Stick-with-it-ness! (How to hang in there in a new lifestyle change)
First off, let me point out how much easier it is to make a bad habit than it is to make a good habit. Our brains are hardwired to do the easier thing. Some call it “sin nature” (that’s me and my faith), some call it laziness, whatever your choice for calling it, it’s just plain easier to make a bad habit. To make a good habit is much, much harder. My blog is about trying to empower you to make the choice to make those good choices to get you on a better path, whether you struggle with Depression, Anxiety, and Fibromyalgia like I do, or you just want to start fresh this New Year.
Today I want to give you some information about making a new habit. First off, I just want to teach you a little about your brain. Your brain, to dumb it down a whole lot, is kind of like a ball of play dough. As you give it thought processes, it’s like you are drawing lines in the play dough. The more you think about one thing, the deeper you draw the line. Let’s take Chronic pain for instance. If you go to the doctor you are drawing a line in your brain’s “dough”. If you talk about your pain with your friends, deeper goes that line. If you get up in the morning and take a moment to scan your body for pain spots, deeper goes that line. Do you see how it goes? But what is the best thing about play dough? If you mess up what can you do? Squeeze it together and start over. Well, obviously we can squeeze our brain together and start over, but there is something our brain is and that is called Neuroplastic. The Neuroplasticity of the brain allows it to “heal” the neurons we form that have “taught” it that it will “never get better” and teach it a good habit, such as “I can have a good life despite my pain.” Please understand that I am not saying that someone who has chronic pain is not in pain. Pain is very real and is not “all in your head” like many doctor’s will tell you. What I’m saying is, that if you allow yourself to form good mental, physical, and spiritual habits, your brain will heal to the point that you can have a happy life despite your chronic pain. Please watch this video below. It’s a simplified explanation that explains fully what Neuroplasticity is. Again, this doesn’t solve your chronic disease, what it does is give you a chance to live a good life despite it.
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OK, so now that we’ve gotten through the intellectual portion of why we want to form a good habit, let’s talk about why it’s so hard to keep a good habit and some things we can try to keep our good habits going. First of all, you need to know that it takes 21 days to form and stick to a good habit. So, if you give up on day 19, you’re selling yourself short. A good way to try to keep a habit forming is to have a calendar in your possession, and I’m not talking about a iThingy. I’m talking about something you can touch, feel, and use a pen or pencil on to scratch off the days. Choose the good habit your wanting to perform and check off the days. You will find that after you reach the hump on the 21 days it will slowly get easier and easier to be consistent on doing that which you are trying to do.
So, I just gave you the first key: Use a calendar to mark off the days on your habit. That way you can see the success you’re making and not stress on the failure.
Here’s your second tip: Don’t give yourself 20 habits to form in one 21 day span. Choose 1. The one I’m working on this 21 period is organizing my house. Not just organizing my house, but keeping it organized. I have people harping on me to exercise, and do my relaxation, and all this other stuff. I am doing those things, but my primary concentration is on my house, and if the other things fall away, I’m not beating myself up. One. habit. at. a. time. This is called moderation. It’s OK to acknowledge you have 20 things to change, but don’t ruminate over them. You get to list them once, then put them away in a deep dark place where you don’t get to pick them up again until after you feel you are comfortably handling the habit you have just formed. Twenty-one days is the minimum needed for a habit to form, for you it may be two months. Be kind to yourself. Take it easy. Simplify yourself and don’t stress.
So the second key for today is: Moderation
Finally, Be kind to yourself on a Difficult Day, or a Plan B day. We all have Plan B days. Those are the days when your illness, or your work, or whatever your “issue” that brought you to my website is driving you the most crazy. I recommend to everyone to make themselves a Difficult Day Box. I got this idea from Mayo Clinic when I was there for treatment. They have their patients make a Difficult Day Box because inside it you put things to encourage you. Like your favorite quotes, a letter from your favorite person that encouraged you, a $5 gift card to your favorite coffee shop, or whatever you can think of that will help you get through that day. On that day, do half of what you do on a regular day. The point is, do something. Don’t give up. Don’t stop. If you give up and give yourself the right to sit on the couch or lay in bed all day, you’ll feel like crap and you’ll give up on your habit. A give-up day like I just described is a start-over for the entire habit, but a “Plan B” day is just a step back, not a failed habit. Remember, kindness to yourself is the best attitude.
Final key: Handle your Plan B days by still doing half of what you normally do.
Now, after you’ve mastered your new habit, and you feel you’re stable and good to go, go ahead and add a habit, but remember the same rules apply. Don’t be surprised if the first habit take a hit. Just remember, you did it the first time! You already have one success under your belt. You can do it again with two habits. Simplify, Moderate, and be kind to yourself on “Plan B” days. You can do this thing!
Here are some good habits I recommend for people dealing with chronic illnesses:
- Grow Spiritually
- Relaxation Techniques/Diaphragmatic Breathing
- Exercise, starting from 5 minutes a day working up to the recommendation your doctor has given you. Only exercise if your doctor has given you a go ahead.
- Good Hygiene
- Good Sleep Hygiene
- Drinking 1/2 your weight in water. If you want to drink something else, fine, but don’t include it in your water intake.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Counseling
- Talk to your doctor about medication interactions
- Avoid refined sugar
- Avoid Caffeine/Alcohol/Nicotine
- Find yourself a “Quiet Room” to retreat to on a “Plan B” day
- Make a “Difficult Day Box”