Don't give up on resolutions or change ... try this unique approach to making changes last!
Would you like to be more successful with this year’ new years’ resolutions (or making positive change in general!)? Have you given up on resolutions because they never stick and only lead to disappointment?
There is a sure fire way to make change stick, whether a resolution or just a good intention. Would you like to hear?
All changes happens when your brain "circuits" fully connect … or close the circuit. You know the concept. In order to light a light, the circuit must close to fully connect from electricity to light bulb. If the city shuts off your power or your light bulb is burned out, you stay in darkness … connect all the circuits and you experience a change to light.
The first circuit is the Frontal Cortex (FC): This part of your brain is known as the executive or planning center. It decides what you want. The key here is to dig down at what you really want. You don’t want to exercise, you want a fit body. And you really don’t care that much about a fit body, because what you really want is the confidence that you think it will give you. And really, you’d rather feel less confident and have what you really want … a caring partner who loves the heck out of you (as an example).
Second = Amygdala (AMG): This part of your brain is the motive or motivation. Why do you want it? You really want a caring partner for connection and significance (which you could have without a date for that matter). The big problem here is called a value conflict. You want connection, which you might think is a partner, so you resolve to exercise (to feel more confident), but you hate going to the gym. Conflict.
Third = Basal Ganglia (BG): This is the "action" part of the brain. It sets the structure for achieving your goal. "I will go to the gym for 45 minutes, 5 days a week." Only your goal isn’t being in the gym, it is connection … so perhaps your structure or action plan could be revised.
Fourth = Cingulate Gyrus (CG): This is the feedback part of your brain. It notices if your structure is working and adjusts accordingly (Do more of what is working and less of what is not). Since our culture emphasizes sacrifice, discipline and "Just do it," (also read, you’re a lazy no good waste of air if you don’t force yourself to do what you're supposed to do), we lack this internal feedback … as a culture.
The reality is that we will never do anything that isn’t fun and doesn’t achieve our results quickly (or at least noticeable movement toward our goal). So if this is the same plan you tried last year, or you're getting the same results, think of something more enjoyable to move toward the goal you want. With the example given, maybe a co-ed racquetball club.
Fifth = Temporal Lobes (TL): This is the relational part of your brain. Any coincidence that it also hears … AKA listening. If the CG is your internal ears (listening to you), this represents your external ears (listening to others). And not the others who complain about the same problem you have. Listening and tapping into the specialized knowledge of those people who have already solved your problem. Since you haven’t solved this problem previously, don’t make a plan based on what you already know. Read a book, ask for help, or hire a person with specialized knowledge. Just make sure that he or she has has solved what you REALLY WANT (maybe it’s not time in the gym, or a firm body).
According to human performance "experts," you always only ever want trust, connection, contribution, significance and growth. While I don’t believe anything I read without careful consideration, I do consider this helpful because those things move you toward health and happiness. And anything that does that (according to my internal ears), is something you can bank on for the betterment of your life.
How do you know what you want in life?
Here’s a fun/different way to tell … evaluate your "addictions." I believe we are all addicts and more or less controlled by those addictions.
So let’s define our addictions as anything that we lack control over.
(The chemicals I name, serotonin, dopamine, GABA, Adrenaline and acetylcholine are chemicals known as neurotransmitters that produce a feeling or sensation by activating certain circuits in your brain. They are the targets of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications, and every social drug, legal or not.)
If you're addicted to sugar or bread, other carbs, or food in general, you desire serotonin … or at least the feel that serotonin gives to you. Do you wonder how serotonin is released naturally? Wouldn’t that be a better resolution … to do the things that increase serotonin in your life, rather than trying to will or force yourself to stop eating the one thing that makes your brain feel good? Replace sugar slowly with a habit of gathering resources. A resource is a source of support or aid, a personal capability, an action or measure that could solve a problem.
Gathering resources solves problems. Do you know what your problems are? The ones that have your attention are often distractions. The ones that are under the radar are the stress inducing, serotonin zapping problems that leave you reaching for a bon bon. Examine your life for experiences you do not prefer. Maybe you can put up with them, but if you notice them and refuse to put up with them, and you seek the resource to solve those problems, you get a little party of serotonin in your brain.
