straight forward and easy, many people find it very difficult and prefer guided meditation to start with. You may decide to use an app on your phone, such as Headspace.
Changing habits and mindfulness is a very involved process and we have tried to introduce you to some of the concepts here. If you wish to understand the process in more detail please talk to one of our chiropractors in your next appointment or try calling 0113 2889899.
B.Sc Chiro D.C (Aust) M.C.C C.S.C.P