Next year I’m aiming to look at the neuroscience behind habits. I wondered if this had any relation to my lack of being able to form them.
However, as I investigated this claim; I thought about my main attempts at changing habits.
– minimising swearing to only when angry – i.e. when I feel they are appropriate and powerful to use.
– Waking at 8am
– Exercising daily
– Getting “back into” doing meditation/yoga/reiki
And though the habits don’t often stay put for long, I don’t think I have a hard time actually changing these things. And I’m not sure that you do either.
Respecting the Situation
For me, the motivation comes form the situation.
While at University, I want to wake by 8am to make the most out of my day – of living in the sunniest town in Britain and of the work I’m doing there. To get the lecture notes printed in time or to be awake enough to deal with adults who have mental illnesses – they’re time-consuming aspects of the word I’ve chosen to do. They are a strong motivator. Without my lecture notes; there’s little point attending the lecture, and if I can’t support and answer questions when I co-run group activities; I shouldn’t be there.
Now I’m home for the holidays – I’m alone from 7am to 4pm with two cats; and I don’t have much to do if I look at a daily workload. If I factor in the fact that I’ve come home to rest; to catch up on the much-needed sleep – is it any wonder that I’m now not waking until 9am some mornings?
From April 23rd I’ll be back in Brighton for my final term as an undergraduate. I’ve got plans to do 5 training days; volunteering 20-35 days, buddhafield festival, a 2-week course, a 6-week group, run the meditation society, pass two exams, finish 2 essays [4k words] and hand in my dissertation. Oh. And I’ll be editing novel #2 while writing novel #3.
Those are strong motivators and I hope to be keeping my morning routine at the top of my list. Without those motivators; I don’t have a routine and my days lose their structure.
The Mind – A Block
I used to suffer with depression. I won’t go into it but let’s just say the idea of tapping my face and saying I was going to have a good day sounded RIDICULOUS to me.
And having tried EFT a few times; I still don’t find it helpful.
However – using language such as “this technique is ridiculous” before you have tested it in this individual situation is a massive block. I found that this belief that it would be a waste of my time caused a massive lack of motivation to try it.
Mantras did not help me with my OCD. I told people that they were useless.
However, when it comes to staving off panic attacks and coming out of depression, I found that focusing intently on times when I felt positive did help. That telling myself that I was safe and allowed to have a panic attack if I needed was useful.
Faking a smile didn’t help; but wording my bad mood as “Not well but it’ll pass and I’m healthy” had such a different effect compared with the simple “not well.”
The only reason I couldn’t implement these techniques was a lack of motivation based on cognitive beliefs.
I understand this is different for everyone; however what I feel people forget is that we change. You are a different person biologically and mentally to the one who began reading this blog post. You have more of some chemicals, less of others and different pathways in your brain have now been used.
I’m not saying that I’m amazing at learning habits and you’re bad/good at it; nor am I saying that this will work for everyone. However, just because something didn’t work five years ago with one problem does not mean you shouldn’t try it again; with a new subject.
Clearing the Blockage
This is something I cannot do for you. I wish I could. I’ve tried to get my friend to give some of the scientifically-evidenced therapies a go before disclaiming that they don’t work.
You can decide that nothing will help you; and you’ll be where you are for a while.
You can equally decide that it couldn’t hurt to try it. And in fact, even things you’ve tried will change.
Hypnosis, an odd encounter
In 2008 I went along to a hypnosis screening. I believed in it. I didn’t know much about it, but I had a solid belief that something would happen.
I sat in a room mainly thinking “what, that’s not true. What are you on. I feel nothing.”
As far as I remember, I responded to 3 of 10 prompts. One of those was because everyone was doing it and I thought that’s what they wanted.
This year, I was sent an email. All people who’d done the screening were put on a database and when students or lecturers need certain types of participant for hypnosis studies; they could use this data.
I emailed back saying I was in the low category but sure; I’d do the study if eligible.
I was politely told that I was down as a mediumly-susceptible participant.
I did the study, didn’t feel much. I can feel the involuntary first prompt without hypnosis; so I was happy to take part.
However, a couple of weeks ago I took part in another study. By now I’ve done a course by a lecturer who knows a lot about hypnosis and gave us all an induction session.
During this study though, I watched three episodes of Shaun the Sheep and got paid £10 to take part. It wasn’t bad. I was given TMS [transcranial magnetic stimulation] which was supposed to do something for about 3-4 minutes after TMSing was stopped.
I did the same 6 requests about 4 times. 1, 2, 3, 4,5 ,6 gap to watch Shaun and be TMSed again. Then 1 2 3 4 5 6 and so on. Final go. No TMS – not for 15 minutes or so now. Normal conditions now.
I lifted my arm. yes yes it’s now rigid and I can’t move it blah blah I’m hungry now, this is tiring. And yes I can ben- woah.
I could not bend my arm. I laughed nervously. I could see it.. there’s nothing there. I actually couldn’t lift my other hand off my lap to feel it. He asked me to put my arm down. I did so.. and it bent. No problem.
I know how hypnosis works. I’ve had lectures on it, studied papers on it. I knew I wasn’t that susceptible. Yet, I had that experience. It felt so real I was actually rendered speechless.
Sometimes what we think just isn’t true anymore.