Change a Habit, Change Your Life!

I have a friend who recently went through a full year of unemployment. Considering her life-long fear had always been financial ruin, to say it was an emotionally challenging year for her is an understatement. It was terrifying. And it had her working every self-help angle she could think of to not fall into the abyss of despair. She tried gratitude, meditation, Yoga, hiking, inspirational books, practical business guides, slashing her expenses and praying for guidance. While all of it brought moments of peace, none of it was lasting. And none of it helped her find a job.

This friend also has a big attachment to chocolate. When I say attachment, I mean she’s a barnacle on the side of a Hershey’s Dark Chocolate bar. And she feels as much angst about her chocolate addiction as anyone with weight problems despairs about their eating habits. But she doesn’t have a weight issue, so there are no visible signs of her habit. And because of this, it is hard for her to give it up. Yet she knows it messes with her mind and aggravates her stress levels. But when she was going through this difficult time, chocolate became her big consolation. She had more of it than ever, which was getting in the way of her finding the emotional balance she was craving.

Emotional coping habits are our automatic responses to stress. Whether it is chocolate, cigarettes, alcohol or food, most of us have some substance that we use in order to manage the immediate stressors of our day. Yet these coping skills rarely help. And more often than not, they make things worse. Not just because they are bad for your overall health, but they also amplify perceived stress with the guilt that so often comes with indulging bad habits. In a more immediate sense, they wreck your brain chemistry, making the equanimity you crave more elusive than ever. This in turn, makes it hard to get traction going in any positive direction, feeding into your addiction and fragile mindset. Vicious circle.

Knowing this, I offered up a challenge to my friend: Give up the chocolate as an offering to the employment gods to show how serious you are. I reminded her that she has tried everything else so why not this? What did she have to lose? I knew if nothing else, getting rid of the chocolate would allow her to feel more balanced and perhaps see her situation for what it actually was: temporary.

I could feel the daggers through the phone, but she agreed to try. I told her to do, not try. She tossed me an F-bomb but agreed. The next day she stocked up on fruit and all the healthy alternatives she could think of and quit the junk.

While initially she suffered similar withdrawal symptoms as someone coming off coffee, within the week she was fine and feeling less emotional which fed her confidence and allowed her to be more aggressive in her search. By the third week she was awaiting word on several opportunities and by the end of the month she had not one but two jobs, each providing enough to add up to a full paycheck. Plus, the fact that it was two jobs rather than one, allowed her to not feel trapped in one place or one dynamic which appealed to her Bohemian spirit. Everything fell into place and worked out for the very best.

Giving up a crutch is one of the most powerful things you can do to change a negative dynamic in your life. When things are not going your way, your efforts at making things happen can seem futile. If you then eat or drink in an effort to console yourself, and if those substances take you away from your center and essential spirit, that futility can feel overwhelming.

Self-empowerment comes from taking action. When faced with problems, most of us revert to old habits while our minds spin in endless ruminations, trying to think it’s way out of a problem. But the only way to change a dynamic in your life is through action, not ruminations. And starting with an action that you are in complete control of, like giving up chocolate, or for you, perhaps it is ice cream, is one of the best ways to start. As you gain confidence and courage by adhering to one simple habit change, that confidence radiates outward and creates subtle shifts in the way you operate and engage with the world. From there, opportunity flows…

If your life is feeling a little lackluster and there are changes you would wish to see, I challenge you to take an inventory of the habit or habits that may be keeping you from your greatest self. And then make the decision to change one habit. Whether it is exercising more, drinking more water, or giving up chocolate, that one shift, if done consistently and systematically, can change your life! Give it a try and see how it goes.

So… I want to know… Do YOU have a habit that emotionally cuts you down and gets in the way of your best self? Or do you have a strong desire to create something new in your life but can’t seem to get traction on it? I want to hear about it in the comments below! And then I want to hear about the one habit you will change as an offering to help you manifest the life that you want.

Have a wonderful Monday and remember, small shifts in the way you operate and nourish yourself, goes a long way towards greater vibrancy and happiness~
xo
B

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25 comments on “Change a Habit, Change Your Life!

  1. jeanette

    hi Barbara,

    i’ve watching your youtube videos, but this is my first opportunity to read one of your blog posts. wow, beautifully written!

    now that i have found you, between watching your Monday motivational videos and reading your blog entries it will save me a lot of money on self-help books. you are really great.

    thank you for your wonderful work it is much appreciated.

    jmj

    Reply
  2. sukey pett

    Thank you, Barbara. For me it is about two of the worst: sugar and nicotine. I am currently under a great deal of stress. Good stress, but stress nevertheless, and in the past two weeks, I’ve started smoking again. I’ve also been eating sweets like it’s going out of style and am amazed I maintained rather than gained weight. I am going to try to give up the sugar first, and then the nicotine. It may sound backwards,but I can only do one at a time.