Resolve to search for non-preferences, gather resources and solve those problems … if you're addicted to sweets. You might need help to resolve them or to find the resource … if you had the resource, you would not put up with the problem. Every problem ever invented has already been solved … search the internet, books, libraries and people for the resources they used to solve your identical problem.
Now you're addicted to gathering resources … what a wonderful thing.
Are you addicted to tobacco or marijuana, or procrastination? You desire acetylcholine (a less famous brain chemical). Wouldn’t it be a better resolution to do the things that increase acetylcholine naturally? Acetylcholine is released by noticing your successes … gratitude.
How much time do you spend noticing the problems in your life versus noticing the successes? You have to notice the problems for serotonin, but your attention should move right into resources, so you're not agonizing over problems, you're spending time on resources. And … we should also spend time and focus on what we have accomplished … what we are grateful for.
Resolve to tell and write what you're grateful for every day … if you're addicted to tobacco. Report and document your successes and appreciations daily … and maybe one day the other form will seem less attractive.
Are you addicted to wine, beer, liquor, valium (or other "downers"), or even self criticism? You desire GABA. Would you like to lessen the need or desire for alcohol (GABA) naturally? GABA is released naturally through nurturing. Think of a baby being held close, nursed and cared for … that is nurturing.
Our needs are a bit different from those days, but we all still need nurturing. As an adult, you are your primary caregiver, and if you have a partner, great, you have help. Nurturing activities have shown to increase GABA are yoga and meditation. I would guess that anything that slows you down and cares for you would suffice. A bath with candles and aromatherapy, maybe?
Limbic bonding is another activity that releases GABA. That is a doctor term for touching, hugging, cuddling and sex. Rather than willing yourself to stop the wine, how about resolving to have more limbic bonding, or beginning a practice of yoga or meditation? Replace the need for GABA until the alternative for GABA is no longer needed …
Are you addicted to cocaine, meth, work, staying busy, your girl/boy friend (being in love)? You desire dopamine. Would you like to discover a more productive way to get your little rush? Dopamine is at your disposal by "playing your passion (or love)."
What would you love to do if you had just an hour that wasn’t filled with obligation, necessity and responsibility? If you’re not sure, look around. There are signs of your passion all around you. Your "stuff" reveals your interests and passions. Do you have a football pillow of every team? Model airplanes? Books (what are they about)?
Maybe you don’t know what your passion is … do what you think it is. And see if it sticks. You’ll know when you lose track of time having fun. Resolve to sneak 30 minutes per day indulging in your passion or love. I bet that 30 minutes becomes an hour pretty quickly. And, I believe, this is more nourishing to your heart than broccoli or blueberries.
Are you addicted to shopping, sex, coffee, gambling, edge of your seat movies or TV, taking risks, or porn? You desire adrenaline or noradrenaline. Would you like to enjoy some adrenaline from a more productive source? Resolve to accomplish something you can’t. You couldn’t do much more than sleep and poop when you came into this world, so everything you now can do was once on your I can’t do list.
Adrenaline is known as the fear chemical (but also excitement!), and just a little taste of that adrenaline is very exciting and feels oh so good. Would you be a bit frightened to stand up at work and give your opinions? Take on a project that feels over your head? Follow that gut feeling to do something when you don’t have any idea where it will go?
Stretch your skills and influence just a little bit farther, and then farther. While you get to enjoy the adrenaline rush of the unknown, you just might become or accomplish something more, and help more people in bigger ways than you ever thought possible.
Start with noticing what you can’t do, but really want to do (although it seems a little scary).
Set this year up to win! Know what you really want, what the real motivation is, and create a new plan, constructed by specialized knowledge (in this case, a very unique knowledge of brain chemistry and addictions) … and always … always … notice if it is working for you. Isn’t that a better plan than willing yourself to do something you really don’t want to do?
If you would like more tips and strategies to take control and increase your happiness, sign up for my FREE Newsletter, "Healing Me!"
Dr. Stone practices Integrated Natural Medicine using a Five Element approach to identify your negative patterns of body and spirit. His practice is located in beautiful Asheville, NC, with people driving 3+ hours for his hands on care. If you're in the vicinity and want to see Dr. Stone to increase your health and happiness, or are not in the region and want to see "health coaching" options, visit his practice here.