By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN
What time did you wake up this morning? Was it the same or close to the same time you woke up yesterday? Did you need to set your alarm, or do you automatically wake up at about the same time every morning?
What did you eat for breakfast this morning? Was it the same or similar to what you ate for breakfast yesterday and the day before? How about your lunches? Are they close or similar to the same things you eat most days?
What time did you go to bed last night? Was it about the same or similar to the same time you usually go to bed?
How about your wardrobe? Do you wear the same or similar things for work, for play, and for leisure time activities?
None of this is surprising or unusual. We are creatures of habit. And for very good reasons. It is easier to do the same things, eat the same things and follow the same habits repeatedly. Just take a moment and imagine that everything you do, eat, and arrange all day long and each day is a brand new creation. You would be exhausted before the middle of the day!
However repeating the same things over and over again can become monotonous and boring. Every once in awhile it’s refreshing and helpful to change some things, like your usual diet or your usual bedtime or your usual route to work. This change can enliven us, wake us up and add some much needed sparkle to our habitual routine lives.
Would you be surprised to learn that your thoughts and thinking patterns are also in this same kind of habit, rut and routine? Whether you are conscious of it or not, chances are very good that you think the same thing every morning upon awakening. Whether your habitual thought is Ugh, morning came too soon today. When is the next time I can get some more sleep? or Good Morning! Today is the start of another glorious day. I wonder what great adventures await me it is more than likely that these are the same things you say to yourself every day.
The same is true when you receive good news or receive an unexpected bill in the mail. Your thoughts of appreciation, gratitude or grumblings and complaints are also well ingrained habitual thoughts.
Did you know that you have the magical powers to change your level of Mental Health & Happiness simply by cultivating new, happier and healthier thoughts and thinking patterns? The same way you can change your diet, your bedtime or your wardrobe, you can also change what you say and think to yourself. However, this is much easier said than done.
Try this experiment. Change the placement of your kitchen garbage container. Keep the new placement until you can throw garbage away without going to the old place and can now automatically go to the new place. Keep track of how many days this takes. William James, founder of modern psychology postulated that it takes 21 days to change a habit. Try your own experiment to see if that is true for you.
Now conduct another experiment. Change one habitual thought during your day. It could be your grumblings of complaints about the other inconsiderate and incompetent drivers on the road, or you internal accusations about your lazy co-workers, or your impatience with your dawdling child. You must first be aware of the habitual thought that you think. Now compose what thought or statement you want to make instead.
Here are some examples:
Transform: Get your blinker fixed you idiot driver
Into: We all drive cooperatively to get to our destinations safely
Transform: For once could you do your job instead of leaving it for the rest of us to complete.
Into: I do my work with an open heart and willingness to serve. I appreciate my co-workers who are doing the same.
Transform: Get a move on kiddo so you don’t make me late again.
Into: We have all the time in the world and will each arrive safely with time to spare.
Remember though, for improved Mental Health & Happiness you must practice your new thought or statement for a minimum of 21 days (or longer) before it becomes automatic and habitual.
Transforming you habitual thoughts will transform you Mental Health & Happiness!