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How To Make Lasting Change

Written by: Janine Naman, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

At the most fundamental level, our physiology is very much adapted to – and supported by – some sense of regularity. In effect, having a daily routine offers the grounding, stability, and predictability largely absent from our hectic modern lives. The routine creates several familiar and comforting reference points throughout each day that sends a resounding affirmation to the body's deep tissues that all is well and that we can relax. The body becomes accustomed to – and learns to count on routine; this is precisely why the daily routine is such potent medicine. We listen to the same songs, order the same meal, go to the same places again and again; we take comfort in knowing what happens next. Sameness also acts as a sort of release for all the tension and stress that has built up inside you to do the other activities that you are obligated to do whether you like them or not. Sameness allows us to go on pilot mode and forget the rest, but what happens when we want to change.

This same day in and out behaviours, good or bad, begin to form habits. A habit is merely a settled or regular tendency or practice of thinking and acting (physical, mental or emotional) that becomes purely unconscious or beyond our awareness. All your habits, good and bad, are stored in your subconscious mind.


Cognitive neuroscientists have conducted studies that have revealed that only 5% of our mental activities, such as actions, emotions and decisions, are conscious and part of our awareness. In contrast, the remaining 95% of our actions are generated in a non-conscious manner. Think about how we can eventually do our jobs or drive our cars without even thinking twice; the sameness (habit) becomes perfunctory; in other words, the body knows how to do the task without the mind being aware. With every repetition of the same thought, emotion or action, we wire our brains in a particular manner. Nero plasticity explains the theory that neurons that fire together wire together, building a strong pathway in the brain. Even though we know consciously that something is not suitable for us, the brain kicks into the autopilot mode (sub-conscious), and we persist. Every new year millions of people set goals with high hopes of a better year ahead, but, only a few of us follow through to the end with our plans, statically 80% give up by the second week in February often, blaming ourselves for lack of willpower.


Changing a habit is not done overnight because our subconscious minds are far more powerful than our conscious minds and have memorized all our comfort zones, and it works very hard to keep us in them. Every bias, memories, emotions, and beliefs are a driving force behind each habit. Change is a process; if something takes years to learn or is deeply ingrained, it will take time, compassion, awareness, effective self-talk and physical action to unlearn or change that behaviour or routine. The great news is our brains and bodies are changeable; after all, every seven years or so, every cell in our bodies has been replaced by new cells; essentially, we become new people.


Here are a few insights I share with my clients to help them along


First, a growing body of research shows that compassion could be the key to improved health, happiness and longevity. You must love yourself exactly as you are now; knowing your habits, behaviours and even body posture at some point in your life served you well. Maybe you lock your knees because you had to brace against life circumstances, or possibly you overeat or overspend to hide feelings that you were not ready to deal with yet. Change must be done because we are loving prepared for something different, not as a punishment for the parts of ourselves we don't like. The words and images we create in our heads about ourselves can be more stressful than any outside influence, and the mind, body and spirit will not change under duress. So when we approach our habits with love, kindness and compassion, we are more apt to change. Self-compassion conveys to the body, mind and spirit that the new choices we are making are safe and in our best interest, not as a punishment for being wrong. I think of my client, who started a new gym routine last year. She said she despised it; she disliked all the recommended exercises and found no improvement, except for one. I later learned that the one activity she loved was the only exercise her body responded to and improved. I suggested she change her inner dialogue to thoughts of 'I love this' I love how strong my body feels lifting weights', especially with the exercises she disliked. Understanding her negative inner dialogue indicated to her body that something was wrong with what she was doing and resisting. Her new positive self-talk let her body know that she chose this new routine and it is ok to let it in.


An interpretation of the ancient Tibetan Buddhist meditation known as the Metta Sutta is something I suggest to my clients when they are down on themselves; it can help shift perspective to a more loving way of looking at ourselves.


May I be filled with loving-kindness

May I be well

May I be peaceful and at ease

May I be happy


Say this meditation as many times as you need until you find your old thoughts and images have subsided. Feelings of awkwardness or being mechanical is typical when starting something new. But understand you are redirecting your old Nero pathways, creating new, more productive paths, and setting the stage for change.


