Simple Steps to Changing Your Health in 2020
How to let go of what’s holding you back
Most of us would like to make positive changes in our lives, but old habits and beliefs are hard to shake. The way our minds work is a big part of the reason why.
Memories of the past dominate our subconscious thoughts, playing and replaying in our heads like videotapes. If these mental tapes tell us that a cigarette will help us relax, then it will be difficult to quit smoking…if the tapes tell us that overeating cheers us when we’re depressed, then it will be difficult to lose weight…and if the tapes remind us that previous attempts at self-improvement failed, we might not try again.
To move past our mental videotapes and change our lives for the better…
Choose a goal and go. Decide what change you wish to make…determine what you can do at this very moment to get the ball rolling in that direction…and take this action now, even if it is very small.
Example: When I decided to film a documentary, I started doing research immediately, even though I hadn’t yet secured funding, distribution or a camera crew.
Making immediate progress toward change makes ambitious goals seem achievable. The feeling of accomplishment and momentum created by this initial progress can help eliminate doubts about your capacity for change.
Take a step toward your goal each day. When you look at yourself in the mirror each morning, take a moment to be pleased about the progress you have made toward achieving positive change…then decide what you will do today to build upon that progress.
Example: If your goal is to lose weight, you could resolve to find a healthy new recipe on the Internet today and prepare it for dinner tonight.
Choose reality over fantasy. Take the time you’re tempted to spend dreaming about changing your life and use it to make some changes instead.
Example: Don’t waste the evening staring at the TV, wishing you were a novelist. Start writing.
Turn off unhelpful automatic responses. Our natural reactions might seem appropriate to us at the time, but they can stand in the way of making positive change.
Common change-inhibiting reactions include feeling inadequate…being judgmental…obsessing over past mistakes…blaming others for problems…being impatient…procrastinating…and not listening to input from others.
If you are uncertain what counterproductive natural reactions stand in your way, start a journal and keep notes on which of your responses don’t seem wise in hindsight. Patterns will emerge.
Pick one to eliminate. When you catch yourself turning to this counterproductive reaction, think Stop. Take a deep breath, then try a different response to the situation. Expect this to feel uncomfortable at first.
Example: If you often are impatient, you might say to yourself, I’m not going to get upset about the length of this supermarket checkout line. I’m going to choose a magazine off the rack and calmly read it until it’s my turn.
Once you have broken one problematic pattern, take aim at another.
Find a support team. No one but you can bring positive change to your life — but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Meet with a professional counselor, join a peer support group or befriend someone who has made the change that you wish to achieve.
Example: Hire a financial planner to help you start saving.
Review the day’s progress each night. This forces us to confront missteps and allows us to enjoy the progress. Consider how you would have lived this day if you were not making changes…then consider how you actually lived it. Try to create a headline for your day.
Example: If your goal is to become more assertive, a headline might be, “I stood up for my department in the monthly budget meeting.”
Incorporate sacrifice and service into your regular routine. Find a way to give back every week. Donate time to a charity…or help a friend in need. Helping other people improve their lives will increase your confidence that you can improve your own. And volunteering can connect you with your community, preventing loneliness and depression.
Find perspective. Our fearful minds can make our problems seem more daunting than they really are. When your challenges seem insurmountable, pick up a newspaper and read stories about people who have much larger problems…or volunteer to work with those who are seriously ill or homeless. There probably are many people who would gladly trade places with you.
Know that you are being watched. A silent spiritual witness is with you at all times. You can think of this witness as God or as your higher self. This witness is watching even when you are alone, so you cannot get away with backsliding to your old ways. This silent witness always is there to provide support and strength, so there is never a reason to feel alone or afraid.
Share your growth. Tell a supportive friend about the changes you are making in your life. The positive feedback you receive should help you maintain your momentum.
Burn the bridge to your old ways. Once you achieve a positive life change, mentally burn the bridge you have crossed. If you ever catch yourself backsliding to your old habits, remind yourself, I can’t go to that place anymore. The bridge is gone.
Example: Someone who has burned the bridge to her former angry outbursts might think, I’m not going to get angry with my husband. I burned that bridge. I’m going to tell my husband that I love him, then suggest that we sit down together and solve our problem.
Make your fears fear you. Our fears stalk us, keeping us on the defensive and preventing us from taking chances and making positive changes. We need to stalk our fears instead.
List your fears, and target one. Rather than hide from it, seek opportunities to confront it directly on your terms.
Example: Confront a fear of public speaking by standing up in front of a group of close friends to make a toast.
Sometimes you will fail, but that does not mean the fear has won — you can keep stalking it until you succeed. Select a new fear to confront each week.
- James Robinson