Every person has some habit, behavior, or hang-up that they want to change. One person might be hoping to lose those extra 50 pounds while another might be wanting to change his/her tendency to flair up into a quick temper, and yet another would love to finally get a bit more organized (after all, it gets really inconvenient to keep losing your car keys). Whatever the issue is, it’s easy to feel stuck in a cycle of victory and defeat. Is there a way to achieve lasting change? We’d all love to know.
Take One Step
Often, the person wanting to lose weight focuses on losing 50 pounds. But it’s so much easier to focus on losing one pound. It’s also more effective. What is one step that you can take each day that will take you toward your goal? Perhaps it’s as simple as drinking a glass of tea before dinner or switching out the ice cream in your fridge to a lower-calorie frozen yogurt. The person who wants to get organized might start with the junk drawer in the kitchen instead of trying to clean out all ten closets in the house in one day.
Identify Your Triggers
Do you reach for a cookie when you’re stressed? Do you binge-watch movies on weekends? HALT is a concept used in many circles to help people identify what is fueling their bad habits and behaviors. It’s important to literally halt (i.e. stop) and ask yourself what you’re feeling when you’re tempted to relapse. Are you:
- Hungry? This includes physical and emotional needs. Are there needs in your life that are not being met? Your body might be craving nutrition. Your emotional self might be craving affection, understanding, or accomplishment.
- Angry? Anger is a legitimate emotion, but it’s only the symptom of something deeper. Is it possible for you to calmly and constructively address the person or situation that you’re feeling angry about? If not, it’s important to find a way to express your anger without hurting others. Some activities that can provide a therapeutic outlet are exercising, cleaning, punching a pillow, or expressing yourself through a creative outlet.
- Lonely? Loneliness can happen when you’re alone or when you’re in a group of people. It’s more of a feeling of being isolated or misunderstood. It’s important for you to develop a human support system so you have people to reach out to when you’re feeling down. If a supportive friend isn’t available, it can also help to go to a meeting, go on a walk, visit the library, or run an errand—something to get you out of the house and into interaction with other humans.
- Tired? Sometimes, you simply need sleep. When you’re running on low cylinders of energy, every negative thing can be magnified. Do your best to get a solid night of sleep every night. Your spirit, soul and body will be refreshed and your outlook on life improved. A nap or a jaunt to a favorite relaxing spot, such as the lake, coffee shop, or bookstore, can also rejuvenate you.
Remember That It’s a Process
If you fail, refuse to beat yourself up. You are not a failure just because you ate that triple-fudge chocolate cake. You can get up and try again. The American culture tends to expect fast results, but change often happens in slow, and sometimes tedious, increments. Don’t ever allow yourself to give up.
Reward yourself each time you make progress. This starts a connection with positive triggers in your brain that reinforce positive actions. Keep a log of your progress and celebrate how far you’ve come. Share your progress with others. That will also reinforce your progress.
The City Church is a church in Redding that has created a place for people to experience personal change in an encouraging environment. We’ve found that a Christ-centered, Bible-based, 12-step style of program is incredibly effective. Perhaps you should give it a try.