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Changing Habits

How and why to change your habits is perhaps one of the most important things you'll learn in this book. You can read about all sorts of helpful healing modalities, but if you don't integrate the new methods into your daily routine, the healing techniques will fade from your memory. Reading a guidebook without applying the new concepts is like taking a boat across a river, but not getting out on the other side. In this section you will learn how to implement the many healing methods you'll be learning in this book.

The first step in changing habits is to investigate how your belief system influences your behavior. When you were a child, you were probably taught by your parents, teachers, peers, and the media that you can only be happy if you live a stimulating life based on outer gratification, such as making a lot of money, finding the perfect mate, and achieving success at work. Looking for happiness and trying to obtain a feeling of self-worth exclusively from outside stimuli can create anxiety and tension for the reflective, sensitive person.

It's vital to deeply examine your life goals as you begin to understand that what you truly desire is inner-peace and that nothing in this constantly changing world can really give you lasting contentment. Life is temporary, and everything will eventually leave you. You can't take money, a partner, or job status with you when you leave your body, so begin to look inside to make the necessary changes that will create inner-peace and happiness today.

As a child, you were probably told that there was something inherently wrong with you for being so sensitive. You may have internalized that false belief, creating an addictive, self-fulfilling prophecy, subconsciously identifying with emotional pain. In other words, whenever you are confronted with sensitivity challenges, you may subconsciously believe that you deserve to suffer since you think that you're flawed. Most self-defeating behavior is based on not loving yourself (Hay 1987). I frequently encounter sensitive students who have told me that it's difficult to let go of an untenable situation, even when it's creating enormous pain in their lives. There was a highly sensitive woman whose noisy upstairs neighbors were driving her crazy, yet she would always come up with an excuse not to move. I knew another HSP who worked for an abusive boss yet steadfastly refused to look for another job. Most people who remain in emotionally destructive situations believe that they deserve to suffer. Their low self-esteem, which is based on the untruth that there is something wrong with them, makes them think that pain is their due.

Once you begin to understand that basis of your belief system, you will be aware of how your internalized beliefs influence your thought patterns. In other words, when you sow a thought, you reap an action. When you repeat an action, you develop a habit. When you maintain a habit, you create a character.

When changing habits you need to be gentle with yourself and make the changes slowly. For example, if you try to stop an overeating habit cold turkey by going on a crash diet, you may end up eating the cold turkey-and all the trimmings. Take changes step by step. For example, if you want to go to bed an hour earlier to obtain more sleep, try going to bed just five minutes earlier each night so that in a few weeks, you'll reach your goal.

Once you have changed your consciousness by internalizing new positive values, you will spontaneously make changes to create more inner-peace and joy in your life. I was a TV addict my entire life until 1992. Even though I tried creating a healthier lifestyle for myself through exercise, a healthy diet, regular mediation, and employing new spiritual values, I would still watch shows that were detrimental to my health for hours every day. The remote control was like a drug in my hands, as my thumb would compulsively flip from station to station. One night I was watching a movie based on a true story about a mass murderer who killed employees in an office building. Suddenly, I asked myself if I would invite this evil person into my living room if he knocked on my door. No way! Then I asked myself why I was allowing him into my home through the television. When the movie ended I took down my antenna and never watched commerical TV at home again. In retrospect, what finally broke my detrimental television addiction was a change in my consciousness: a realization of how destructive watching TV was for me as a highly sensitive person and that it would not bring me the inner-peace I desired.

If you watch a few videos or limit your televison time to several spiritually uplifting shows a week, it would mean spending considerably less time being overstimulated than the typical American (who watches approximately four hours of television daily). Another advantage to decreasing your time in front of the television is avoiding being bombarded by a myriad of endless overarousing commercials. The advertisers are trying to sell us their product in the least amount of time possible, resulting in an assault of stimuli that can wreak havoc with an HSP's finely tuned nervous system. When watching television, remember to mute the commercials.

It's much easier to change habits when you are receiving support from other people than trying to make the changes alone. For example, I asked my family to help me maintain an environment free of commercial TV in my home. Besides enlisting support from your relatives, friends, and coworkers, you can attend a support group such as a twelve-step program or individual counseling. Once you have instituted new, positive habits in your life, you will become a shining example for both HSPs and non-HSPs, motivating others to seek inner-peace.

You'll need to use your willpower to change habits. Make a list of the areas that are causing you pain, and as you read this book, use your volition to write down the new methods that you will employ to address these areas. As you begin having small victories in changing habits, your willpower will be strengthened. You can also increase your inner-strength through visualization and the use of affirmations. Make a resolution today that you will no longer remain in any environment in which there is no hope for you to be happy.

However, since environment may be stronger than your willpower to change, you also need to remove yourself from situations that reinforce negative habits and low self-esteem. Your home and work environment are the most important factors that determine your ability to create a peaceful life, so it's imperative that you create a harmonious work and home atmosphere. If you know that a certain environment creates anxiety, either try to change the unhealthy, overstiumlating situation or remove yourself from the source of tension.

I have noticed that you can generally replace a bad habit with a good one in just six months. One HSP, Felicia, told me that after several months of meditating the practice became a part of her life, just like brushing her teeth when she awoke. Felicia said that if she is unable to mediate in the morning, she doesn't feel centered until she experiences at least ten minutes of deep relaxation. She noticed that when she's feeling calm, little daily annoyances become less significant. Once you become focused on establishing peace of mind, you won't have to give others a piece of your mind.

Finally, you need to create new, satisfying, and nurturing activities to replace old habits. For example, when I finally turned off the TV, I started to really enjoy reading inspiring books, writing stories, and listening to uplifting music. When I think of the thousands of hours that I wasted staring at inane, stimulating programs, I sometimes become saddened at how I increased tension and angst in my life. However, I also realize that I was doing the best I could given the knowledge that I had at that particular time. This is also a time of new beginnings for you, and you don't have to keep repeating old habits that don't work for you anymore as you gain new knowledge and understanding of yourself (Hay 1987).

How to Change Habits

* Investigate your belief system, and become aware when a habit creates pain.

* Be gentle with yourself by changing habits slowly.

* Try to always be aware of your new goal: creating inner-peace in your life.

* Enlist the support of your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors; you may want to meet with a counselor or join a support group.

* Remove yourself from an environment that reinforces negative habits.

* Realize that in only six months you can replace a bad habit with a good one through daily practice.

* Create new, satisfying, and nurturing activities to replace old habits.

* Using your willpower, develop a structured program to help you make positive lifestyle changes.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 16-20)

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May 2012

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Sensitivity

How to thrive when the world overwhelms you