How many of you thought I was going to say “Me”? Welcome to the New Year, the time where we give ourselves a fresh start to set goals, try something new, or something we’ve been meaning to get around to. Being already a month in, I am pretty sure most of you have started to put some plans into motion, such as going to the gym, starting the latest diet craze, reorganizing your desk, or taking that trendy green detoxifying smoothie (recipe listed below). At this time of year, motivation for change is high, we feel committed and entrusted that this year we will be the year. No pressure of course!
But, what if this year ends up being the same as the last, or the one before that? What if we start regressing into our old habits, getting bored of the new routine, or we simply lose motivation and resort to seeking what is comfortable? We all know what happens next; we tell ourselves “Oh there’s always next year.” However if this is a consistent pattern we go through every January 1st, how can we break the cycle? How is it that we envision these changes, but are struggling to follow through time and time again?
To narrow it down, one important component we seem overlook is that we focus too much on the external changes and not enough on the internal ones. For example, we can tell ourselves to get up every morning and go on a jog, and for the first few days we may follow through. But, if we don’t find the purpose or value in it; we’ll end up pressing the snooze button and sleeping in. This typically happens when we don’t remind ourselves of the reasons why we go on a jog; i.e. to help improve our fitness, cardiovascular health, etc.
Lifestyle changes are made based off of how we want to see ourselves, where we want to see ourselves, and our values. Most of us get through at least 50% of this, being they are physical modifications. These ideations can be influenced by what we see on social media; through celebrity posts or that one friend from high school we lost touch with who out of nowhere became the epitome of healthy living! We see it and we want to become it. But, in order to achieve this goal, we need to take a look inwards and understand the root causes for our undesirable behaviors and identify ways to challenge them.
To break it down, in order to create change one has to accept that there is a problem, identify the problem, make lifestyle changes accordingly, reframe negative/self-defeating cognitions, and whole-heartedly commit to a new plan of action where one can derive motivation and value. Now, to break it down even further, in this example we will reference health and fitness. Now when I refer to ‘problem’ it doesn’t necessarily mean for example: “I’m out of shape,” but more so understanding the reasons behind it. Why am I out of shape? Do I eat unhealthy? Then proceed to comprehend why I eat unhealthy? Do I intentionally pick unhealthy foods, out of convenience, do I eat more comfort foods when I’m stressed, do my insecurities translate through eating habits, or do I not budget enough time to make the healthy choices?
First, let’s take the time to understand what is perpetuating the problem and brainstorm solutions. When making changes, try to challenge unhelpful cognitions that justify our learnt behaviors. Utilizing ‘Reframing Automatic Thoughts’ (CBT approach) can be very helpful in challenging our distorted thinking patterns and seeing a logical perspective. For example, “I don’t have time to make healthy meals because I have to stay late at work, regularly.” Now sometimes we’ve been so engrossed in our unhealthy behaviors that we find it as our norm. In this case, we can see the domino effect of how having unhealthy boundaries with work is negatively impacting our self-care, which trickles into desire to eat healthy. In this case, the next step would be to identify our “excuses” (barriers) and work to break them down with reframing.
When making changes we have to consider and challenge our core beliefs. Core beliefs are the lens from which we view the basic beliefs about ourselves. These beliefs are shaped from our experiences and determine how we perceive and interpret the world around us, and our place in it. These are inferred absolute truths about one self that may or may not be true. For example, if you’ve been spoken down to quite frequently over a long period of time, you may develop low self worth, which will impact your experiences and formulate a poor self-image moving forward. You’d knock yourself down even before allowing yourself to take a chance and start. On the contrary, if you had been provided with an environment that focused more on positive reinforcements, processing, and growth, you would’ve more likely created a confident self-image and optimistic outlook that would be encouraging in future decision making.
When trying to create change it is important to pay attention to how we are encouraging ourselves, are we engaging in motivational or negative self talk. Are we becoming our own barrier due to low confidence, past failures, etc.? Becoming your own barrier really hits home for many, we don’t realize we are doing this until after the fact or from an outside perspective. To prevent this pattern from progressing, increasing self-awareness and practicing mindfulness to stay engaged in the present can help us stay cognizant and in control of our actions.
Ways to cultivate change and success is to increase self-awareness, to take a step back, and problem solve by reframing negative self talk and become more self-accepting. We all have flaws, however what defines us is what we do with those flaws and how we continue to grow; at any age. Challenging ones core beliefs is difficult, but not impossible. Utilizing the aforementioned approaches can help redefine our core beliefs and alter our self-perceptions. The more you practice the more permanent it becomes. So be mindful of how you are speaking to yourself.
Paying attention to what you need internally will help you establish and maintain success externally. Now go tackle your next goal, and enjoy the green smoothie below!
GREEN SMOOTHIE CONCOCTION