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How counselling can help your New year’s resolutions turn into lasting changes.
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Stuart Watson(MBACP) Individual, Couples Counselling and C.B.T Therapy.
4th January, 20140 Comments
A familiar story:
At this time of year lots of people make resolutions about what they are going to change or what they are going to give-up. You’re going to leave that dysfunctional relationship; because you’ve finally had enough. You’re going to join the gym, maybe you stop smoking or curb your eating in an attempt to lose weight and improve your health. So you decide if you just eat a little less and move more then you will lose weight, its so simple and you are convinced that this time you’ll do it, but then things get tough and you give up.
After a few weeks many people return to there normal habits, eating a little too much, not going to the gym or exercising; because they “don’t have time.” You start smoking again because you still use smoking as a way to cope with stress (just like you did before.) The relationship which felt terrible throughout Christmas is now not so bad, because your both working and barely see each other so you don’t need to leave yet. This can lead to feelings of failure, unhappiness, guilt and apathy which also lead to problems with low self esteem, control, depression and anxiety. You know what you want to change and you truly want to! So why is it be so hard to achieve?
When in doubt we return to what we know:
The truth is we are all creatures of habit and its very easy to return to what we know. What we know has a guaranteed outcome: there are no risks, its easy and it doesn’t take effort or sacrifice. It makes us feel safe but it also keeps us stuck. When these habits or behaviours effect our lives, health, happiness and relationships, then being stuck and not changing often has a huge cost. In terms of stopping smoking and maintaining a healthy body our habits and addictions can lead to illness or a premature death. You might be miserable and feel unloved in your relationship, but if you stay at least your not alone but is that really a good reason to be with someone?
How can a Counsellor help?
So how do you make lasting changes, ones that last beyond those first few weeks (or days) of hyper-enthusiasm. The key is to find support. People with habits and addictions don’t get clean on there own, our subconscious is far too clever and complex to let that happen.
From alcohol addiction to over-eating you need someone to support you; to challenge your beliefs and support you to change yourself. If you’re in an abusive relationship its easy for your partner to convince you that you would never cope on your own, so you stay.
A counsellor could offer you a place to explore what your real abilities are, and understand and overcome that manipulation. Sometimes psychologically people are so critical and uncaring of themselves that they sabotage their own attempts at success and become their own worst enemy. Deep held subconscious beliefs that you don’t deserve to be healthy, loved or to succeed in life quickly override and crush your motivation.
It can take a counsellor/psychotherapist with the right training to help you challenge those inner thoughts, beliefs and patterns of behaviour. They can enable you to learn to replace your destructive and negative thinking with more positive, productive coping mechanisms.
A good counsellor or psychotherapist will not judge you; they will accept you and hopefully help you come to accept yourself for who you are. When you come to accept that you are fallible, you accept that its OK to not be perfect and its OK to fail, then you can start to make permanent changes. If you see life in a more balanced and positive way then its no longer black and white or win or lose, and what you do today doesn’t mean you cant do different tomorrow.
You can change your life not by making huge leaps forward and then even bigger ones backwards, but instead by making small but consistent steps towards the person you want to be.
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