Whether you are trying to manage depression or anxiety, get healthier, or improve how you deal with stress, you have to create long-lasting habits that will work for you without creating more work for yourself.
One of the secrets to successfully creating change is to “start low and go slow,” meaning that by tackling one small piece of the entire change puzzle at a time, you’ll eventually get to your goal.
You can certainly try to make a whole bunch of healthy changes all at once. Make a “clean sweep,” so to speak. But here’s the thing. You can sometimes MAKE changes easily. The difficult thing to do is make them LAST.
Permanent change comes about slowly. In fact, the only kind of change I really trust is almost imperceptible. It happens so slowly you mostly don’t notice it until two or three months later you’re like “Wow, how about that! I’m eating veggies every day!”
Slow change is the kind that lasts. And that’s the change you want.
Making change that lasts means that you can’t make too many changes all at once. Even if you want to. Even if you think you’re really motivated this time.
If you try to use all the wellness stickers in your set at once in the first week, it’s like trying to learn ten different dance steps at the same time. To be successful, you have to push your impatience and optimism aside and pick the most important thing you want to work on changing FIRST…and when you’ve got it going nicely, to the point where it’s such a habit that you don’t have to think about it anymore because you JUST DO IT…then you can start on the next thing to change.
Here are some Dos and Don’ts for using your wellness sticker sets:
~Pick one thing to start with and it should be the one you’re most excited about or is the easiest to begin doing
~Pick a reasonable number of days the first week to set as your goal for the new habit
~You can use a “carrot and stick” method of accountability
~Stick with this one thing until you have met the desired number of days each week that you wanted to reach AND it has become an automatic habit
~Start with Change #2 only when Change #1 is an automatic habit
~Continue to check that you’re still doing this habit as you begin on Change #2 for at least 2-6 months so it doesn’t lapse
~Put a reminder in your planner at the 6 and 12 month mark to see if you’re still doing this automatically
~Don’t make two or more changes in the first week. Just one!
~Keep your expectations realistic. If your eventual goal is to do this thing every day, in the first week, start with maybe 2 days. Or even 1 if it’s going to be difficult to get it started.
~Don’t move on to another change until you feel comfortable that you are getting the first one going easily and it’s almost automatic
~Don’t assume you’ll continue to do earlier changes as you move on to new ones. Keep using stickers each week to make sure you’re still keeping those positive habits going.
For more on how to make changes in your life without becoming overwhelmed, see my book, A Year to Change, where I lead you week by week toward making positive changes in how you think, take care of yourself, manage your relationships, improve your self-esteem, and find your purpose.