4 Steps to Create Change
You went for weeks, months or perhaps years stuck in a rut you didn’t even realise you were in. Enter an image of a hamster wheel, but replace the wheel of fun with symptoms of anxiety and depression - sleepless nights, rumination, finger biting, weight loss/gain, severed relationships. The rut or habits you were doing started off fun but it has gotten to a point where enough is enough.
You know you’re on the wheel, but you don’t know how to get off. The irony is, it feels like it should be obvious, stop running on the wheel, the momentum will slow down and you can safely get off. But how do you slow down? How do you create that change?
First things first, although this is not the first step, congratulate yourself for the awareness. Awareness is the catalyst for change, it isn’t as easy as we think and hindsight is always 20/20. Being mindful of our negative patterns which once existed allows you to notice when those behaviours creep up on you again. Awareness allows us to gain some distance from the action, to be the observer of our behaviour rather than the “do-er” getting caught up in the moment.
With awareness, how does one actually go about creating the change?
1. When we notice the pattern or the temptation we used to fall into, be aware of how it makes you feel. What is it about this feeling which makes it hard to create change? Can you acknowledge where this feeling comes from and what it means to you?
2. What does this activity/habit bring into your life? Is it a sense of community and connection? If so, how else can you foster that through another means?
3. Practice the behaviour. The first time we do anything it’s scary. The brain likes familiarity and the more we do something the stronger the neural connection becomes, so a novel activity or behaviour is literally rewiring the brain.
4. Reward yourself and be patient. Patience with a process isn’t easy, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, especially under the illusion that we “should’ve known better”. But making the choice to continually learn and improve over punishing and scrutinizing ourselves as we move forward is always the better choice. When you reward yourself for positive changes you make this teaches your brain to keep doing what it was doing. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in generating change.