Here comes a January inspired rant. Oh January- the proverbial new leaf, month of resolutions, new beginnings, collective drive to put our affairs in order, become a better version of ourselves, a month when a lot of us dig deep into our latent motivation stores and kick start our New Year reformation. The gyms are full of people dusting off their memberships, juice cleanse companies are going through their annual peak sales period, supplements are flying off the shelves…It is quite a shame that for a lot of us this enthusiasm will wane by February (to perhaps be rediscovered in a surge of pre-summer panic sometime in mid June), simply because we did not get our reasons to change right in the first place or we’re not equipped with the required tools.
My work as a therapist is primarily concerned with relieving whatever discomfort my clients might find themselves in, and helping them in creating healthy habits in order to feel, look and perform better. As far as I am concerned, the second part is far more important, however this is where I can only guide my clients. The real work, and the nitty gritty of it, is entirely up to them and whether they get it right will guarantee their success or failure.
The entire existing medical model is based upon looking to external authority figures (ie. medics) for quick fixes to unwelcome problems or more specifically to their symptoms. This is a very disempowering position to be in, yet one that seems to be deeply ingrained in the contemporary psyche. It is also one of the main obstacles to implementing change, and it is important to understand why.
The holistic model teaches us that no one but ourselves is responsible for our health. If we keep doing unnatural things to our bodies, therefore promoting toxicity and dis-ease, there are no pills and prescriptions that will let us magically avoid the consequences of our actions. However if we get the basics right, cut out the toxic behaviours and start creating habits that promote vibrant health, we will be aiding our bodies in their inherent ability to heal and balance themselves. This is really not rocket science, it’s just that our culture has succeeded in disconnecting us from our bodies and overcomplicating things so much that those very basic concepts are intellectually perceived to be overly simplistic and discounted as such. Giving our responsibility for our health and our power over to somebody else appeals to the lazy, habitual part of human nature as it requires no effort on our part.
Also, regardless of what the doctors would have us believe, we are more than the sum of our organs and body parts. We are complex and finely tuned systems in which physical, emotional and spiritual factors are in a state of constant interplay in order to achieve and maintain balance. As much as it might be tempting to treat our bodies like machines, it is simply an uneducated view. Taking all of above elements into account when implementing change is crucial, as all of them play an equally important part. If we only focus on the physical, overriding the other factors, sooner or later whatever we suppressed will resurface and sabotage our progress.
Revisiting our approach will allow us to focus on health instead of dis-ease. If we recognize that our health is our personal responsibility, we will grow to look after it with the same loving care that we would bestow upon a child, or an animal, or a plant that we were responsible for. Understanding the multi-dimensional, holistic nature of change will help us implement and individualize it according to our own physical, emotional and spiritual challenges, therefore making it more profound and long lasting.
So the first step to change is education – understanding why the change is needed, what it entails, what resources we’ll have to mobilize to put it in motion and how to maintain it.
The actual process of change is concerned with overriding existing, ingrained habits and behaviours with new ones geared towards creating a desired outcome, and repeating those new habits and behaviours on a daily basis until they form our new default.
We are creatures of habit and we operate in patterns or cycles. When we repeat something enough times, it will soon grow to be our second nature. You need to learn how to create and maintain healthy patterns that will replace the old ones identified as not serving your best interest. This principle can be applied to food, fitness, relationships, finances, creativity etc., whatever area of your life is a challenge- the key is your daily commitment to yourself in this process and recognizing that change is a value you can add to your life. To start with, discipline is needed on a daily basis in order not to engage in unhealthy pattern, but as your self-love muscle gets stronger, the health producing habits will form the new default and it won’t be a struggle any more. Your circumstances might be beyond your control but you can take charge of yourself and how you interact with the world- it is a way of asserting your will and as such it enables you to grow as a human being and be more happy, vibrant, fulfilled and able to access more of your potential.
We also need to understand that change is a journey and that we need to have patience with it. We can’t beat ourselves up every time we are less than perfect. Putting ourselves under undue pressure will only cause stress and a subconscious drive to rebel against what is a perceived restriction. This is why I always say that change is an added value. Have fun with it, focus on the benefits it creates in your life, make it fit your lifestyle, let it gradually grow on you, instead of thinking of all the things you might be missing out on. The only thing you are missing is instant gratification and, as most of us discover by the time we reach adulthood, delayed gratification is where the sweeter pleasure’s at.
Prioritise the things that promote your wellbeing and make space in your life to honour this commitment to yourself. So often we put our children, spouses, families, friends and acquaintances, bosses and co-workers and their needs ahead of ourselves and our needs. We honour our work schedules and social commitments before we honour ourselves. We are scared of being selfish, but frankly this is a recipe for disaster: dissatisfaction, stress, sickness, relationship problems, uneventful careers, midlife crisises, you name it. Life is so much more than that. All the magic and joy that life offers waits for us on the other side of fear.
The protocol of change:
- Understand why you want a change, what habits have been standing in your way and what habits will help you implement it
- Visualize yourself at your desired outcome and how it feels to be there in as much detail as possible
- Remove old habits / behaviours
- Introduce new habits / behaviours
- Repeat all above steps on a daily basis
- Put yourself first
- Commit to change
- Enjoy the process!!! And remember: the journey is more important than the destination.