Do you ever feel like your life is on repeat? It’s as if you are in a time loop of Groundhog Day: get up, go to work, and get off work, only to end your day with repeated failures. Feeling stuck in relationships, cycles of addictions, or in a dead-end job can leave one at the doorsteps of hopelessness.
When our behavior goes against the grain – our core values and inherently good nature – it becomes destructive, bearing fruits of blame and guilt. Continuous bouts of repeated relapses slow down our momentum and lower our self-esteem. These self-destructive experiences can eventually lead to significant emotional distress and potential trauma.
Self-destructive behavior binds us to whirlpools of negativity where it seems like we feed off harmful experiences – we trick ourselves into thinking our sabotaging behaviors are actually good for us. Or we assume that because we have failed in the past, we will always be a failure. Our self-fulfilling prophecy can cause life to become consumed by these unhealthy habits, even when we are aware of their poison. How can we stop these unhealthy patterns and change the things that might be hurting us the most?
To reach optimal happiness and life satisfaction, we must start with a positive, healthy lifestyle. This approach is rooted in two main parts: focusing on your strengths and living a healthy life.
The first pillar of living a positive, healthy lifestyle starts with perspective. Rather than focusing on what is going wrong in your life, let’s begin with changing your outlook. To do this, I invite you to take a fresh perspective on how you view success and failure. Learn to celebrate successes, even the tiniest ones, and absorb this good feeling all the way to your core. On the flipside, failure is seen as a chance to move forward. See your mistakes as stepping stones and not as stumbling blocks. Learn to love all of you: the good and the bad.
See your mistakes as stepping stones
and not as stumbling blocks.
Neuroscience research supports our ability to reshape the brain by strengthening neural pathways through a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. This phenomenon shows how neurons can compensate for injury and adapt when we learn new tasks. What this means is that your day-to-day behaviors can have measurable effects on your brain function and structure. In particular, you can achieve greater happiness by doing certain activities and practices. For this reason, do more of the activities that make you feel good and bring you success.
A great example of neuroplasticity is highlighted in the study of London cab drivers. These drivers undergo extensive training to memorize the spaghetti streets of the capital. Researchers found the cab drivers’ hippocampus (responsible for memory) was larger than average, and more dramatic differences were seen in those driving the longest. What encouraging news for adults wanting to learn a new skill or form new habits, regardless of their age!
This idea of brain remodeling is significantly attached to the second part of a positive, healthy lifestyle. Your diet, sleep, and exercise regimen all contribute to stress levels and ability to grow. Just as you wouldn’t plant a garden in soil that has not been tended, we need to take care of our basic necessities before deciding to alter our life’s M.O. Decide what areas need improvement in your life and commit to making small steps to get there, whether it’s starting a meditation practice, exercising more frequently, or going to bed earlier.
Here are some suggestions for building a positive, healthy approach to stop self-destructive behavior.
Visualize the life you want
Instead of writing down the things you want to change, write down the adjectives you want to describe you, and review them frequently. For example, instead of saying “I want to be less mean”, write down “I am friendly.” It might be helpful to share these aspirations with a trusted companion for support. Conceptualize the life you want to live and use these visualizations to keep you on track.
Prepare for setbacks
Prep yourself for those times when you are the weakest and most vulnerable to go backwards. A great way to do this is to develop a list of your resources. For example, you may create a physical/verbal reminder, like carrying an item in your pocket or reading a positive note in your phone, for a cue to not go into self-destructive land.
Mind the gap
When you start doing more of the activities in your life that put a smile on your face, it becomes easier to notice the positive effects this has on your self-worth, interactions with others, and energy level. After doing activities that make you smile, make a mental note of the difference you feel versus the behavior you wish to change. Specifically, I want you to notice the contrast of what you do not want. When you have a setback, appreciate this experience for bringing you closer to what you do want by highlighting what you do not want – the contrast.
Slow and steady wins the race
We want to take baby steps towards becoming our best self. With each success story, we give ourselves a pat on the back. This success builds our confidence, and the vision of what we desire (who we want to become) gets clearer. Ultimately, these success stories increase the momentum to make better choices, even if in small increments, and that is the formula to living a feel good life.
Living a more fulfilling life is similar to anything else we want to excel in – it requires practice, practice, and more practice. Keep moving forward and give yourself lots of positive reinforcement to get there! When you embrace a positive healthy lifestyle, it’s easier to make positive decisions and improvements in your life. By changing your perspective and lifestyle habits, you are on your way to unlocking your true potential.