Step 5: Work on Healthy Habit Formation
Before diving into step 5, a reminder about resilience: it is defined as the ability to overcome adverse conditions; with healthy bonding relationships, guidance, support, and compassion as the catalysts. Basically, it entails having the capacity to bounce back from stressful or overwhelming experiences.
What are some steps we can take to ensure we are building resilience in our lives?
- Focus on the positives.
- Seek out and nurture supportive relationships.
- Utilize self-care strategies.
- Take action steps to create positive change.
- Work on healthy habit formation.
- Find a guiding hand to hold.
- Learn to become our own hero.
- Be gentle with ourselves.
Today we will cover Step 5: Work on healthy habit formation.
Being an avid reader, particularly of self-help and trauma-related research books, I discovered the critical importance of habit change as a catalyst along my healing journey. One of the books that I talk about in my presentations is Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One by Dr. Joe Dispenza. This book helped me understand that my brain was not hard-wired in a permanently damaged state due to circumstances beyond my control (i.e. traumatic events) and I had the power to change my habits, thereby creating new neuron pathways. I also practiced the book meditations regularly as a transformational tool.
Another book worth diving into is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. One of the powerful lessons in this book, at least for me, was learning to replace “bad” habits with “good” ones. For instance, instead of merely telling myself “Teri, you need to stop eating junk food,” I instead took on a 30-day journey of whole food eating, creating a food diary, and teaching myself new recipes. I created incredibly healthy eating habits by educating myself on the benefits of healthy food choices. Transforming our habits is a powerful tool we can utilize as we continue along our healing journey.
Here are five action steps you can implement in your life in order to create positive change:
- Start with a self-assessment: This can be done through journaling, a personality test (I found the information contained in The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types to be spot on in describing my “type” and helping me understand my strengths and areas where I needed improvement), talking it out with a trusted friend, prayerful reflection, etc. Use whatever feels comfortable for you in order for you to determine what healthy habit (habits) you want to create. Then write down your goal.
- Create an action plan for replacing unwanted habits with desirable habits (or creating altogether new habits): Take that written goal and create a plan, filled with achievable steps, ideas, research information, and rewards. Instead of “lose weight” try “create a healthy menu, adding one whole food meal a day, eliminating any processed products during that particular meal; pack a bag of healthy snacks to carry with me at all times including fruits, vegetables, and nuts; limit fast food to once a week (or not at all!); move for thirty minutes every day in whatever way I choose in order to increase my heart rate, blood flow, and create a sense of well-being and achievement; watch YouTube videos on easy-to-make healthy recipes; read up on whole-food eating benefits; and reward myself for a month of healthy eating patterns with dinner at my favorite restaurant.”
- Be gentle with yourself as you change old patterns: If you accomplish your goal without a single stumble, kudos to you! I applaud you and your determination. If, however, you experience a set-back or even give up all together your first (or second or third) attempt, please be easy on you. There’s an ancient saying that goes something like, “Old habits die hard.” Yeah, #truth. Give yourself a big hug, a pep talk, and then start again. You are creating a new habit where an old one has kept shop for a long time, most likely. If your new goal is, “Eliminate negative self-talk and replace it with positive affirmations,” but you find yourself beating yourself up on a bad day, praise yourself for now being aware of it and making an effort to change it. Then write yourself a thank you card, filled with positive affirmations, and maybe even mail it to yourself as a “surprise”.
- Sing your own praises: Continuing with that thought from the previous step, yes, it’s okay to applaud your accomplishments and even your attempts, whether you failed or succeeded. Put a post out on social media when you’ve had a successful day with your new healthy habit formation and embrace the accolades from friends and family. You deserve the praise! Join a group and share your successes and your fall-on-your-face moments. By exposing your vulnerabilities, you will find strength in the connection with others who sing out, “Oh my gosh, me, too!” Notice your mile markers and talk about them: “Hey, it’s been a month since I quit drinking soda.” I am cheering you on from here . . . yay!
- Reward yourself for goals attained: Make sure you reward yourself. Not just for the end product, but for all of the baby step accomplishments along the way. If you made it to ten exercise classes last month and “being more active” was on your healthy habit formation list, then treat yourself to some new workout clothes/shoes or a rockin’ headband or a new smoothie maker. If you volunteered twice this quarter and felt inspired to do more, then reward yourself by stepping into a leadership role within that organization. Rewards do not always have to be monetary. You deserve the reward of not only achieving your goal, but a special “thank you” to yourself for believing in YOU!
There are books, YouTube videos, mediation series, classes, websites, Facebook pages, and so much more dedicated to habit formation and the benefits of creating healthy and sustaining habits. Find what works for you. We all have that thing that jives with our soul, be it humor or depth or intellectual spirituality or wise-old-owl. Whatever it is that stirs you up, use that! If something doesn’t feel like a fit, move on. This is about YOU and YOUR journey. Do you.