The Behaviour of Change, Avril Ivory

spring-2009_pl_web_page_16_image_0001On the campaign trail last February, Barack Obama spoke on the issue of change: ‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek’.

So often, we want to make changes in our lives in relation to health and lifestyle.  We usually know what makes us feel good and what changes we would love to make. Yet often, despite all our good intentions, we cannot effect change. Why? What are the most common barriers to change?

The most common barriers to change are shared amongst us all:
1 Too much stress in our lives.
2 Lack of practice in positive and empowering coping mechanisms.
3 Poor work/life balance, failure to identify our deepest needs.
4 Habitual patterns of emotional response that sabotage us.
5 Lack of belief in our ability to change.
6 Poor goal setting.
7 Lack of support.
8 A negative self-repeating script.

Amongst the tools I would advocate that we all carry in our toolboxes are coping mechanisms such as: the AAABC model below, addressing our work-live balance, using Bach flower remedies, learning to be a witness to our thoughts through meditation and visualisation.

When we train Naturopaths and Nutritional therapists at the CNM, we train students in nutrition, herbs, TCM, exercise, tissue salts, Bach flower remedies, hydrotherapy and more, but we also train them to be able to help others to change.  When we can each identify our individual barriers to change and have a toolbox of skills to help us, we can make incredible changes in our lives.

Coping models

If stress is preventing you from making positive change, it is time to learn new coping mechanisms. Identify what your main stressors are, identify your response to stress, use the AAABC model of coping. When you have identified each stressor put it in one of the following boxes: A- Can be altered   A- Can be avoided   A- Accept it. Even identifying what can be altered or avoided and what needs our acceptance is very powerful. Then B- build resistance to the stressor.  This is very personal to each of us, it can include increasing social support, exercising more, making time for sleep or deep relaxation, increasing nutrient dense foods, exploring new hobbies or passions, setting goals and plans to help us. Finally, C- Change our perceptions or viewpoints.

Work- life balance

If a poor work-life balance is your major barrier to change then make a pie chart. Use the following headings, sleep, household, work, travel to and from work, family and friends, leisure/fitness/hobbies, community involvement.  What does your chart look like?  How much time is spent in work and commuting and household duties and how much time is spent with family and friends enjoying free time? Have you time for your passions, time to dream? What is your ideal work-life balance? What changes could you make in the short or long-term to have the balance you would like? If our work-life balance is good, change is immeasurably easier in our lives, so this is often a good place to start change.

Bach Flower Remedies

Sometimes we fail to identify what we really need, it could be the need for control, competence, more intimacy in our lives, or the need for emotional expression. Sometimes we engage in habitual patterns of behaviour that sabotage our ability to make changes in our lives. We train our naturopaths in Bach flower remedies to help dissolve these patterns. Centaury is brilliant for the person who puts everybody else’s emotional needs before their own. Agrimony helps the person who might drink quite a lot socially and is the life and soul of the party but is masking a lot of inner worries. Oak soothes the person who strives too much and forgets sometimes just to be. Larch is great when our self-esteem is low and Gorse is good when we are in despair. Use your Bach flower remedies to help yourself change.

Inner Critic

One of the biggest barriers to positive change in our lives is the inner voice that tells us we can’t, the inner voice that undermines our deepest strengths and abilities, this is often called the inner critic. Being aware of this inner critic and cultivating a new voice that highlights how wonderful we are with all our flaws is really important. This takes time and practice, meditation can be a wonderful way to become more conscious and aware of the inner voice.

Visualisation

Visualisation is a powerful tool to effect change.  It is the conscious and deliberate use of imagery to change and improve your life and health. When we program the desired outcomes into our mental computer, the subconscious will help find the information and means, and will help carry out the steps necessary to achieve the desired outcome. PET scans show that mental rehearsal of an action actually activates the part of the brain responsible for the formulations of the appropriate motor programs. In other words, if you want to make a change, visualise yourself performing that change in advance and it will be much easier to make that change.

Now is a great time to decide what changes you would like to make for health and wellbeing, identify what stops you making those changes, and take out your toolbox!

Avril Ivory is a naturopath and health psychologist.  She is the Dean of the College of Naturopathic Medicine in Ireland.  CNM is shortly hosting their Spring Seminar on the evening of 26th March 2009 in Griffith College. Gosia Desmond (B.Sc. Nut. M.A) will address the role of diet and lifestyle in cancer prevention and survival. For more information or to book a place, please contact dublininfo@naturopathy-ireland.com or 01-2353094. Cost €15

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