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Have you tried the ABC of change?

Change is a tricky thing. For a start, it can sometimes feel scary. For another, it can feel difficult.

Whether it is changing your diet, or changing the way you think, or changing how you respond to particular triggers, a little practice I call The ABC of Change can really help. It helps making different choices feel both more manageable, and less scary.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A is for Awareness

Before you can change anything, you must first become aware of it. This is sometimes harder than it seems.
How often have you decided to stop worrying about something, or stop beating yourself up over a mistake, only to notice that you’re doing it again? Repetitive thoughts become a kind of habit that you fall into without even thinking about it.
At a different level, it can take time and dedication to unpick the roots of particular feelings or responses. For example, you might notice yourself getting grumpy with a friend or snappy with a colleague and not even being sure why. Taking the time to reflect, you might realise that they were triggering old feelings in you. The friend might have said a phrase that a parent used to say to your teenage self that always made you grumpy. Or the colleague might have been behaving in the way that an old boyfriend did that really annoyed you.
Becoming aware of these kind of triggers isn’t always easy. You suddenly realise that you’re feeling a particular way, without being clear how it happened. Still, if you notice yourself feeling or behaving in a way that feels inappropriate or that you don’t really understand, chances are you have been triggered into a memory from the past.
In this case, awareness of having been triggered is an important first step. Developing insight regarding what the triggers are and why they effect you, as well as what you can do about it, is the second (and third and fourth) step. Still, just the awareness that you are reacting to something below the level of consciousness is a really important first step, because this is the point at which you can intervene, and choose something different.

B is for Breath

Once you have become aware of what is going on, you need to break the pattern. One of the fastest and most effective ways of doing this is to take a few slow, deep breaths.

By practising mindful breathing (for example the HeartMath breath), you achieve three key benefits.

Firstly, you calm yourself emotionally, which helps open up the possibility of responding in a different, less habitual way. When you respond emotionally, it happens quickly and below the level of rational thought. When you bring yourself into a less reactive place before responding, you open up choices for yourself.

Secondly, you ground yourself physically, which allows you to tune into yourself better. From this place, you can assess what options you have and how they feel to you. A great exercise in this respect is to think of something that is a complete ‘yes’ for you, something that makes you feel happy. Where do you feel that in your body? Next, think of something that is a definite ‘no’ for you, something you hate or that disgusts you. What does that feel like and where do you sense it? Getting to know your bodily responses will help you to assess options not just rationally, but at a gut and heart level.

Thirdly, you increase your level of creativity, which is helpful for the next step in this ABC process.

C is for Change

When you become aware of a behaviour that is doing you no favours, and calm yourself enough to assess your options, you can choose to behave differently.

For example, if you notice that you’ve fallen back into an ‘old recording’ of thoughts, you can consciously choose to tell yourself something different. When you notice yourself saying: ‘I shouldn’t have done that’ or ‘I always do that stupid thing’, consider what else you could say to yourself. How about: ‘That’s done, but what’s next?’ or ‘I made a mistake, but I can remedy it’, or ‘Even if I don’t always achieve my goals, I am working towards them’? Find what sounds right to you.

If you still want to acknowledge the old pattern, that’s fine. Or if you just want to focus on something positive, that’s great, too.

One thing you could consider is the FoGI mnemonic. Think about offering yourself Forgiveness, or considering what you are Grateful for, or setting a new Intention. You can focus on just one of these, or combine them.

For instance, by saying: I forgive myself for these negative thoughts, I am grateful that I noticed what I was doing, and I will now breath and let go of this negativity. Or just: I forgive myself for feeling grumpy, good thing I can take some time for myself later, I will do something really nice for myself.

If you want to focus more fully on a feeling, taking the example of being grumpy at a friend, you could say: I forgive myself for getting grumpy, I am grateful for the chance to apologise, I’ll do that now.

Another thing you can do to help defuse a situation, if there is an appropriate time for it, is to do a little tapping. This is a great way of releasing negativity and focusing on what you would rather feel or do. Below is a quick fingertip tapping video (for subtlety in public places) to do just that:

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