    Reply
    1. Barbara Mendez, RPh, MS Post author

      Sorry to hear about the smoking, Sukey! But you are quite right, pick one thing and focus on giving up that and then tackle the other…. that is the best way to go about it to be successful. Wishing you much luck with the process!
      B

      Reply
  3. Jean

    My bad habit is sleeping too long. I sleep about 10-11 hours a day. Which makes me inactive. I need to start exercising, but I find it so hard to do since I’m not that interested in most exercise.

    Reply
    1. Barbara M Mendez

      Hey Jean~ My suggestion with exercise is always the same: doing something fun. Whether it be dancing or biking, hiking, or even just a brisk walk, do something fun. And I think you’ll find that once you start moving, you’ll likely sleep less. Perhaps consider challenging yourself to 7 days of movement. Do something every day for about 20 minutes a day, even if it is just a walk. See how this makes you feel and start with that. You might find that it makes a difference~
      Best to you~
      B

      Reply
  4. Theresa

    Wow!! That was like going to therapy! You write so well, and are so genuine, and positive! Hope to schedule a visit with you when I have extra money. Be well, and thanks!! Have to stick to one glass of wine , and no more than two!! You have inspired me, and I appreciate your emails. Best, Theresa 🙂

    Reply
  5. Rose

    Barbara, This was a great blog as it really resonated with me. For me it is about alcohol and sugar as my go to feel good remedy. The reality is I actually feel so much better without them. The challenge is to find alternative solutions to managing stress in the moment rather than regretting it later. The fourth of July weekend was a bit of a challenge but back on track this week. I really enjoy your blogs and motivational Monday videos, keep them coming!! Rose

    Reply
    1. Barbara M Mendez

      Thanks for commenting and for your honesty, Rose! It can be a challenge and success usually comes with practice rather than all at once. But as long as you keep returning to your intentions and then notice the difference between engaging your good habits vs. your bad habits, over time it does get easier. Like you said, getting back to it after the 4th holiday is the very best thing you can do!
      Stay well and I hope things are otherwise great with you!
      B

      Reply
    2. Cheeks

      I too can relate to this issue, my job is very stressful most times I can’t wait to get off work and chill. The problem is I have began to be slack off, I have no desire to get out for early morning runs. The weight is creeping back on and I feel out of control. I stumbled across this blog by accident and found things very interesting. Today I am attending a pilates class maybe this will move into action.

      Reply
      1. Barbara Mendez, RPh, MS Post author

        Life is so busy that getting distracted and slacking off can happen to all of us! It is so difficult to juggle so many balls in the air…. but just one movement in a positive direction can open up a whole bunch of new opportunities…. I hope this evening’s pilates class opened up space in your mind for greater clarity and positivity! Stay well!!

        Reply
    3. Jasmine Kanter

      Rose, for me it’s the sugar too! One thing i found helpful is when i get a sweet tooth and a craving, i sit for a while and imagine the taste and feeling of the food i’m craving, and then imagine the sense of satisfaction or regret (usually satisfaction) i would feel afterwards, and then if and when i go to eat that snack, i eat it slowly and mindfully and can usually be satisfied with just one cookie, instead of the 10 that i used to eat very hurriedly. Oh, and my go-to snack is now a piece of dark chocolate instead of many of the alternatives i used to eat. Somehow just one or two small pieces can satisfy the craving.

      Reply
      1. Rose

        Jasmine, Thanks very much for sharing as when I read the blog postings (to include yours), it is good to know I am not alone and we can support each other to have a healthy lifestyle. The bumps in the road are often minor setbacks but as Barbara said, I go back to my intentions. I signed up for a healthy lifestyle for the rest of my life and I take it one day at a time. I like your suggestion about the one or two small pieces of dark chocolate. Some times it works, and other times, it cause me to want to have more. I know myself and set parameters each day as to what I will do the next. It helps me to feel good and have better control of may actions. Interesting thing is the cravings don’t go away, but it is hard work to manage. Thanks for sharing.

        Reply
        1. Barbara Mendez, RPh, MS Post author

          it is hard work to manage when cravings are strong. And the thing is, sometimes we fail, but as long as we keep trying, eventually something clicks and it gets a little easier. Here’s a suggestion on the chocolate…. get like an 85% cacao…. it’s really hard to overeat it! 🙂 The flavor is so intense that one or two pieces is usually enough.
          I hope it is going well Rose!
          And thanks for your participation, Jasmine!

          Reply
        2. Jasmine Kanter

          Yes Rose, I too like reading the replies. It’s good to know I’m not alone sometimes! Once in a while I manage to add a new habit and i do find eventually it helps and I don’t have to think about it so much 🙂

          Reply
  6. Frances

    Wow, perfect timing! My life and career have been stagnating for longer than I care to recall. Definitely tired of that, been looking for change, get out of the rut. I also tried similar methods ( yoga, meditation, diet, reiki, etc… ) helpful, yes, but still…
    I think today’s post struck several chords, I do have several bad habits that I haven’t shaken …. Getting started on those, might just be the key to a real turning point! Thanks again Barbara, very insightful post!

    Reply

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