Strategies For Lasting Change

For many of us, the ritual of making resolutions for the new year comes from a deep place within about what we want most in our lives. Lasting change and getting what we long for in life comes from a sustained vision of our goals and dreams.

Mostly, we resolve to change behaviors that relate to the way we take care of ourselves and our relationships. We want to be the fullest expression of our best selves. Although we are usually successful in these efforts, at times something runs interference with our ability to make and sustain these desirable changes.

Certain actions can be taken that when practiced regularly can support us in making lasting and durable change. Learning a sound strategy about how to strengthen the behaviors that support and nourish our wishes to be healthier, happier, and more connected puts us in a position of greater personal power.

Secrets to lasting change:

Living your vision means being aware of your choices as you move through the day. Get clear about what you want your life to look and feel like. As you bring the behavior you wish to change to conscious awareness, pay close attention to your thoughts and feelings surrounding this behavior. Notice the physical and emotional responses that your unwanted behavior evokes. Start with one particular behavior rather than overhauling your whole lifestyle all at once.
Start Small

Don’t reinvent everything you do, even if that new “thing” you’ve found suggests to do exactly that. This needs to be sustainable. Start small, even if you’re starting small so that you can change everything.

Start Right Away

The perfect time to make change is NOW. Procrastination is no friend of success, and successful people don’t put off accomplishing what they’ve set out to do.

Substitute An Unwanted Behavior With A Desirable Behavior
When we feel deprived of the object of our desire and do not have a substitute, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We will likely return to our old familiar patterns because there is no reward to help us through times of heightened cravings or unhealthy patterns. When you want to eat compulsively, for example, get yourself to take a walk or call a friend, so that rather than caving into emotional eating, you are getting fresh air or social support. Giving up an unhealthy behavior is not about deprivation. It is really about gaining authentic self-love.

Reflect on what you learned, reflect after further reading, reflect after acting, reflect after reflecting. Consider using “How did it go?” or “Am I closer to my goal?”

Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice mindfulness, being in the moment, or a meditation exercise for a few minutes a day. This will train your mind and body to react differently to the usual stimuli that can trigger unhealthy behaviors, like overeating, smoking, and drinking. You can change the brain through the regular practice of mindfulness. This can be accomplished by simply sitting silently and observing whatever you are feeling physically or emotionally for several minutes at a time.
Learn To Tolerate Difficult Feelings And Embrace New Possibilities
It is not unusual to experience feelings of loss around giving up or changing a particular behavior. Making a change can be challenging under the best of circumstances. You may notice that disturbing feelings emerge as you begin to change old patterns of behavior. For example, smoking and overeating or eating junk food may be a way of self-soothing. When you modify any of these behaviors, you might notice an increase in stress, anxiety, and perhaps even depression or fear. Your current habits may temporarily alleviate painful feelings and allow you to go numb or relax in the short term. Remind yourself that this feeling will pass and know that it is okay to feel uncomfortable. Practice your substitute behavior!
Slow Down And Focus
Ideally, get plenty of sleep and keep chaos to a minimum when you are trying to make behavioral change. You will be most effective when you are rested and not feeling stressed. Of course, it is not always possible to maintain ideal conditions, but moving in that direction will help you in the process of making lasting change. Also, know that it takes time and can take several if not many attempts before the old behavior is in the past and the new, healthier behavior is internalized. The good news is the more often you attempt to change a behavior, the more likely you will succeed. It behooves you to keep reminding yourself of your vision.

Have A Support Team In Place
We are social creatures. Let your family and friends know what you are trying to accomplish and enlist their support. Share your plan with trusted others, not for approval, but to make it more real for you. You might need to stay away from places where you can become easily triggered. Shaking things up a bit from the routine also helps you from reverting to the old familiar patterns. Until the awareness of triggers and your replacement behaviors are strong, it is best to be exquisitely mindful of your choices.
Be Compassionate With Yourself
When and if you slip and return to your old behavior, remember to practice self-love. Be deeply compassionate and then head right back to step one. Go back to your plan stronger and more resolved. Remember, the more times you try to change a behavior, the more likely you are to succeed in making that change.

To make lasting change, you have to be ALL IN