People expend a great deal of effort contemplating their own happiness or lack thereof. They invest a great deal of time and mental processing power in seeking to understand how they could be happier. Those prone to depression or anxiety might spend their time contrasting their current circumstances with their expectations or an idealized version of what they want their life to be. Whether a client is dealing with panic attacks, anxiety, depression, or a general lack of direction and fulfillment, counselors generally find that their clients do not benefit from attempts to think their way out of their problems. Often, actions are more beneficial than thoughts.
If you want to change how you feel, change your habits. Replace unhealthy habits with healthy habits. Research shows that habits form naturally if behaviors are repeated consistently. Habits may form in as quickly as 18 days. Sometimes it takes longer, over 100 days. We recommend clearly defining the healthy habit you wish to form and using a calendar to track your daily progress. Place a large X on every day you successfully execute the behavior.
The more specific the behavior, the easier it will be to monitor progress with the calendar.
The types of behaviors you wish to change may include:
- alcohol or tobacco use
- eating habits
- exercise habits
- use of TV/Internet
- sleep patterns
- spending habits
The purpose of process is to take something that seems very complex — how am I going to feel happier, more fulfilled? — and make it much simpler — did I successfully limit myself to one hour of television today? If you are able to achieve your daily behavior objective, mark an X and relax. By the time your new behaviors are habits, you may feel differently about yourself and the direction your life is taking.