9 Steps to Change a Habit for Good
It was hard for me to believe that thoughts could be so powerful.
I’m a nutritionist who believes in the power of food as medicine.
For many years, I didn’t think that anything else we could do, including physical activity or sleeping well, could have as dramatic an impact as nutrition. After all, my work allowed me to see numerous people heal through a healthy diet.
However, my view of food as the absolute path to wellness changed several years ago when I noticed that some people didn’t get completely well even after they improved their diet. They did everything they could — ate all the right foods in all the right amounts. But there was something missing.
These people seemed to have certain things in common. One of them was how they thought.
At first, it was hard for me to believe that thoughts could be so powerful. However, I soon realized that even with the healthiest diet in the world, holding on to a toxic belief contributed to troublesome symptoms.
I began doing research on the field of mind-body medicine and came to see that the mind and body are one. I became so involved in this connection that I incorporated mind-body techniques in my nutritional practice. I even went on to teach a graduate course on the Fundamentals of Mind-Body Medicine to health practitioners.
I remember hearing that we think, on average, about 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day and that most are negative, reoccurring thoughts.
There are dozens of scientific studies on the “placebo effect”: when we think something is going to benefit us, there is a high probability it will.
Similarly, there are also studies on what is called the “nocebo effect”: when we think something is going to harm us, there is a high probability it will.
The fact that we can think ourselves in either direction shows that our thinking has great power over us.
When I saw people struggling to heal, I soon realized that is was their thought patterns holding them back. They would move from diet to diet, recommendation to recommendation, but, at the end of the day, they never really went on a “thought diet”.
In other words, if we try to change a habit, and we quickly zoom into making the shift without altering how we think about it, then we won’t be as successful.
True change requires some zooming out and then zooming in again: going from the details into the larger expanse of how we think. When we change how we think, the landscape of our lives will change. The more we pay attention to how we think, and start weeding out the thoughts that are not benefiting us, the more we will be putting our energy into where we need to be.
How many times have we tried to change by just addressing one thing, without looking at the whole?
For example, if I just say I’m going to exercise for 30 minutes a day, it’s not going to be as powerful as reframing my thoughts about WHY exercise is going to benefit my body, mind, and how I live. With exercise, I might think better, feel better, and look better. It’s most important to stay connected to those benefits rather than collapsing into just saying that we’re going to do the activity.
Here are a few ways to get to the “root” of changing your thoughts for good:
- Choose something you’d like to change, and be really specific. For example, “I want to eat one cup of vegetables with every meal” or “I want to do yoga every day.”
- Time yourself for 5 minutes and write down all your thoughts about this activity. If you have the same thought twice or more times, make note of it.
- At the end of the 5 minutes, look at what you wrote down and assess the general theme. What patterns do you observe? What negative thoughts or limitations have arisen?
- Whatever limitations surface, allow yourself to reframe the limiting thought with one that is more open and positive.
- Write down the new thought.
- Feel the new thought in your body as you think it and say it.
- Continue to practice this activity on a daily basis, bringing in the new thought several times per day as you think about what you want to change.
- Each time the limiting thought surfaces, let it go and let yourself bring in the new thought and the positive feelings associated with it.
- Repeat step #2 in 7 days to see if your thoughts have changed.
It’s not easy to change one’s thoughts, but if you take it one thought at a time, changing your habits — and your life — is attainable for all of us.
Originally published at deannaminich.com.