After years of discussing weight loss, depression, anxiety, and addictive patterns with patients I have noticed that we are all full of excuses when it comes to making changes in our lives. When I have contemplated changing things in my own life the first thing that often comes into my mind is some sort of excuse. We all have created many internal excuses for why we cannot improve our lives. These excuses are designed to discourage us from tackling the unknown. We feel powerless.
If you are honest with yourself about the difficulties you are having with some aspect of your life you will realize that you are holding onto a lot of useless suffering. So why not opt for some useful suffering? There is also no absolute evidence that what you will do will be in fact difficult. It is just as likely to be easy as it is to be difficult.
That brings me to the most common excuse that I hear from others. This excuse is simply that change will be too difficult or hard. When it comes to weight loss, people often say that it will be too difficult because of how much they have to lose, or because their wife only makes certain kinds of foods, or because they have too many sugar cravings. The list of reasons why it will be too difficult for them to make the changes are dizzying and endless. The funny thing is that they know that they are just making excuses and I think that they know that I know that they are just making excuses.
So is it really harder to change a habit? A little perspective can help.
Start by just thinking about all the things that you have to do to maintain the habit that you would like to change. A smoker, for example, has to have packs of cigarettes with them, dispose of ashes, earn extra money to support the habit, go to the store to buy them, have access to an ash tray, have a lighter, stand outside, worry about others getting exposed, the smell, social connotations, stained teeth, chronic cough, and an endless list of physical ailments. On the other hand, the useful suffering that is needed to change this habit is to simply choose in the moment not to smoke. Now, I ask which choice is actually harder in the long run!
The same holds true for weight loss. All it takes is to obtain correct dietary information from someone who has expertise in the area (such as myself) followed by making the daily choices to follow the process. The alternative often entails poor sleep, heartburn, joint pain, poor energy, deconditioning, feeling terrible, social stigma, poor self-confidence, earning extra money to support the extra food, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, buying medications, and much more.
The key is to love yourself enough to make every decision in your life consciously and then count the benefits and the cost. Over the long run we suffer much more and encounter many more difficulties by maintaining a habit than by changing one.
You can decide today to cast out all the mountains of useless suffering you are experiencing and substitute a little useful suffering.
For those that need support through this process I am happy to help.
Before starting to read this article please make sure to read my previous article from last week entitled "Are you fearful, anxious, depressed, or addicted? There is Hope!". In that article, I implored you to examine the source of fear, anxiety, depression, or addiction which is the sense of powerlessness or hopelessness. I then asked that you keep a journal to write down all the feelings that tend to cause you fear, feed an addiction, or lead to depression or anxiety. If you have not started that process I would urge you to do so today.
Once you have started the process above it is important to know that you can absolutely change the way you feel. We all understand that we can learn new things. Some of us have learned to play an instrument or are talented artists. Some have learned to make finely crafted furniture or to knit a beautiful blanket. Some of us have also learned bad habits or addictive behaviors. We all know that mastery of the particular positive skills that we have developed took hundreds and sometimes thousands of hours of practice.
However, few of us stop to think about how we can change our thinking patterns or that we can learn new thinking behaviors. We tend to think that our thoughts and feelings are on autopilot or that we were born with them and that the only way to change them is through medications or by trying to suppress them. While for a minority of us medications may be necessary, the vast majority of us have the ability to create new ways of thinking that are empowering, energizing, grateful, loving, and giving.
It starts by realizing that we are in charge and have the power. One of the biggest things that I have realized from my examining my own thinking patterns and from talking to patients is that is very easy to feel powerless when dealing with depression, anxiety, or habits. It may seem that there is no way out of the feelings they we are having and this makes us feel even more depressed or fearful. I have felt this way myself.
But it doesn't have to be this way. We are not powerless. Powerlessness is a myth that we tell ourselves that prevents us from making the necessary changes in our lives. While we may have developed this myth to help protect us as children so that we would fit into our family or tribe, it no longer serves as adults. These patterns, which were once self-preserving, are now self- destructive.
So how we can we start to change our thinking patterns?
In my experience, there is nothing that will have more impact on our lives than what we think. How we perceive our life experience will in large part determine our happiness. But this doesn't mean that we should suppress bad thoughts. Thought suppression may make these thought patterns worse. In my view, it means creating new thought patterns that are empowering. It means seeing the abundance of goodness that is already in you and around us instead of the seeing the scarcity of badness in our lives and in others. There is really nothing bad in our lives. There are only results. Every event in our lives can be perceived as an opportunity to learn and grow and give. We can thrive no matter what the circumstance.
When I think about how many blessings I have in my life at any one moment I usually can find at least 99 things that are going good for every one thing that is perceived as inconvenient. Yet, I have found that most of us including myself tend to focus on the negative one thing and disregard all the rest. We tend to disregard the abundance in our lives and focus on the scarcity.
I have a daily reminder of this in one of my bathrooms in my house. In that bathroom there are three light bulbs. Two are burning brightly and one is burned out. I could easily focus on the burned out bulb but instead I have left that bulb in place to serve as a reminder to focus on the things that are burning brightly in my own life.
The great news is that there are some practical ways to start down the road to appreciation. A good place to start is to begin a daily ritual of being grateful and appreciative of all the things that are going right. I start every morning by spending 5-15 minutes meditating about things I am grateful for. I do the same thing in the evening.
Being grateful starts with appreciating the simple things in our lives like the beating of our heart, the ability to breath, the feeling in our bodies, or the simple necessities that we enjoy like food or clothing. We can think about the wonderful experiences we are having or have had in the past that have made a great impact for the good in our lives. It is also helpful to visualize how we will continue to thrive no matter what happens in the future. Shorter versions of this practice can be utilized throughout the day whenever we begin to experience self-doubt, anxiety, or fear. Some people even have gratefulness reminders like beads that they leave in their bedroom and before they go to bed they count the things that they were grateful for that day.
With this practice I caution you to not have expectations or need of immediate and permanent changes in your outlook. Learning to change your outlook from one of expectation to appreciation is a process and most people tend to overestimate what can be accomplished in a short period but underestimate what can be accomplished over a long period. We all want immediate results but persistence is the key. It is okay to want and desire change but it can be self-defeating to have a self-imposed timeframe for certain changes to occur.
With this in mind, I now tell patients when they come for weight loss that it is great that they desire and want to lose weight and they certainly will if they follow the daily process. However, they should not expect an absolutely certain amount of weight to be lost by a certain time. Nobody has control over how much weight they will lose. The same is true with any change in our lives including our thoughts.
In conclusion, I want to express to my wife and kids how appreciative I am for them. I have experienced unconditional love from my wife that has saved my life. Her encouraging words have kept me going in times when the path ahead seemed untenable. Her patience has been extraordinary and her love and compassion for others has been a great example for me. My children are all great in their own ways. They each have the shining light of unconditional love that has helped show me how to love others. They bring great joy to my life.
For those looking for a good example of a morning exercise that I have personally found to be very helpful go to the following link provided by Tony Robbins.
For those looking to improve their health or need assistance feel free to call our office. Otherwise, the time is now to have a great day!
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