The Secrets to Making Change Stick

 by Derek O'Neill

How can the ways in which we talk to ourselves affect change when it comes to breaking an addiction? The power of the voice you use to address your mind is an essential element to let go and see your life in a whole new light. While digging deeper into why you formed your addiction, and how the dynamics of the past manifest in a negative way, it’s so important that you practice and reinforce affirmative thinking and self-declarations of strength and courage. That is where willpower starts and grows.

Willpower is literally the willingness to detach from what we think makes us feel happy and safe, temporarily, and instead, find lasting contentment.

NEGATIVE THINKING

It’s easy to frame the things you say about yourself in the negative in relation to addiction. When we try to stop the behavior, proclaiming “I won’t smoke anymore,” or “I can’t have that chocolate bar,” or “I can’t fall off the wagon again” won’t work. The mind hears the “won’t” and the “can’t,” and emphasizes a helplessness within you.

It is much more effective to say, “I will stop smoking so I can be healthy,” “I can eat a healthy and balanced diet,” and “I have the willpower to continue that good work that I’ve been doing to beat this addiction.” It’s especially helpful to affirm, “I will be kind to myself – I’ll accept setbacks and imperfection.” You have to identify and focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

If you monitor your thoughts, you’ll probably be surprised by how much is outlined by negativity, in one form or another. How do you shift that? One way is to tell your mind to be open and look at the bigger picture, especially when you find your perspective becoming small and insular. If you practice positive affirmations, they will take hold on the subconscious level where they will affect real change with time and determination.

Keeping a diary or gratitude journal keeps positive affirmations fresh when you revisit them, allowing you to emphasize them in your life. That energy is at the heart of willpower. It must be boosted.

To “have willpower” is not a passive thing you possess. It has to be applied and confirmed all the time.

Addiction sometimes creates a very harsh self-view of oneself. When you can express your thoughts and strengths on paper, you’ll be able to gain better perspective. You’ll see that you are not stagnant; that your mind is always working and that it can aid you in creating change in your life.

BREAKING THE BOND WITH YOUR ADDICTION

Your mind attaches to your addiction in a way that creates a bond. It’s important to admit your destructive habit, but remember, you are not the addiction. Because the causes – and resulting symptoms of addiction – are often rooted in depression, anger, fear and a whole host of other emotions, it can be hard to separate out cause and effect. When you are mired down by bad feelings, looking for a magic pill (figuratively, and sometimes literally) or a big sweeping change of life is one of the ways the mind of an addicted person often works. Things are good or bad, black or white, incredible or absolutely miserable.

If you see happiness as unattainable, a fix of something that feels pleasurable or helps you to escape seems attractive. Of course, the effect is diminished over time.

REAL LIFE, REALISTIC HAPPINESS

The journey to lasting, realistic happiness is much more subtle than any substance or behavior can provide. There is no switch that suddenly lights up bliss, or an explosion of love, success and complete satisfaction. Real life just isn’t like that. The high that some people get from drinking, or a drug, or an obsessive habit, doesn’t have anything to do with true contentment. Happiness has to be grounded in all the ups and downs of life. No one is flying above the challenges, changes and circumstances that life encompasses. There will always be a range of experiences and emotions from day to day. When you are addicted to something you are not fully engaged in the reality. Both the initial highs and ultimate lows of the addiction are artificial and predictable. The truth is that life is much more of a mystery and surprise. If you have the courage to accept that, you can be free of dependence on anything or anybody.

The next time you find yourself wanting to indulge in whatever your addiction is, stop and wait for ten minutes before any action. How does that make you feel? Explore those emotions. What do they tell you about your issues in connection to your addiction?

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