How To Change And Make It Last
With the New Year upon us, it is time to start talking about change. There are several misconceptions of what change is and how people do it. Some may be convinced that people do not change. If that were true, what would be the purpose of psychotherapy, rehabilitation or even a simple resolution? Change is scary for some, while others embrace it and see it as a sign of hope. What is change and how can we make conscious changes permanent?
The way you think about change will be the deciding factor of whether you can change or not. Many people believe that people do not change. They believe that a person can change their appearance but their behavior, personality and even temperament are cemented in who they are. This is not correct. We know that behaviors change quite easily. Simple behavior modification can change how you eat, drink, speak, walk and even feel your emotions! Personality is more static, but how you express yourself is not rooted in personality but rather patterns of beliefs and memories. An individual, alone or with the help of a therapist, counselor or coach can address irrational thoughts, address the beliefs where those thoughts are rooted and dispel them. We can also train ourselves in reappraising our physical sensations of emotions (feelings) as positive rather than negative.
Making a change permanent is up to the individual. Human beings are creatures of habit. We thrive in routine. This begins in your childhood. Experts tell you that a baby who is on a schedule will thrive! This means that they can adjust themselves to eat, sleep, and be awake during regular times. Aberrant baby behavior, such as crying, crankiness and even not eating can usually be traced to either a disruption in routine or an actual illness. Adults are not much better. Our behaviors and reactive patterns are rooted in routine. If someone does X, you respond with Y. Disrupting these patterns causes upset in the routine. This is one of the reasons that people in addiction recovery are told to “change their playground and change their playmates”. If we continue to engage in our routine, the old behavior patterns will return.
We can address this issue with simple changes. For example, if we want to add a new behavior to our schedule, we must engage in the new behavior for at least 3-30 days in a row. Everyday you complete that new behavior, you acknowledge the change. Reinforce this change with a sense of accomplishment. This change also requires that you become mindful of this change. One way of doing this is to tell your friends and family about it. This is not unlike someone talking about their diet or cross fit. It may seem like bragging but what is happening in that person is that they are sharing their change. It is part of them being mindful of their new way of being.
Ultimately, change is always up to that person. Remember that society does not want change because evidence of change makes it harder to stay the same. People would rather argue for their limitations rather than fight the things that hold them back. Change is a reclamation of hope and faith in a new you. So, make those resolutions and get ready to back those up with real action. Changing your mind, body and soul is a challenge. Are you up for it?
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