That’s a bit of a loaded question isn’t it? Let me explain… January, culturally and perhaps even traditionally, is a month that embraces change; New Year New You! screams social media, the local gym and (it can seem) every advertising billboard you pass. But for many, this illusive change is too often unachievable… or unsustainable.
So what is going on in our minds that means despite our best intentions and endeavours change remains so illusive?
Ask yourself what is stopping you from building health habits and becoming that illusive best version of yourself?
Could it be that your existing habits are the very actions that are preventing you being that best version of yourself?
Or consider this, have you ever said to yourself ‘I don’t have enough time’ or ‘what’s the point’ or ‘I have tried this before and it doesn’t work’ aka negative forecasting an outcome before its even happened?
Consider further that this negative forecasting is an example of you not being very kind to yourself.
Consider further still your best friend saying these same things about their inability to change. What would you say? As a good friend you would not accept this negative forecasting from your friend. You would not allow them to be so unkind; rather you would be encouraging, supportive and even forgiving.
So what prevents you from extending that same level of compassion towards yourself?
The answer for many is the stress that permeates our every day interactions.
In our high-stress culture the body’s stress response is activated so often, that the mind doesn’t have the chance to reset. The minds response to feeling stressed is to produce adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol , aka stress hormones.
Think of these stress hormones as water flowing from a leaky tap, you’ve had the good sense to place a ‘stress bucket’ underneath to catch the drops, but with everything else you have to think about you have neglected to empty your stress bucket and now you’ve come home to discover the water is all over the kitchen floor – now you have even more stress and that leaky tap is now a torrent and to compound it all you can’t afford an emergency plumber and the home insurance has lapsed.
This metaphor is an attempt to conceptualise what is going on in your mind. Fundamentally change causes stress. The more change you embark on the more stressed you become. An overflowing stress bucket means that neurologically you will enter a procrastination loop, ‘dammed if you do – dammed if you don’t’, making change all the more unachievable and unsustainable.
“Self-compassion is where change starts. By learning to be kinder to yourself, being able to give yourself a break, you will begin to lay the sustainable foundations for enduring healthy habits and become that best version of yourself you seek.”
In building healthy habits you will begin to establish alternative behavioural responses to the stressors in your life.
In considering how you can become more self-compassionate you begin to deescalate the feelings of anger, anxiety and or depression; you will be less inclined to hit, run away from or hide from it leading you to become more confident, in control and joyful.
By learning to be self compassionate you will begin to fix that leaky tap, meaning that your stress bucket will not overflow and neurologically speaking stop producing stress hormones like adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol and begin to produce serotonin.
Serotonin is sometimes known as the happy chemical, because it appears to play an important role in regulating mood making serotonin an important molecule for regulating a sense of wellbeing.
“Serotonin, the feel good chemical, literally changes the way you think and how you think dictates how you feel.”
Serotonin fosters the confidence to identify the small steps, solutions, which are right for you because the amygdala is no longer compelling you to hit, run away or hide. Rather you are calm, motivated and resolute to overcome the obstacles in your life. The clarity afforded by being less overwhelmed by your day-to-day interactions is primarily down to how your mind works.
By thinking more positively you will engage your problem-solving centre of the brain. Rather than being overwhelmed by the challenges you perceive in your life, that for too long have resulted in those familiar feelings of anger, anxiety or depression you will choose to notice a moment of clarity, savour a light bulb moment and value the penny dropping.
Result, you will begin to feel more empowered, fulfilled and restored moving forward with your life one small step at a time.
By being kinder to yourself, placing less in your stress bucket and producing more serotonin you are on your way to being more able to identify the small steps available to you and implement those changes towards being that best version of yourself.
“Change is not easy, there are no short cuts. Change requires effort but the reward extends beyond simply an improved sense of wellbeing.”
The changes you seek to implement are the ‘breadcrumbs’ on your own path towards becoming that best version of yourself and a best version of you means you will have the capacity to not only be that best version of you but you will be that best version for those you care most about.
Consider the old Cherokee proverb that suggests that residing within all of us is ‘a good wolf and bad wolf’. On hearing this a child asked their Grandparent ‘which wolf wins?’ and the Grandparent replied ‘The one you choose to feed the most’. Makes sense, but can it really be that simple?
The Human mind is far more complex than this of course but, and this is the point, explanation can be complex to, so by simplifying these complicated concepts this blog seeks to provide a gateway for understanding, understanding that can be shared and built upon providing you with the insight to own the changes you decide to make.
Brett will be running a series of three totally FREE workshops on ‘How the Mind Works’ at Rowan House on the 15th January at 10.00-11.30am, 1.00-2.30pm and 6.30-8.00pm. Brett will be sharing his expert insights into how the mind works and sharing his framework for feeling more in control, joyful and confident. To book call the Rowan House reception on 01603 813999 or email Brett directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Brett Rennolds is a qualified Solution Focused Hypnotherapist DSFH, HPD, MNCH NCH Supervisor and registered with the Complimentary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). If you want to know more about the issues covered in this article contact Brett at Rowan House Centre for an initial consultation.