This is the year you can keep that New Year’s Resolution.
Millions of people use the new year to start exercising, stop smoking or other positive steps to create a more healthy mind or body.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people making New Year’s Resolutions quit soon after, mainly due to self- judgement and shame. Willpower is usually not enough to change long-standing behaviors, which is why it’s critical to look at the root cause of why you do or don’t do something. For example, someone who smokes obviously has a physical craving for a cigarette, but it’s not just nicotine driving the addiction. There are emotions and possibly trauma associated with smoking too.
That’s where our New Model for changing behaviors comes in. Here are four tips to practice unconditional self-acceptance and a pathway to keep your New Year’s Resolution.
Tip #1: Practice resting with what is.
When we are trying to make big changes or establish new patterns, it can be easy to get caught up in ‘time travel’-Dwelling on past mistakes (or reminiscing over past accomplishments) and picturing an idyllic future- which pull us out of the present moment.
When the compulsion to compare and contrast your present reality with images and stories of past or future success, practice ‘natural rest’. Simply watch the words, stories, and images as they arise. Do you see past images of a more toned, fit body? A picture of a future with a nicer apartment, car, or bigger family? Notice the space around the words and pictures. As they pass through your awareness, notice the room you are sitting in NOW, the sounds you are hearing… the temperature of the air on your skin. Pay attention to what you feel in your body as you watch these stories unfold… and sit with them as they naturally fade.
Tip #2: Consider the drivers.
Traditional methods of ‘recovery’ focus on changing behaviors. If we can just control our actions, we become empowered and gain what we want right? It seldom works that way. Anyone who has struggled with letting go of an undesired behavior can tell you that ‘white-knuckling’ it can seem difficult, if not down-right impossible. And when we do this, we are setting ourselves up for failure. The moment we ‘fail’, the self-attack and shame kick in, pushing us to the undesirable behavior even more.
Try something different. Instead of focusing on ‘quitting’ focus on the underlying BELIEF about self. We call this a ‘deficiency story’. You may be consciously aware of a desire to quit, change, or be different. Take this a step further. What does this behavior say about you? Common deficiency stories can be “I’m not good enough”, “I’m bad”, “I’m broken”, or “I’m alone”.
Learning to identify the core belief that is driving the pain around the behavior can be essential to help us see what is actually driving the behaviour itself.
Tip #3: Inquire.
So you’ve identified the deficiency story. Now what? Is knowing really half the battle? Maybe… but cognitive knowledge rarely makes a dent in actual day to day behavior. So what’s the missing piece?
Getting into your body. Here’s a basic break-down of how to practice self-inquiry to get out of your head and into your body… and really begin to unhook some of those tethers that keep us suffering in our deficiency stories. Or schedule a session with a trained and certified facilitator to help you address the underlying drivers of the behavior you want to change. Read more here to see if Inquiry might be right for you.
Tip #4: Be kind to yourself.
So you’ve failed. You missed the first gym day, took that bite of chocolate cake, or fell off your new routine. Now what? Maybe not what you think.
At the Kiloby Center, we use a different approach when clients ‘relapse’. In fact, we have removed the word ‘relapse’ from our new model lexicon. Why? Because to ‘resume use’, despite what we have been taught through more traditional treatment approaches, is not equivalent to failing. In fact, quite the opposite can be true. Often times, when a‘problem’ behavior is picked up again, it leads to a new opportunity to inquire and heal. The guilt, shame, and pain are often strongly felt and right on the surface- instead of buried deep in our subconscious calling the shots from a distance. While traditional approaches have taught us to equate these feelings of self-judgement and inadequacy with failure, the new model allows us to appreciate the opportunity to move through them- to gently and safely process them and heal the root instead of the symptoms.