Tag Archives: change

Making “Not-So-Good” Habits Work for You

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“A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” – This is SAMHSA’s working definition of recovery.  this could be recovery from Mental Health or Physical Health concerns.

Recently I have seen  a good many clients that have come in reporting very similar symptoms.  They feel somewhat down or even distressed.  They are functioning relatively okay with work and home but feel like they have lost their way.  They report feeling empty, tired, anxious.  Most of these individuals have been very involved in family and/or community.  They have been the family coordinators, the church volunteers, the community activists.

When looking at the above working definition of recovery, these folks are definitely self directive, but somehow the other two areas of health and wellness and full potential have been overshadowed by others needs (others in their own family and others in the community).  When using the needs assessment tool I incorporate into my practice (the DLA20), it is clear that many facets of their life have been neglected and continue to be drained.  There’s just not enough nourishment and recovery built into their lives to keep pace with all the other routines in their life.

We live in a society of go, go, go.  Ample supplies of caffeine and energy supplements.  Ample supplies of foods and other items to grab quickly from moving to one activity to another.  We more and more are getting out of habits of nourishment and allowing for our bodies to recover.   Recovery is not just a mental feat but very much a physical feat as well.    We have to develop healthy routines to nourish our bodies and brain.  These routines have to be consistent in order to make an impact.   Just like we consistently go to the coffee pot, check Facebook, or volunteer to help another, we need to consistently eat nourishing foods, take time for some quiet,  and get some stress relieving physical activity.  But how?  It sounds simple but if it were that simple we wouldn’t have this problem of course.

The trick is to begin by connecting one activity to another.  The activity can be good or bad.  If you drink coffee every morning or check Facebook before bed on a consistent basis, then these are great activities to link with more nourishing habits like 10 slow breaths or eating an apple.    Once you have successfully linked these habits consistently you can build in more healthy habits like a walk or some yoga.  It’s better to start small though.  Later you may decide to even phase out the original activity, especially if it was doing more harm than good.  Getting overwhelmed and not doing anything at all is not an option if you want to stop the cycle of constant drain, low energy, and feeling like you’re in a fog.

Sometimes we need reminders, so setting timers, getting others involved are great ways to ensure more consistency.  Also subscribing to a blog whether it is mine or another wellness author could also be a good way to get a tickler to continue to work on developing healthier practices.  As with much in life persistence against failure eventually develops consistency regardless, so keep trying.

Maintaining Progress

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January, the time of resolutions.   Just checking out Facebook or talking to friends or coworkers you are bound to hear about new projects people are attempting.  Eating better, exercising, losing weight are big ones.  Also many people this year are de-cluttering and working on simplifying their life.  Some are doing away with bad habits like smoking or other dependencies.

Most of these resolutions are very admirable and when people first decide on them you can hear the optimism and hope in their voice.  But come March or April, how many are still focused on these resolutions.  How many in August?  December?  It’s difficult maintaining change and progress, especially if change is incremental.  So how does one maintain focus and progress?

I strongly believe that setting solid goals that are specific, measurable, realistic and with a deadline is the best place to start.  In counseling we use the acronym “SMART” to guide us in making goals with clients.  Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound.  So if the goal was to lose weight then you would want to set a deadline to lose a certain amount of pounds.  You would need to do some research to find out what is a healthy amount to lose a week (usually no more than 2 lbs is advised) and make sure your amount and deadline are realistic and attainable.  Then you would set small weekly goals and research the best options to lose weight to choose your strategy.

The next step would be incorporating supports.   Would you benefit from joining weight watchers or finding a friend to exercise with?  Do you need to track your diet in a journal or use an app like Myfitness pal..?

The third step is then identifying obstacles like donuts at work or eating leftovers from kids’ plates.  Then you develop strategies for each of these obstacles; like having alternative snacks handy at work or having kids clean up their meal themselves so you are not tempting to grab a bite..

Fourth is evaluation and noting the progress and setting fourth another goal.  This is where most people throw in the towel actually.  The idea of seeing failure is sometimes enough to call it quits.  I like to think of failure as an opportunity to really understand what didn’t work.  What obstacle do I need to prepare more for and what are my options for this obstacle?  This is where breakthroughs are made but so many times we are too fearful of feeling like a failure or we are burned out on the task at hand that we really don’t learn from it or keep the progress we really did make.