How to replace those bad habits with good ones in 2018

How’s your New Year’s resolution coming along?

Go to the profile of Frances A Masters
Jan 09, 2018
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A few days in, and many will be struggling or will have caved in altogether. Some will be beating themselves up and take their lack of willpower as yet more evidence they’re unworthy human beings. Others will just fall back into their old pattern without giving it too much thought until the next New Year comes round when they’ll have another stab at self improvement.

New year: new me

Jane was a bit like that: now in her early 30s, with a young daughter, she’d had several goes at giving up smoking cannabis every evening, only to fall back into her old pattern of behaviour within a few days.

Why do you smoke it? I asked her ‘It must be doing something for you.’

‘Work is so stressful’ she said. It’s like a reward for getting through the day.’

‘What happens when you try to stop’ I asked.

‘I get bored’, said Jane without hesitation.

How do you normally spend your evenings?’ I asked.

Slumped in front of the TV mainly’, she said.

‘What about your partner?’

I don’t have a partner at the moment’.

‘Would you like one?’

‘Yes’

‘And what’s your strategy for finding one?’ I asked.

‘Er, I don’t have one’, said Jane with a wry smile.

I was starting to form a picture of a life that wasn’t really working for Jane. Now the reason for her habit was becoming clear. There were some gaps in her life that she was filling in an unhelpful way. The cannabis could have been alcohol, online gambling, shopping, over eating or any of the activities that give us a lift.

In a way, Jane was one of the lucky ones. So many start with cannabis and end up using stronger drugs until, in the end, they can’t function without them, can’t get up in the morning or turn up at work on time. A destructive domino effect can result in them losing jobs, losing friends and partners and finding themselves on the streets or even in prison.

That hadn’t happened for Jane so she certainly had a ‘stop button’ but she’d also recognized she wanted to change and was having trouble.

‘Why do you want to stop?’ I asked.

‘I don’t think it’s doing me any good. She said ‘I don’t seem to want to do anything anymore. I feel tired and de-motivated most of the time and my head’s not clear in the morning. Also, I get the munchies after and I’ve been putting on weight.’

This was good to hear. There was a clear incentive to stop. Focusing on goals really helps.

‘So if you cut out the cannabis you’d have more energy, be doing more things, seeing more of your friends and be slimmer and fitter?’

‘Yes and I might be doing something about finding a partner too.’ she said quietly.

As I began to work with Jane using the coaching wheel of life, it became clear that many areas of her life were not working well. It turned out she hated her work and found it really stressful. She’d split up with her long term partner several years ago and lost touch with mutual friends.  After she put on weight, she’d also given up going to the dance classes she used to love. Now, many of her emotional needs were not being met. Sat in front of the TV most evenings, she’d been feeling low and a bit anxious.

Human emotions have the role of pushing us towards getting our needs met. Our emotional brain can send us some very uncomfortable feelings designed to prompt us to take action, but many choose to medicate the feelings away, legally or illegally or they irrigate them with alcohol rather than take a long, hard look at what’s happening in their life.

When our needs are met, we feel good. We don’t have a hole to fill and we don’t feel the need to self medicate. Social isolation is a big problem human beings, as it is for many animals such as rats.

Rat heaven, rat hell

Rat Park was a study into drug addiction conducted in the late 1970s by Canadian psychologist Professor Bruce Alexander.

Alexander's hypothesis was that drugs do not cause addiction, and that the apparent addiction to opiate drugs commonly observed in laboratory rats exposed to them was attributable to their living conditions, not to any addictive property of the drug itself.

To test his hypothesis, Alexander built an environment where rats were given everything they needed for a good rat life. There was plenty of food, comfortable bedding, things to do and other rats to hang out with. Turns out rats are very sociable, sexual and busy animals.

In Rat Park, the rats had a choice of water or morphine (heroine). Most of the time, they chose the water. But the control group of caged rats kept in social isolation and without stimulation mostly chose the morphine.

The conclusion was stark.

Even though morphine is considered highly addictive, when life was good, the rats did not want it and even rats that had been previously caged and drinking the morphine for a long time, chose not to when they found themselves living happy lives in Rat City. They also seemed to have little problem with withdrawal.

This tied in with the findings of the US Government after the Vietnam War. Many of the veterans were heavy users of heroine when on active service. There was a real concern that, when they returned home, they would bring their addiction with them, but it didn’t happen.

Most of the veterans, who returned to a functioning life with jobs and families, simply stopped using the drug without any problem at all.

Motivation and success

I explained all this to Jane.

She had her own example that she shared with me. In her teens, she told me, she’d tried to give up cigarettes many times. She tried nicotine gum and patches but they didn’t seem to help. But when she found out she was pregnant, something amazing happened. Jane stopped smoking and never mentioned it again. She had, in an instant, become a non smoker.  Her instinct to protect her unborn child was far greater than the pull of the nicotine.

So, did Jane give up her cannabis habit?

Yes, of course.

Once she realised her will and motivation were far stronger than the drug, with a bit of help from me, she took action. She lost weight, changed her job, started reconnecting with old friends and activities and even found herself a partner.

As she said to me later:

‘Let’s face it, sitting there smoking pot every night was never going to find me a new man, was it!’

Go to the profile of Frances A Masters

Frances A Masters

Psychotherapist, Coach, Writer. Live your best life.

Do you want to be happier and more resilient? Some people seem to just 'bounce back' no matter what life throws at them. We can't choose many of life's events but we certainly do have a choice about how we respond. My passion for mental health began 25 years ago when I suffered postnatal depression and realised the help I needed simply wasn't there. The pills didn't work. In fact they made things worse. What I really needed was to understand how anxiety, depression and emotional ill health can develop. I needed to learn good 'mind management' skills which would act like a 'psychological inoculation' against future problems. When I recovered, I made a decision to find out how and why I had become so depressed and made a personal pledge to do something to provide the kind of help for others which I had needed. I wanted to prevent people suffering unnecessarily. So I embarked on a personal and professional journey and, along the way, developed a brand new approach to health and well-being. My journey began with four years of traditional counselling training, followed by a postgraduate diploma in psychotherapy. I studied cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), hypnotherapy, coaching and cognitive neuroscience. I built up 30,000 hours professional experience which I brought together into the new happiness and resilience programme l named 'Fusion.' I also wrote a book about how to resolve post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), founded a therapeutic coaching charity and trained volunteers to work in this new way. This training programme would later become the nationally accredited Fusion Therapeutic Coaching Diploma and Distance Learning Skills Certificate. Now... The journey continues. Now I want to reveal all my professional secrets about good mind management to as many people as possible through social media and by training Fusion Breakthrough trainers from all over the world. One of them could be you... Something new.. Something different.. Something which lasts.. What if you could experience one day which could actually change your life for good; giving you your own eureka moment; not only helping you create a vision of the life you want to live, but actually give you the real skills to get there and stay there? Fusion is a tried and tested system which combines the best of psychotherapy and coaching into a powerful new formula for lasting change. My aim is to help and empower as many people as possible to feel their best, be their best and live their best lives. Perhaps I could help you too....

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