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Virtus Daily Blog #10 – Change is hard

Why creating a change in behaviour is so hard sometimes

Have you ever felt ‘stuck’ in a situation – especially when it comes to your health and fitness?

You’re trying to make a change, and you want to make a change, but for some reason it’s not happening for you yet?

You feel like you’re trying and trying, yet keep falling back into old habits and you never end up getting anywhere?

We’ve all been there.

It can be so so frustrating. We end up spiralling down the “what’s wrong with me” loop. This makes matters worse, and our best solution at this point is to say:

“F*** it. This healthy lifestyle crap is too hard. Somebody give me a whole bottle of red wine and an entire tub of salted caramel ice cream because I give up!”

Now, if devouring a bottle of red and a whole tub of ice cream on a Tuesday night is your thing, treat yourself. Devour it and enjoy every second of that sweet, sweet goodness.

However… if this is a problem for you – if you feel like it will be followed by a cycle of guilt and self-loathing, if you spend the next few days beating yourself up, or if you feel like you need to train for 5 hours the next day to ‘work it off’…. then, Houston, we have a problem!

Here’s the thing….

Our bodies are wired to keep us in a thing called homeostasis. 

This basically just means to keep us in balance at all times as a survival mechanism.  Everybody’s version of balance or homeostasis is different. MY body’s version of ‘normal’ is completely different to YOUR body’s version of ‘normal’.

If the current version of homeostasis inside your physiology, is negative self-talk, self-doubt, lack of self-worth, being overweight, being unfit, stress, anxiety… If these things have been cycling around in your thoughts and daily habits for years – anything outside of this ‘normal’ balance for your body is going to feel weird.

Stay with me on this.

This is how it plays out in real life.

Example #1

You’re overweight, so you decide to decrease your intake of calories (great move) and you increase your calorie expenditure by exercising more. (Note: Your best bet is to hire a coach to help you with this so you do it in a healthy and sustainable way).

Your body notices this change in homeostasis, as you are in a calorie deficit. (this is good)

Your body then assumes something is wrong, so it sends around more hunger signals because it is so used to operating off a higher amount of calories.

The balance has changed in your physiology and it is trying to bring you back into your ‘normal’ state of homeostasis. In this case, it’s you being overweight. You then feel hungry, your body has alarm bells going off inside and you find it difficult sticking to a calorie deficit. So you binge, you return to ‘normal’ and no more alarm bells are going off. Balance has returned and in the short term… you feel better. But long term, nothing changes.

Example #2

You’re unhappy, you have a habit of beating yourself up and you are in a constant state of some form of stress/anxiety. You want to be happier, more in control of your life and emotions, and you want to feel good about yourself again. You put in place some interventions such as a new exercise routine. You consume healthier food choices, dive into meditation or a daily gratitude practice.

In this example, let’s look at a daily gratitude practice.

This involves you shifting your focus and thoughts to things in your life that you are grateful for. Your family, friends, job, car, health, eyesight, mobile phone, the weather, a roof over your head. This list can be endless!

The idea behind this is to shift from your usual negative thoughts, to more positive ones. We want to evoke a positive emotion inside you so you can start to feel better thinking about the positives in your life.

If you have never practiced gratitude before, this can be challenging.

There is a shift in the balance. You are moving from your ‘normal’ negative thinking patterns towards these new positive thinking patterns. Because this isn’t your normal, your body thinks something is wrong.

Your body starts firing signals (hormones and other chemical messages) to bring you back to your level of homeostasis (which may be your negative internal environment). 

Thoughts will come into your mind that will evoke negative emotions. You may have an incident at work and your focus will shift to the negative. Things will happen and your initial response may be reactive/negative because this has been your normal pattern of behaviour for years!

Now this goes waaaayyyyyy deeper than what I’m covering off in this blog post. But the point of this message is….

Change is HARD

Especially if you are trying to break out of an ingrained behaviour/thinking pattern.

We need to be patient with ourselves. To push through into the uncomfortable to create a new level of homeostasis.

We want to be happier (duh). Then we can create new healthier, more sustainable lifestyle habits. Which will serve us for the rest of our lives.

In my experience helping people create a change in their behaviour…

The best actions to create change are as follows:

  1. Figure out what you want and why it’s important to you.

  2. Make a plan for you to achieve it. A coach can help you with this!

  3. Set small daily/weekly actions that are simple and easy to achieve. (Max of 3 to start with – ‘focusing’ on 20 different things is not focus).

  4. Actually follow through on these actions. This is where a coach can help keep you accountable.

  5. Repeat forever.

  6. Look back and reflect on your progress. Learn from your mistakes. Be proud of the effort you are putting in, and take responsibility for your results.

  7. Enjoy the process and who you are becoming. There will be obstacles. It won’t always be easy. Sometimes you will want to give up. Your body will keep sending ‘alarm bells’. Don’t panic. As you transcend the person you were yesterday, focus on your actions.

  8. Ask for help and support from those around you. If it’s something serious you are dealing with – speak to a psychologist. #itaintweaktospeak. We all need help sometimes. We all go through hard times and it takes a lot of courage to step up and ask for help. I urge you, be vulnerable, be courageous.

Keep in mind: Happy and successful people build up others and want them to succeed.

People only tear you down if they are doing less than you are.

Remember that and go win your day.

When you win more than 4 days in the week, you’ve won your week.

When you’ve won more than 2 weeks in the month, you’ve won your month.

When you’ve won more than 6 months in the year, you’ve won your year.

It starts with winning the day. Today. Win your day, today. (Then repeat tomorrow).

Jess Ryan

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