Second, You must become an expert on your habits to know Where? How? And perhaps even why? What is your constant inner dialogue? Get to know and become mindful of your habits become aware of what you are doing while doing it; because you cannot change what you do not know.


I think of one of my clients again; this client wanted to quit smoking. Of course, her first task was to be self-compassionate and then track her habit mindfully. I asked her to keep a journal of her routine. She journaled where she smokes the most inside/outside? What time of day did she smoke the most? Did she smoke more or less around other people? Did she smoke more when stressed or emotional? What was she doing while smoking, drinking coffee, driving etc.? Next, I asked her to no longer do any other task while smoking but be with it and observe every movement of her body, every emotion she felt, thoughts in her head, the smell, the taste, and the sound of smoking without any outside distraction. Her habit changed immediately without even trying to quit by merely becoming mindful. Not all habits are that extreme, but the process can be the same, using mindfulness as a tool to begin the change process by understanding ourselves better. How and when did this habit begin, how often am I doing it? Is there an emotion connected to the pattern?


Third, Start talking to our real decision-maker, our subconscious mind. In the brain, when a group of neurons sends a burst of electrical pulses to another group of neurons, it creates a wave-like pattern. These Brainwaves allow the brain to coordinate behaviour, sensation, thoughts, and emotion. These waves in the brain occur at various frequencies delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma, which are measured in the form of hertz (which measure electric currents, electromagnetic waves such light, radar, and sound by cycles per second, that range from very slow to very fast). We can talk to and help reprogram our subconscious minds when we are in Theta 4-8HZ. Deeply relaxed, with our focus is inward. The best time to tap into this brain wave is just before we fall asleep and just as we wake up before we open our eyes and get up. Create words or a phrase that is loving and with expectancy that the goal has already happened. Example: if you want to lose weight, 'I love my body, I am healthy and strong, I always choose foods that are nutritious and healthy, I look forward to exercising and moving my body. Visualize the change has already happened, see yourself as your ideal weight, what would you be wearing? How would you feel? See all your friends and family congratulating you and gushing on how great you look.


Finally is to get our bodies accustomed to changes because, again, a habit is described as a body knowing how to do something without awareness. Start with small changes that may seem unrelated to the habit, such as brushing your hair or teeth with your less dominant hand, finding a new driving route for work, or cleaning out a closet.


Mix up your routine, shake up complacency, add in a new activity that is good for you, and then add change to your habit. Take action when you have cravings, longing or restlessness for the old ways or want to give up. Get your body into a movement to refocus and build stamina.


Going back to my client who smoked, her next task was to change her daily routine. First thing in the morning, she had a glass of lemon water before her first cigarette, then she no longer smoked inside the house, then no longer smoked in the car. I asked her to do the next step, slowly cutting down on the amount. It took almost a year, but she also changed her whole physical, emotional and mental relationship with smoking. Slowly and surely, she quit her 25-year habit and has never turned back.


Remember to start slowly, building on your momentum; if you revert, don't give up, use it as a lesson in awareness and begin again. Think of each step as a training camp. The more we practice compassion mindfulness, positive self-talk and physical movement, the more we create new Nero pathways and habits for a stronger, more resilient us. Beat the odds and embrace change.


Buddha says 'Everything that has a beginning has an ending. Make your peace with that, and all will be well.


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Janine Naman, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Janine Naman is a versatile, compassionate and intuitive guide. Helping clients understand their mind-body connection with transformational practices that empowers them to find balance and wholeness.


Janine brings wellness to life with her embodied knowledge of anatomy and movement. Discover your true fundamental healing potential and understand ways to manage physical, mental and spiritual challenges. Learn practices that can alleviate suffering on all levels and restore your body’s natural balance through this holistic approach.


Having studied since 2002, Janine has guided thousands of classes and private sessions. She holds multiple certifications along with the numerous accolades received throughout her career. Her mission is to help people elevate their life and master the relationship between mind, body, and spirit.


Certified Yoga Therapist, Emotional Freedom Technique/Tapping Practitioner, Reiki Master, Spiritual Coach, Energy worker, Chi Gong instructor, Advanced Yoga Instructor and Author

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