All of us have problems, things we do too much or too little of, or avoid doing altogether – if you feel you struggle to control you behaviour and manage your emotions, or find your life derailed by unsuccessful attempts to feel better, we have some tips on how to control this in your life.
In Get Your Life Back Dr Fiona Kennedy and Dr David Pearson cover how to take control of your life using mindfulness, acceptance and behaviour change taking you through how to accept our own unhelpful patterns, understand how they work and so learn how to change them.
Unwanted thoughts or feelings can dictate how we behave, so that we are unable to act as we want to, or to be who we want to be. We may use drugs, alcohol, over-exercising, eating, self-punishment, sex, shoplifting, aggression, self-harm or bullying others to manage our inner state. Although all of these might feel like they ‘help’ in the short-term, they are a great way to descend into a cycle of hopelessness and self-loathing.
We all have repeated patterns where we act in ways we would not be proud of. Or sometimes others treat us in ways we do not want to be treated. Identifying these habits and patterns helps us build our motivation. When things begin to change we might forget this previous unhappiness and lapse back into old habits. Or we might get stuck and just feel like giving up. Reminding ourselves of the reasons we wanted to change in the first place can help to keep us going.
It is fine to want to stop doing things but the question is, ‘What will I be doing when I’m not doing these things?’ We need to identify what we really want in our lives. Once we know how we want our life to be, we can start taking baby steps towards our goals.
The first step is to identify your values and think about them in relations to the four key areas of your life: Relationships, Health, How I occupy my day and Leisure/growth.
- In my relationships with my friends I want to be (some examples could be trustworthy, likeable, supportive, reliable, etc.)
- In my relationship with myself I want to be (things like calm, soothing, confident, satisfied, etc.)
- In my relationship with my colleagues and people I meet in everyday life I want to be (some examples could be worthy of respect, skilled, reliable, etc.)
- In my relationship with my partner I want to be (some examples could be loving, supportive, loyal, reliable, attractive, etc.)
- Even if you do not have a partner or colleagues at the moment, imagine if you did: what kind of person would you want to be when relating to them?
- In any other relationships you can think of (perhaps family, people on the bus, pets, people at the clinic, etc.), how do you want to be?
- In terms of my physical health I want to be (fit, active, as healthy as possible, to feel OK with my body, etc.)
- In my mental health I want to be (some examples could be having a positive attitude, calm, emotionally under control, able to manage sadness, anxiety or fear, etc.)
- In my eating habits I want to be (things like healthy, in control, able to enjoy, etc.)
- In my drinking habits I want to be (some examples may be sensible, able to enjoy, in control, healthy, etc.)
- Other health assets you can think of (things like fit, not worn down, having as much energy as possible, managing long-term health issues, etc.). How do you want to be?
How I occupy my day
- In terms of how I occupy my day, I would like to be (some examples could be meaningful, making a difference, successful, careful, enthusiastic, helpful, friendly, creative, quiet, outside, physically active, thoughtful, highly skilled, interesting, etc.)
- For relaxation and pleasure, as well as to develop myself in new ways, I would like to be (some examples could be adventurous, open, calm, sociable, fun to be with, challenged, etc.)
The reason you need to know your values and goals at the outset is to give meaning and motivation as you work towards getting your life back. Being clear about your own personal reasons is an important part of guiding your work and building and keeping up commitment. We will need to be willing to experience some discomfort in order to get to where we want to be.
Values are about what is really important to you: how you want to live your life. Our values are what make us feel good about ourselves. They show us the way towards the identity that we want. Values can guide our choices so that we do the things that we see as important or desirable.
Ultimately, your values are your reasons to work towards your goals.