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Motivate Me Science

6 Tips to Effectively Embrace Change

sujathasamynathan June 26, 2020
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Written by, Sujatha Samynathan
Psychologist, Mindfulness Practitioner, Study Manager and Content Writer

“The only thing that is constant is change” – Heraclitus 

By now, we have all realized that life is never static. We all experience bumps in the road, curveballs we never saw coming, sometimes we may fail to reach the goal or we may face setbacks, we never predicted. But we can’t avoid them!

“Change” – is an inseparable part of nature, normal and inevitable! Seasons come and go, your body, weight, economy, family, friends, schedule, technology, and time – all of these are bound to change. Species adapt over time. Yet, humans remain fundamentally different!

We are utterly adverse, when it comes to change. The six-letter word “change” draws different responses, it can be anxiety, uneasiness or it can also be excitement or fun. 

Do these thoughts sound familiar?
“I should not have eaten that… it’s so unhealthy.”
“I’m never going to get through this….”
“I should exercise today and I didn’t…what’s happening with me?”
“I should lose … number of pounds…”

Routine rules our lives, we prefer straight paths, and uncertainty creates feelings of fear and anxiety. But the path you choose during these uncertain times is what makes the difference. Remind yourself that, if nothing changes around us, there’d be no butterflies, sunrise, sunset, or even a colorful rainbow!

As Robert Frost said,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Definition for “Change”

Change means a “difference in status quo”. When something becomes different or is transformed from its current state, it is said to have changed.

Outcomes of Change

We may perceive change with acceptance or grace, or with protest and resistance. The outcomes can be in two forms: positive or negative.

  • Positive: When goals and progress are met, they lead to joy and excitement.
  • Negative: When we are unable to meet goals due to challenging circumstances, they lead to anxiety, stress, and disappointment. 

We all hope the outcome of every change to be a positive one. The real challenge is learning to accept negative changes and move on with the learnings to the next step.

Accepting positives and learn from negatives

Coping with change and embracing change is a skill. Erik Erickson, Psychoanalyst says that conflict and crisis are positive and necessary; they are sources of growth, strength, and commitment.

By accepting change we can create roads for improvement, open opportunities, and possibilities. We can also overcome fears by building courage, develop grit and resilience, become proactive next time, and progress towards having a growth mindset. 

Here are six simple tips you can follow to accept and embrace change

#1: Educate yourself 

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty” – Maya Angelou.

Let’s now understand the terms – mistake, failure and setback. Understanding them can help us identify the process, bounce back to normalcy and learn from the experiences.

  • Mistakes: Minor errors that delay your ability to achieve your goals.
  • Failure: The inability to meet a goal.
  • Setback: Challenges or hurdles that can’t be predicted and can delay your ability to achieve your goals.

#2: Start Welcoming Failure

Failure is an inherent part of the human experience. Most of us have failed at some point or another. Failing at a task does not make anyone a “failure” as a person.  Most people are taught from a young age to fear failure and avoid them. We try our best to stay in the comfort zone, but stepping out of our comfort zone is where learning and growth begins.

The reason why we equate failing at tasks and being a “failure” is because of cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are described by Dr. David Burns, author of Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy as “unhelpful thinking styles.”

The 5 distortions identified from Burns’ Feeling Good Handbook (1989) are listed below:

All-or-Nothing Thinking / Polarized thinking

It is also known as “Black-and White Thinking.”

For example: “I’ve eaten now, I’ve blown it” or “I am a failure, I will never lose weight.”

Absolutes don’t exist in this universe. Remind yourself that shades of gray exist. By focusing on the positive elements, Shapa brings to reality that shades of gray. Instead of sharing the weight as a number, Shapa provides a 5-point color feedback system.

By using Shapa, you can tell yourself, “I’m on gray, but I can get to blue.”

Overgeneralization

Applying the negative outcome of one experience to color all outcomes of similar future events as negative.

For example: If you fail to meet an arbitrary weight goal, you think “I’m never going to lose weight and will be miserable my whole life.”

Shapa provides personalized nudges and missions that prepare you for a long-term health journey, and not one single number!

You can tell yourself, “A single number at a single time on a single day doesn’t tell you the whole story.”

Mental filters

Focusing on a single negative piece of information and excluding the positive ones.

For example: When it comes to weight loss as a goal, we are always focused on the number reducing, but when it increases by a few pounds – we reject all the positive days. This creates a negative attitude towards weight loss and long-term health in general.

Shapa is built on a principle of no numbers, no judgment. Instead of a number, Shapa provides color feedback to stay positive and create better self-care habits!

Jumping to conclusions

We focus more on validation from the external world and read the minds of people who are not even aware of our presence.

