As a clinical counselor I use a variety of different counseling theories in my practice. One of my absolute faves is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In a nutshell, the premise of this theory is that if you want to change behavior then you have to change your thoughts. Sounds super easy right? Well, it can be if you are willing to take the time to do it.
It’s kind of like spring cleaning. It’s spring here in America which means warmer weather and more hours of sunlight. It’s refreshing after months of cold and gray clouds. Most of us take this time to clean out our homes, closets, and workspaces, but what about our minds? If we take the time to clean out our physical spaces why not take the time to clean out your mental space, thinking about what behaviors need changing and what thoughts will have to change first?
Take Time. I have already set aside time this month to go through all of my belongings, removing items I don’t have use for. If you’re going to clean the cobwebs of your mind you will need to set aside some time to do so. Think about the behaviors you want to change and write them down. This can be anything from over spending to your knack for dating guys that you know are emotionally unhealthy for you.
Get Picky. If you’re like me, you have so much stuff because you are convinced that in a few years that it will be all the rage again. You don’t want to go re-buy what you already have, but this mindset also defeats the purpose of spring-cleaning. So, I get picky. I only keep the things that make me feel confident, sexy, and add some glam to my space. If it doesn’t do that then it’s got to go. Translation for the mental spring clean out? Start by changing the behaviors that are holding you back the most. If you avoid dates with guys because you can honestly state the last five guys were not a healthy match for you, then start there. Ask yourself what drew you to several guys that your gut screamed were trouble and then figure out which traits you need to recognize as red flags in the future.
Think it Through. After you’ve selected one or two behaviors to change, really think about all that happens before and after you engage in the behavior. Did you date him because your mom wants to know where her grandbabies are? Or because someone is better than no one on a Friday night? After you go out with him do you feel great and how long does it last? Or do you feel bad because you know he’s married? Think about the feelings your behaviors evoke, the good and not so good, and think about the feelings you want to feel. It’s totally fine to desire to be in a loving and caring relationship. However, wouldn’t it be nice if it came from someone who was available to give that to you and not you and their wife? And feelings of guilt, shame, or disappointment- wouldn’t it be nice to experience those as infrequently as possible?
Go for the Good. I mentioned that when I am deciding to let go of things, they need to evoke confidence, sexiness, and glam. After you’ve thought it through, decide which feelings you really like to feel and help you to be your best self. If you know you are at your best when you feel connected with others, respected, and beautiful then it’s time to explore what other healthy behaviors can evoke those feelings. Don’t forgo attending the screening of a film you have wanted to see alone because there will be other like-minded people in attendance with whom you could connect. There’s no need to save that dress for the girls weekend in D.C. in two months when you can put it on, feel beautiful, and go to dinner in the city with your home-girl tonight. You might attract a healthy someone while in the dress that makes you feel beautiful en route to or at dinner. Consider the end, the good feelings, and adjust the means, healthy behaviors.
Invite Assistance. Maybe it’s the counselor in me, but if you are struggling to change certain behaviors in your life and you feel like you have tried and did not meet with success don’t be afraid to seek help. You may want to check with your employer about an employee assistance program, your insurance for an in network mental health care provide, your school counseling or wellness services, or your social worker about community behavioral health services. There are plenty of people out there ready and willing you help you reach and maintain Bauce status.