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Bringing About Change That Lasts

Bruce Ellice-Flint BCHC Cert Pos.Pyc

There is an old quote by an unknown author which says…

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”

This post seeks to expand on this idea to examine ways we can swap unhelpful eating habits for healthier ones.

Bringing about lasting change in our lives is hard. The first step towards change is simply believing it is possible. With this first step, we can hope to bring about a self fulfilling prophecy.

The bad news is that most of us have very little self discipline. So with this in mind our focus needs to shift from thinking about change as requiring self discipline. Self discipline is not going to work for the bigger changes we want to make in our lives.

Instead, take the simpler course of implementing smaller step rituals into our lives. Every person who brings about lasting change introduces rituals into their lives.

Building rituals requires very precise behaviours and performing them at very specific times motivated by deeply held values.

Some examples of rituals:

  • Following the food program that you have just signed up for.
  • Writing a gratitude journal each evening.
  • Physical exercise each morning (see Rachel’s video).

We might also need to rethink some of the negative rituals in our lives. Negative rituals might include things like (for example) regularly drinking alcohol with evening meals or sitting down for too long at work. What are some of the negative rituals in your life?

We can counter negative rituals by creating new positive rituals. Using the above examples these might be pouring ourselves a glass of water instead of wine or setting a reminder to stand up and move every 50 minutes or so.

To do

Write a list of rituals based on things that are very important to you. These should be rituals that will bring about positive change in your life.
For example, one of Emma’s rituals is to allow time to enjoy breakfast each morning.

What the studies tell us about rituals:-

These are some of the things that studies have told us about rituals:

  • They increase productivity and creativity.
  • The number of rituals we might introduce depends on our unique needs.
  • When we are introducing a new ritual it initially takes self-discipline (a ritual is a small change – and so self-discipline is useful here)
  • Introduce only one or two rituals at a time.
  • Start rituals immediately.
  • Real change comes when we follow up on our ideas or insights.

And last but not least:

  • It takes about 30 days of consistent practice for ritual to become a habit.

In other words, to implement the change that we want in our lives committing to practicing rituals for at least 30 days leads to success.

“The first step to change…is accepting your reality right now. Honouring your process. Compassionate self-awareness leads to change; harsh self-criticism only holds the pattern in place, creating a stubborn and defensive basic self. Be gentle with yourself as you would with a child. Be gentle but firm. Give yourself the space to grow.”
— Dan Millman in his book “The First Step to Change”.

Bruce Ellice-Flint is a Councillor and Psychotherapist. He holds a Bachelor of Counselling and Human Change; with a post graduate certification in Positive Psychology.
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