Thursday, 14 December 2017

T To Your Health

How Do You Want Your Change?

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StaySharp

Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits. – Mark Twain

The older we get, the harder it is to change our habits, partly because it is so difficult to change our way of thinking, and how we think controls what we do. Quite often, it isn’t that we don’t want to change, especially when it is easy to see that a change one way or another might be really good for us. Yet sometimes, even knowing that a return to an old habit will most likely result in severe consequences is still not enough motivation to prevent the continuing practice of unhealthy habits.

It’s not just a matter of choice, or everyone who wants to amend their bad habits could “just say no” to them. In that case, anyone for whom overeating is a problem could just “say no” to unhealthy food, and “yes” to healthy food. And there wouldn’t be so many trying-to-recover alcoholics falling off the wagon when six month’s sobriety would give them a chance of a liver transplant and extended life. Will power alone is not enough to effect lasting habit change because this kind of personal revamping requires changing your habits of thought.

Phillip, a Christian doctor just out of his residency program, wanted to provide a good life for his family. So he joined a lucrative practice of excellent doctors believing he could serve his patients and give his family what they needed to have a wonderful life. He soon discovered there was a list of “unspoken” expectations that went with the job. It was strongly advised that he buy a house in the right part of town and send his children to the best private school. In addition, there were many social activities that were expected in order to be a “solid part of the community.” This all sounded reasonable to Phillip and his wife who set about conforming to the lifestyle that was presented and modeled by the senior doctors in the group.

The first year was great. They loved their beautiful new home, convincing themselves that the stretch on their budget was worth it. The children seemed to be thriving in their private school. As their busy social life took more and more of their time, they began to make excuses for why they had to miss church-related activities. Phillip reasoned that a doctor has very limited free time and it is important to the practice to take care of social obligations, which did not include accepting invitations to social events or his former “religious” friends, who ultimately stopped asking.

Phillip was working longer and longer hours, but always felt he was behind schedule. He could not relax and wasn’t sleeping well. One of his children began having serious behavioral problems and his wife was having severe headaches. Phillip talked to a trusted pastor, who helped him see that the “rewards” he was receiving for his hard work and striving were not producing results consistent with the values and goals that he had espoused when he had started practice. Instead, he had gradually accepted another way of thinking and the habits of thought that came with it, and as a result he had slowly transformed into a person he hardly recognized, and his entire self – body, mind, spirit, and relationships – was suffering.

“Doctors aren’t the only ones who get caught in this trap,” the pastor explained. “Pastors do, too. In fact, anybody can. The apostle Paul described this conflict in Romans 7, and I like to picture it as a see-saw, with one seat being your mind and the other seat your emotions, and the fulcrum, upon which the board pivots, your will. Your mind and emotions move the board, easily or with more difficulty, depending on where you focus your will. In this case, you want your mind to move your emotions, using your will for leverage.”

Phillip realized that he had allowed his emotions and the connections that they offered – status, self-satisfaction, happiness, security – to hijack the goal that mattered most to him, to be a faithful follower of Christ, whom the doctor knew to be the only source of life to the full. It was time for a change, starting with his emotional reaction to the “cues” that he had allowed to attach themselves to counterfeits. For example, as he drove home in his Mercedes, he countered the false pride he often connected to that luxurious car with this thought: I don’t need a Mercedes, when a Ford will do to get to work and back. And, when he walked into his beautiful, spacious, impeccably landscaped home that night, his first thought was: We don’t need a home this extravagant. We’ll downsize as soon as possible. It was the start of a new life for Phillip and his family.[1]

Matching our behavior to our goals is governed by the “executive center” located in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is constantly bombarded with the promise of rewards for behavior – buy this, be cool; use this, be like Mike. These rewards are often connected with visual cues, called logos, which is why so many people are willing to pay for clothing with company logos prominently displayed. And for people of means, visual cues often come with a big price tag and a little hood ornament.

You can change your habits. Actually, it’s more like an exchange of habits, replacing unhealthy ones with those that are healthier. The change begins in your mind, which can control your emotions and even change them, by putting your will to work by willing God’s will. The apostle Paul wrote, just a few verses later than where he described the conflict just discussed, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, ESV).

SHARPER BRAIN TIPS

  1. Periodically review your current life goals to be sure they are aligned with healthy living.
  2. Pay careful attention to your thought patterns: Are they constructive or plagued by anxiety and guilt? Are they focused more on the cares and concerns of this present life, or on spiritual matters?
  3. What visual clues do you find it hard to resist? How can you change this habitual reaction to a more constructive one?
  4. Can you identify with the conflict described by the apostle Paul in Romans 7:15-25? If so, can you find something in that passage that points toward a resolution to the conflict?
  5. Find an accountability partner and be on the lookout for unhealthy patterns of behavior (habits) that can lurk around the edges of your life space, waiting to gain a front row seat.

 


[1] This illustration is based on our observation and personal experience with hundreds of doctors like Phillip, who rarely stop to ask the questions raised until some life crisis forces them to stop and rethink where they’ve been headed, and to change the habits of thought that have controlled that direction.

 

This article is copyrighted © 2017 by its authors: Drs. David Biebel and James E. Dill, and Bobbie Dill, RN. It is excerpted from Stay Sharp: 52 Ways to Keep Your Mind Not Lose it (Denver: Healthy Life Press, 2015). To order from the publisher: http://bit.ly/2nsShPe. Also available on Amazon.com.

Columnist: Dr. David B. Biebel

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Dr. Biebel has authored or co-authored twenty books, including one bestseller: If God Is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad? and the Gold Medallion winner, New Light on Depression. His recent releases include Making God Visible and Away in a Manger: The Christmas Story from a Nativity Scene Lamb's Point of View.


His goal is to help people attain and retain optimal physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational health (personal wholeness) so they can love the Lord with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbors as themselves. He founded Healthy Life Press (www.healthylifepress.com) to help new authors with something to contribute in this arena to get their works into print.

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        To Purchase these or any other of Dr. Biebel's titles click HERE

 

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