The fall season is known as a time for changes. The weather changes and creates a new landscape for our world. This gives us a great reason to “fall” out of the bad habits that may be holding us back in our lives, whether we are aware of it or not.
Believe it or not, most of our days are made up of habits (good or bad) that we pretty much complete on autopilot. It takes around 60 days on average for someone to adopt, correct, or change a bad habit. Bad habits certainly do not cause mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression, but they can definitely lead to factors that contribute to them.
The first step in working on any form of self-growth is being aware of the habits or problems in your life. If you are struggling with identifying your habits or thought patterns that need to change, you can try working with a psychologist or therapist in therapy to help with this process. The great thing about going to therapy is you will be able to talk with someone that is impartial to your situation and your life.
Therapy can also be a great way to learn ways that you can work on changing your bad habits. Change is never easy and having someone that is keeping you accountable to your goals can be a helpful tool to make the changes more efficient.
The second thing that is required to making lasting changes in your life is being willing to change. This may seem obvious, but sometimes people are aware that things need to change in their lives, but they are not willing to put in the work to do so.
If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, you can talk with a psychiatrist about being prescribed medication to help with these issues. While medication will not solve all of the issues in your life, it can help lighten the load, allowing you to have a clearer mind to focus on the bad habits that you want to change. It can be difficult to focus on making positive changes in your life if you are struggling with any of the above issues.
It is important to remember that there is nothing wrong with taking medication. Mental illness is not your fault and is not something we choose. Taking medication for mental health concerns is just as valid as taking it for physical ailments.
The next step in your journey should be identifying what habits you want to replace. This ties closely with the above section mentioned recognizing your bad habits. Once you can recognize them, you will be able to start working on ways to replace them. It tends to be easier to replace a bad habit with a good one versus just trying to stop a bad habit. This may seem like a silly distinction, but our minds have a hard time making excessive changes at once and this strategy can help make the process easier.
An example of replacing a bad habit with a good one could be explained through the process of someone learning to quit smoking. Let’s say when you are at work you go outside every few hours for a smoke break. You can replace this habit by taking a break to walk around your office building every few hours or give a friend a call during this time. By replacing the bad habit (smoking) with a good one (movement or socialization) you will still be using the time previously spent on your bad habit in a constructive way.
As with any kind of change in your life, there will be obstacles that come up. It’s important to be patient with yourself through the journey of falling out of bad habits. If it were easy, we wouldn’t call them habits at all. They are called habits because they become a normalized part of our lives.
If we go back to the smoking example above, reminding yourself why you are quitting smoking can help you stay on track. You can be deciding to quit for health reasons or maybe for financial reasons. Both reasons are completely valid and can be helpful when you run into roadblocks. If you are having trouble reminding yourself of these reasons, you can try getting yourself an accountability partner. This can be a loved one in your life that you trust to hold you accountable. If you don’t have someone in your life that fits this mold, you can have a therapist or psychiatrist help you with this step as well.
You can also try incorporating journaling to track your progress with your habit you are trying to replace. The simple act of writing something on paper can help us stay motivated and actually has been shown to make our outcomes more successful.
One thing we can always count on in our uncertain world is that fall will always come. The change of the seasons can give us a fresh start that we have been looking for. When seasons change, it’s like the start of a new week. A clean slate and a chance to try again. If you are feeling lost or unfulfilled, examining what parts of your life aren’t working should be the first step. It’s never too late to change how we’ve always been, no matter how long it has been.
Change is hard, but it is never impossible. Believing that you have the power to make substantial changes in your life is the key to life-long growth. Growth is always possible. But believing it is possible is the key to your success.
The seasons will always change and this should remind us that we can too.