For example: Making assumptions like “they’re thinking that I am ugly and fat.” We may even predict negative future outcomes before the situation occurred. This can lead to negative self-fulfilling prophecies. “They will never invite me to events because I am fat and ugly.”

The best way to prevent negative thought is to look for factual evidence that can invalidate these thoughts.

Shoulds and musts

Be aware of using the word – “should.” The word “should” can sound absolute and extreme. Using should and must statements stem from perfectionist tendencies.

For example:  “I should lose weight,” and “I must eat healthy/exercise more.”

Be soft on yourself, start using “could” by telling yourself, “I could lose weight,” and I could eat healthy/exercise more.”

#3: Develop Adaptability and Stay Positive

Life inflicts the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimist as on the pessimist, but the optimist weathers them better.” – Martin Seligman.

Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, describes three P’s that create a pessimistic style of thinking and ways to develop an optimistic style.

  • Personalization vs. Impersonalization: Viewing failure and setback as one’s fault, not considering the external factors. “I am not a good enough person, there is something wrong with me”. Whereas, you can remind yourself that you did not cause the setback by following impersonalization.
  • Permanence vs. Impermanence: Thinking that you will remain stuck in a bad situation forever.“I ate too much, I will never be able to lose weight,” or “ I will always be a terrible dancer”. You can overcome permanence, by reminding yourself that this situation will not last forever by following an impermanence approach.
  • Pervasiveness vs. Specific: Thinking that the bad situation will apply to all future events. “I am fat, I can never run around and play with my kids – EVER,” or “I’m not good looking and lovable”. You can counter pervasiveness by being specific – remind yourself that one setback does not affect all future instances or goals. When you start counteracting the pessimistic style with positivity, you will start understanding that you always have a second chance to create change and grow!

Evaluate your unhealthy thinking styles, allow your emotions to go back to normal, rationally analyze the situation, and after 48 hours make a decision. 

#4: Develop courage – Three A’s: Accept, Assess and Act

  • Accept: Adjust and accept your new normal. Running away from the problem or denying its existence doesn’t help. Let’s learn to accept and learn from the problem! Admit that every cloud has a silver lining.
  • Assess: Investigate the problem from all angles, look out for alternatives and weigh the pros and cons, ask others for advice and manage your stress to preserve your objectivity.
  • Act: It’s time to ACT, so ACT NOW! Choose one goal and act on it, stick to the option, and overcome the setback. The positive action puts you back in control and you can start moving forward!

#5: Follow through with your goals

Once you have decided to act, you can follow through with your goal. Carl Rogers, Psychologist says that a person’s ideal self may not be consistent with the changes/challenges that happen in life. This difference can exist between a person’s ideal self and real experience, resulting in incongruence

The closer your self-image is with ideal-self a state of congruence can arise, resulting in a higher sense of self-worth. 

#6: Self-reflection

To help stay on the right path, you can practice self-reflection. 

  • Consider asking more of “what” questions than “why” questions. “What” questions help you remain curious and positive about the future, but “why” questions create limitations and kindle negative emotions. Periodically stop and reflect on what you’re lucky to have in your life!
  • Start your day with positive affirmations with the “I” word. “I am proud of myself,” or  “I am worthy of love,” or “I am becoming more confident every day.”
  • Journaling can lower stress levels and give a new perspective on what is important at the moment. Start by writing down one positive thing that happened, one skill or ability you are grateful for and one goal you achieved or started working on! 

Take home exercises!

  • Choose to be positive, make it your daily choice. 
  • Think of the biggest change you are facing and name the one thing you’ve done whether it’s a thought or behavior that you know is not productive in dealing with this change, now choose to let it go. Name one positive thought or behavior you’ll adopt today….! There you go – you just started to embrace change successfully. 

Looking to sleep better, eat a bit healthier, move more, build a practice of self-care, or just want to feel more energy each day? Let Shapa be your virtual coach. Shapa focuses your program based on YOUR lifestyle and YOUR goals so you can build healthy habits and achieve lasting results. Learn more about the Shapa difference

About the author:
Sujatha is the study manager and content creator extraordinaire on the Shapa Health team. With a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Master’s in Clinical Psychology from India, she furthered her academic skills in Applied Behavior Analysis from Ball State University, Indiana, USA. Currently, she resides in Chandler, Arizona. She has 4+ years of expertise as a mental health professional trained in psychometrics and psychotherapy working with children, adolescents and adults. Over the past 2 years, Sujatha developed a passion for mindful living, neuroscience research, human behavior and decision making, and is driven by curiosity and gratitude. As part of the Shapa Health team she designs personalized missions utilizing behavioral science and mindfulness techniques to improve the personal health journey of the Shapa community. When not at work, she enjoys baking, hiking and spending time with family. Connect with Sujatha on LinkedIn.

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