How are things going with all those good intentions at the start of the year? Have you lost steam? Are you disappointed in yourself? Have you just decided to try again next year?
If so, you are no different than the 80% of us who have basically given up by March every year.
Don’t despair. There’s still hope for overcoming those unwanted habits even this spring!
It’s just time for a Reframe and Reboot! Here are some ideas:
Tune inward. As you are heading for the ice cream in the freeze, reaching for a cigarette, or pouring one more glass of wine, ask yourself, “Is this what I really want, or am I just lonely, or frustrated or bored?” If so, remember how you used to solve that issue before you started reaching for a quick fix.
What inspires and motivates you to change? When we think of willpower, controlling or depriving ourselves usually comes to mind; I won’t or I will. But researchers found that what works best is focusing on what change will do for us, or I want. Make a list or put post-it notes around your house, reminding you of how you will feel after you are free.
Mentally rehearse. Practice engaging your imagination to visualize yourself at that wedding, having a great time with a non-alcoholic drink in your hand. See yourself easily saying, “No thank you,” when you are offered a second serving. Just seeing yourself succeeding in challenging situations like this makes it more likely to happen in real life.
Gain tools to soothe yourself. You do have the power to “Surf the Urge” no matter how unbearable cravings feel. They usually subside within 20 minutes. You CAN bear it. Find ways to distract yourself for a short time. Call a friend, sort some photos, delete a few emails, look at Instagram. My clients love using quick-acting somatic techniques often called Pattern Interrupts or Mood Shifters. Here is a favorite-Three Breaths
Understand that you need new skills, practice, and repetition. You don’t just choose to start living a healthy lifestyle. You need to know how to implement it, plan, and get everything together to make it happen in concrete ways. This always takes some research and planning.
Plan ahead. Meeting friends at the Cheesecake Factory? Look at the menu online and find healthy possibilities that also sound good to you. Meeting friends after work for happy hour? Suggest a place that has non-alcoholic options. Many restaurants and bars now feature interesting possibilities.
Get to know the part of you that doesn’t really want you to change and will sabotage you if you don’t enlist their cooperation. We all have a little child inside us who just wants an ice cream sundae every day or a whole bag of Cheetos and doesn’t care at all how many calories it might have. We also probably have a rebellious teenager inside us that will just resist anything we are told would be good for us. We need to ask them, “what do you really want?” They might let us know that they are just lonely or want to be heard. That is something our conscious, adult part can remedy.
Practice and repeat. Most of our actions are totally habit-driven, we are on autopilot throughout the day. Remember all the things you had to remember to keep track of at the same time when you learned to drive? Think about how you drive now, barely paying attention to what you are doing with your hands or the pedals, yet you arrive safely. It’s so automatic. Both good habits and the ones we want to get rid of developed through endless practice and hundreds of repetitions. How can we think that as soon as we decide to have a new healthy habit, it’s going to be there for us?
Neurons that fire together, wire together. What is already wired together for you? When you walk in the door after work, do you immediately pour yourself a drink? Maybe it happens when you start to cook supper or get the kids into bed. Do you light up with your first coffee in the morning? Start connecting those initial situations with a new behavior. It will eventually “wire together” and become just as much a “no-brainer” as your unwanted habit.
Most of all, have compassion for yourself. Interesting studies show that feeling guilty and shaming ourselves usually does not work. It often leads to what psychologists term the WTH Effect. Have you experienced that sick feeling that you’ve let yourself down by falling off your diet or having a couple of drinks? Then you have probably also told yourself “What the Hell”, I already screwed up so I might as well have another piece of cake or finish the bottle. That is where we get into trouble. It’s not the first piece or drink but what we do next. Just forgive yourself and go right back to your journey.
Ready now? If you were driving to Chicago and took a wrong turn in Nebraska, would you feel the need to come back home and start over? Of course not, you’d get right back on the freeway and keep going. Whatever you are getting free from, there is plenty of support out there. Just keep on going. You can still get there this spring!
Victoria’s own journey with addiction started in her 20’s. For years she searched for help, without much success. Finally, her explorations and specialized trainings brought her to new evidence-based approaches and tools, including powerful somatic techniques, CBT and powerful hypnotic visualizations,
Seven years ago, she created the program, “She’s on the Way Back-Alcohol Recovery for Women” and is now writing “On the Way Back: Regaining Your Life While Empowering Your Alcohol-Dependent Loved One to Recover.”
Victoria Bresee, MAR, CHt, has a Master’s of Religion degree from Iliff School of Theology in Women’s Spirituality, and is a Certified Integrative Addictions Specialist and SMART Recovery Facilitator.