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More Ways to Create Positive Change

09 Jan

Although potentially challenging, identifying what we’d like to be different in our lives, and creating a plan for change, can help us feel happier, be healthier, and set us free from things we know, deep down, are unhealthy for us.

If you’ve read my earlier post, “8 Essentials for Creating Positive Change,” you are already armed with the fundamental tools to address those habits, patterns, or relationships that need tweaking (or more).

Below, I address in a bit more detail how to successfully engage in the process of change. What follows are some of the most common changes people seek to make, and what to keep in mind.

Relationships:

If we are hoping to improve a relationship, we must be willing to answer this question honestly: “Am I willing to do or give the very things I am asking for?” If the answer is “no,” we may achieve another’s compliance, but this will not amount to genuine closeness or lasting, meaningful growth. For a relationship to change, all parties must be willing to give something.

That said, sometimes the task is to acknowledge when neither party can grow within the relationship, and allow space for grief. Endings are rarely easy. If it is time to part ways, we can still bring about endings in a loving, respectful, and compassionate manner, however.

I’ll tell you what I’d tell my own clients, friends, or family members: honor and be grateful for whatever you have learned from this union, even if some of the lessons were hard ones. Every person we meet has the potential to teach us something invaluable.

Thank yourself for being willing to learn the inherent wisdom in this experience. Allow yourself to grow from it. We build each subsequent relationship on the foundation of what we have created before – how we came together, maintained the union, and how we ended it. There are no wasted moments or lessons if we allow ourselves to see the value in whatever it is we learned.

Smoking and Other Habits:

If we hope to release an old habit, we need to better understand the functions that is has served for us thus far. As an example, years ago a patient contacted me for hypnosis to quit smoking. One thing that became clear early on was that for this person, smoking was an important and multipurpose “tool.”

The “positive” functions of smoking included distracting the person from work stress, and also serving as a weight management tool. It felt especially difficult to give these benefits up. It also came as a surprise to the client that smoking, due to its associated health risks, served as a way to self-punish – and thus alleviate guilt - for misdeeds of the past. It was therefore essential to find a way to better manage stress, avoid overeating, and forgive himself for those things he now wished he’d done differently.

In this person’s case, hypnosis and imagery were particularly helpful in managing stress, breathing through cravings, and visualizing successfully quitting. In addition, his religious faith helped the client learn the self-forgiveness needed to stop hurting himself again and again and treat his body with reverence.

Once you understand the purpose a tool has served for you, and what options will better serve you now, change will come more easily. You can also change your inner script around the issue to be one of self-compassion and encouragement, which are always more beneficial than self-criticism or self-harm.

Weight Loss:

Appreciate the small wins. Most people hope to achieve weight loss rapidly, and if you have a large amount you hope to lose, it’s easy to minimize the importance of a few pounds. Don’t! Remember that you have earned every success. Savor it and build upon it!  It all counts.

Find other ways to nurture your body, mind, and soul. As with other habits, seek to understand the myriad purposes that food has served for you. Visualize yourself properly and lovingly nourishing yourself in the way that is healthiest for you. Let go of comparisons to others. Enjoy and treasure the body that you have – both in the present moment and when you reach your goal. Move your body joyfully. Celebrate the miracle and gift of your life.

Starting – and Finishing – A Project:

Be concrete and specific. Clarify exactly what this will look like for you. Want to run a marathon? Write a book? Learn a new skill? Identify the ways in which you tend to get off track, so you can head them off early on.

Be realistic about the amount of time it will probably take to achieve your goal. Set a date for reaching it. Work backwards on your calendar, breaking the larger goal into small, specific, achievable mini-goals. Visualize yourself achieving them. Really make time to do this and do it wholeheartedly. Acknowledge successes, breathe through setbacks, and be willing to tweak your approach as needed as you learn new information. Celebrate each step on your journey.

Self-Worth:

We are each here for a purpose, and nothing – not having made mistakes, experienced setbacks, or failing to live up to other people’s expectations – changes that. Give yourself the gift of releasing the need to compare yourself to others. Let go of trying to please everyone in the universe (who could do this anyway?!).

If you struggle with self-esteem, daily affirmations can help you shift negative self-talk and remember how truly unique and wonderful you are. Listen to affirming imagery or meditations to help you replace your “Inner Critic” with a powerful “Inner Ally.” Love yourself in the way you have always wanted to be loved. Notice how this shifts every other experience.

Wishing you all the best, now and always.

ts signature

Traci

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Traci Stein

Traci Stein, PhD, MPH, is a practicing psychotherapist and Columbia-trained
clinical psychologist, ASCH-certified in clinical hypnotherapy. She has combined integrative therapies, including hypnosis, with conventional medical and psychotherapy practice. Her passionate commitment to mind-body healing has spanned two decades.