Change is a three pronged process because we are trying to change what we think, how we feel and what we do about our habits. It’s not always easy juggling all three. As thinking, feeling and doing beings, we must explore each one when implementing long-term change in our lives. Our thoughts, feelings and behaviors hold valuable information about the purpose of our habits and the balance of our inner ecosystem.
Ask yourself, “What do I say to myself about my unwanted habit?” Then be honest with yourself and write it down, or tell a friend, turn it into song lyrics, draw a picture. Do it your way! It might be hard to see or hear, but it will help you understand your self-talk. Over time, we develop automatic thoughts or rationalizations about our habits that need to be revisited:
“I can stop anytime if I want.”
“I work hard, I deserve this.”
“I wouldn’t have to yell if my family listened to me.”
“It will get better once I have less stress going on.”
“At least I’m not as bad as my cousin.”
“What will they think of me?”
“I’ll never be able to stop. This is who I am.”
Ask yourself: “How do I feel about this habit?” Then write it down. Identifying how we feel will be a process of trial and error. Our ambivalence will most likely hang around for some time. This is very normal. Honoring it will help build compassion towards ourselves, and it will reveal valuable information about the part of us that doesn’t want to give up that habit. Our goal is to fulfill that part of us in a healthy way that reflects our values. Increasing our awareness and curiosity towards all the opposing feelings circling our habits (for example: shame, anger, fear, safety, relief, power, control, or powerlessness), will point to clues in understanding our needs and how to get them met. We are stronger than our feelings and understanding them builds our reservoir of resiliency.
Ask yourself: “What am I currently doing about my habit?” Am I actively taking steps to understand its impact upon me, am I educating myself and/or practicing healthier alternatives in my life?” If you answered yes to any of these, that’s awesome! What you’re doing matters and requires a great deal of commitment and humility. Hats off to you!
Thinking in opposites and postponement can be effective strategies in understanding our needs and coping with triggers. By thinking in opposites, we are able to create a new map for new habits. This is important, because what we put in place of our habits has to be realistic and serve our need for change in a healthy way. What do you want to think, how do you want to feel & how do you want to respond to your habits?” When faced with intense feelings, imagine what they may be trying to teach you. It might be helpful to remind yourself,
“Anytime I feel:
Frustration: this is my opportunity to develop patience.”
Sadness: it reminds me of what is important.”
Anger: helps me to understand what need is not being met.”
Fear: I know it’s ok to seek support, reminding me I deserve to seek and feel a sense of safety. We all do.”
Happiness: I can reflect on that which I am appreciative.”
We are stronger than our feelings and understanding them builds our reservoir of resiliency.
In the meantime, remind ourselves we are worthy of giving ourselves the time and opportunity to meet our needs in a healthier way. It’s okay that we feel lost or confused, like Linus without our blanket. This is an opportunity to do something different and ask ourselves if our behavior is getting us closer or further from our goals. Ultimately we are in charge of how we comfort ourselves. Please remember setbacks are normal, this is how we learn. Being intentional with our self care activities and asking others for support through these challenging times is the foundation of maintaining the change we seek within ourselves.