How to change behaviour patterns? You have to own and face your truth first which is not easy. When we've identified destructive behaviour in therapy everyone asks about changing behaviour patterns. Once you can say "it's me", "it's my fault" and stop blaming other people it's time to mature and be someone different by doing things differently.
Don’t be a sheep and follow the pack, find out what you really like and what makes you happy.
Nathanial Emmons quote said "Habit is best of servants or the worst of masters" So are your patterns of behaviour making or breaking you?
The human condition, the patterns/habits we learn from our parents when we are young by modelling and copying are what causes us misery and unhappiness when we grow up and have to think for ourselves. If we are told when we are young that fish and chips is a healthy food option to eat daily and we watch those we trust around us indulging, why would we question its truth, we wouldn’t, we would just follow suit and do the same.
We only know what we know so what is passed on from others unfortunately ends up becoming our template to happiness even though it's completely wrong for us.
Many people ask me the difference beween life coaching and therapy and which is right for them. Life coaching and therapy do cross over and no more so than when we are talking about behaviour patterns.
Ask yourself, how many things you do every year like clockwork, celebrate a family tradition like Christmas or where you choose to go on vacation, are down to habit or routine rather than a spur of the moment impulse idea?
In pattern behaviour life coaching we start to look closely at what we do and what we can change to reach a certain goal like losing weight, securing a new job or leaving a bad relationship. In pattern behaviour therapy the primary goal is to alleviate suffering so we look more deeply at why we do what we do and then take ownership breaking through denial.
By identifying your patterns, the cigarette on the drive to work, two many biscuits mid morning, having to check twice you've locked the door and asking the right questions, "How do I change my patterns?" you will find most of what you do you are conditioned to do, i.e. is done out of habit without thinking rather than genuine desire.
Change is scary and potentially means conflict. You don’t want to upset the apple cart by going against the grain and the pack. So we suppress what we really feel, medicate or comfort ourselves in some way and we carry on, our pattern getting us no where. Our patterns are laid down in childhood, what we are used to, the repetitive daily choices we make without thinking but just as they have been learned we have the power to interupt them, unlearn them and learn something new and in doing so we begin to take control of our destiny and thus our happiness.
Start small and start slow, change your morning routine, get up 30 minutes earlier to fit in some "me time", a meditation, a walk, watching the sunrise, a leisurely breakfast. Doing something for yourself before anyone else is awake or gets up will empower you and change how your whole day goes. Being in a good mood is a conscious choice. For anyone depressed I understand the notion you cannot just choose to be happy but you can choose to do behaviours that will take you to happiness eventually.
One question I ask all my patients, (I am not a doctor or qualified psychologist) at some point on their therapy journey with me is what would they think it would be like for them if they could never have another alcoholic drink in their life. If they are from a different culture where 10 pints and a curry on a Friday night is not the accepted norm then their reaction to this question is completely different than someone for whom alcohol punctuates every social gathering and having a cocktail is indeliably linked with having a good time even if they only drink moderately. This is a good example of pattern behaviour, something you don't imagine to be a problem but cannot bear the thought of living without it.
Writing things down clarifies your thoughts so make a list of how many times you wish you did not have to participate in something organized by someone else just because you have always done it in the past. Christmas is the perfect example of a time when people are under enormous pressure to perform, in fact the pressure is so high these days the festive preparation now begins in October. We are bombarded by the media and advertisers subliminally telling us time is running out, we need to get shopping, we don’t want to leave things until the last second, constantly leaving us feeling stressed and miserable.
The truth is if your patterns are "the worst of masters" you are not at your optimum and have no will power, buying big boxes of quality street or mince pies, to put away until the big day, is fatal as you are likely to be unable to resist eating them immediately.
How many of us have tried going on a crash diet 6 weeks before Christmas to lose enough weight to get into that little black party dress only to have a big pig out and eat what you want immediately afterwards. Well established patterns most of us will buy into time and time again that never work in practice. Diets don’t work especially when you are surrounded by temptation and your life revolves around a two month build up to an event that in reality lasts one day.
Write down what a holiday actually means to you, not what you have been told by others or what you see others doing but what it is all about to you and how you truly feel about it. You have to consciously ask yourself the questions in order to discover what you really think. For me a holiday is a complete break from my normal day to day, a rest, completely relaxing, shared time with people I love, no arguing, no fighting, no drunks, no falling out, no over spending and not having to feine gratitude for a load of random gifts I don't want or need.
If your traditional holiday extravaganza is truly a great experience, you can afford to splash out and spoil those you love and you never resent spending money on gifts people hate and never use, then knock yourself out but anything on your calendar you dread and want to just disappear, needs cancelling. Do something different for once and don't buy in.
To be happy we have to be in control of our own destiny and just because everyone else around you is suffering from status anxiety, keeping up with the Jones, you can choose to do what you like and be different.
Manage to change one pattern, you'll see the effect it has on other people.
Whenever you are stressed and strapped for cash whatever the pressure you can always tell people you know you are doing something good by volunteering your time and your company to those who find themselves alone and worse off than you. Doing a good deed for others will get you out of anything cleanly and without any of the ramefications you may fear if you say no.
If you can afford to splash out, treat yourself to a long sunshine break away from your normal routine then relax knowing you have no massive credit cards bills to worry about come the end of January. I stopped celebrating with others the commercial things you need money to participate in, it was easier than enduring the inequity with nothing to contribute. I found the most amazing thing to give anyone is the gift of your time to those who need help and support especially if you are broke and that is all you have to give.
True happiness comes from having a purpose, doing something helpful and constructive from the heart not from envying and competing, buying stuff we cannot always afford or don't need. No amount of shopping, eating, drinking, partying at Christmas or any other time of year for that matter will fill the void, the big empty hole.
Our pattern behaviours established from a subconscious desire to seek pleasure and heal pain externally from wealth and status are the delusion. External gratification, looking outward for satisfaction based on false information we have learnt from others, never lasts. Think about your last shopping spree or food blowout, likely followed with a good old dose of guilt.
Visualise yourself like a hamster going around and around on that wheel.
It is time to start looking inward, beginning a dialogue and questioning your own pattern behaviour, hearing not what you want to hear, the good bits but what you need to hear to change, the stuff deep down you are actually ashamed of.
Photo by: Mick Haupt Unsplash