When you develop a chronic bad habit, such as constantly thinking stressful thoughts, life will
eventually give you consequences. What you need to really understand is if you keep on doing things a certain way, you will always get a predictable result like insomnia, anxiety and stress. Unfortunately, the problem is that the big results of your bad habits usually don’t show up until much later in life. For example, a habit of living with chronic anxiety, stress, resentment, anger, criticism, depression, guilt and other negative emotions disrupt the natural process of the body, and negatively affects the digestive and immune system leading to serious health problems.
Creating habits that enable you to consciously choose to be happy will empower you to take control over your life because you will stop relying on external circumstances, material things, food and other people’s behaviors to be happy and not feel stress and anxiety. You can’t wait for external conditions to change before you allow yourself to feel happy. Remember, true happiness and inner peace are not automatic. Authentic lasting happiness and inner peace come from making a conscious choice to be happy on a consistent basis, regardless of the circumstances that surround us. This is accomplished by proactively performing daily activities that move you towards the vision of the person you want to be and the feelings you want to experience.
By creating a daily practice that include activities that promote positive thoughts and feelings with time these activities and feelings become your new habits. It is important to be specific and clear of what tasks you are going to incorporate into your daily life and schedule them into your day. If they are not scheduled, they most likely won’t get done. Because you will get distracted by the many competing tasks, demands, issues, and other priorities in your life. And do not wait for inspiration to hit you either before you do these activities. Otherwise, you will hear yourself making excuses such as, “I deserve a break”, “I had a long day”, “I’m too busy”, “I’m tired”, “the house is too messy”, etc. Instead, act like these activities are part of your daily responsibilities e.g. like your job or kids and get them done.
These activities do not have to take too much time out of your day. For example, I follow a very simple practice that I have found effective:
It sounds like there is a lot of time involved but if you look carefully, the actual extra time that I am taking out of my day for these activities, adds up to only about an hour. The rest of the activities are integrated into my regular daily tasks for example, listening to a book while a drive to work. Depending on your lifestyle your daily practice may look very different.
Finally, it is essential to be patient and kind to yourself while you are implementing changes related to the way your brain has been trained to process the world. Understand that your old habits will keep persistently reasserting themselves. There is a neurological reason for this, your habits have created well established neuropathways condition to fire off in certain situations. Additionally, pain and negative emotions activate the reward centers of the brain, such as the beta-endorphin and dopamine pathways, causing unconscious addiction to pain and negative emotions like self-pity, anger, stress, and guilt. Yes! You read correctly; we can be addicted to our negative emotions
Therefore, unless you are making an effort on a consistent basis to change, those neuropathways will pull you back to your old ways of thinking and behaving. This is why it is very common to regress or have setbacks while you are in the process of making changes. However, don’t get discouraged and try and try again. Regardless of setbacks don’t give up and is ok to get help, you do not have to do this alone. You can do this work in groups, with a coach or a mentor, an accountability partner, or a friend. Change does not happen overnight, this means you can’t just do an activity here and there. If you want lasting results, you must be consistent until you create new habits.
No matter how busy you are, you can choose to spare an hour a day for personal development. Remember, it is your life and is created by your daily choices, is an expression of your free will. So, the question is: Do you love yourself enough to make time for these activities and give yourself the gift of joy?
Dr. Toni is a Best-selling author, Holistic Health Practitioner (HHP) & Registered Herbalist in San Diego, California. She holds a PhD in psychology, and a Clinical Herbalist Certificate, an HHP certificate and is a Certified Trainer in the Success Principles. In private practice as a HHP she has been influenced by a variety of clinical modalities and orientations, and by the diverse life experiences of her clients. Toni’s approach to healing is holistic & transpersonal. In her work, she integrates the principles of Eastern and Western nutrition, herbololgy, energy medicine, Buddhist mindfulness and personal counseling to assist others in working through their physical or emotional blocks to attain optimal health.