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12 Habits That Have Changed My Life

I know this title sounds a bit cliche and slightly overdramatic, but sometimes there really are things that actually do make a big difference in life. As I've been doing the work to cultivate new habits and rewire my brain after trauma and past conditioning, I have found these 12 things to be super helpful for me. Some of them are obvious, but sometimes it's the most basic things that make the biggest difference.

Establish a morning routine

Yeah, I get that I sound like a social media influencer when I say this, but I can't deny that establishing a morning routine has changed my life. It has taken me a while to hone in on the type of routine that works best for me, but now that I've discovered what that looks like (at least for now), I can feel a big difference. Here is an article that seems to have some good tips. My routine right now looks like making my bed, tidying up my home, stretching, mindfully getting ready, putting on something I feel really great in, and writing down my intentions for the day.

Practice letting go of perfection

My early social conditioning combined with my very specific personality traits created a perfectionistic recipe for disaster for me. My brain was wired to be a good girl and would work incessantly hard to get all the things and be all the things that were lovely, good, and praiseworthy. I eventually realized that none of this was realistic so I started to do the work to change that mindset. I had to learn to be more aware of how perfectionism was constantly showing up in my life. The Gifts of Imperfection is still my favorite book on the subject. I will say that letting go of perfection is a practice for me. I am not perfect at it and never will be, but I am getting better at gently bringing myself back to awareness and acceptance.

I am not perfect at it and never will be, but I am getting better at gently bringing myself back to awareness and acceptance.

Move my body each day

For several years when I was sick with chronic Lyme disease, I could barely get my body to the bathroom, let alone do anything that resembled exercise. I know what it's like to be stuck, unable to move, and my heart goes out to anyone facing this reality right now. Eventually, as I began to heal, I was able to move my body a little more each day. My movement routine changes all the time based on where my body is at the moment, but I do try to get some movement in each day. Right now I've been stretching, walking, and even added in some low impact dance videos on YouTube a couple of times a week. When my body is struggling a bit more due to a flareup, I will simplify my movement down to just gentle stretches and slow walking. I never push my body anymore, because that has never worked for me. Pushing always made me feel way worse and more inflamed, but I do find that the consistency of doing some type of movement each day has been super beneficial.

Practice being more mindful and intentional

I have a natural tendency to want to hustle and hurry through life. I'm not sure if it's my personality or the trauma that has created this situation for me, but I'm guessing it's a combination of both. I have to work really hard to remind myself to SLOW DOWN and be more mindful and intentional with my life, but I truly can't say enough good things about it. Just like everything else, it is a practice that I will never be perfect at, but I am dedicated to the practice because it makes such a difference. There are hundreds of resources out there on this topic, but I have found it most helpful to learn from trauma-sensitive teachers. Some aspects of mindfulness can come off as a form of spiritual bypassing (which a big nope for me) so I try to stick with people who are aware of this possible pitfall.

Set clear social boundaries

Oh man, this is a big one for me. When you go through a decade-long battle with a complicated and confusing chronic illness and then you deconstruct your entire conditioned belief system that most of your family and friends are still a part of, you end up needing to set a few hundred thousand boundaries in order to keep your peace. It's just the way it is. There is no way in hell I would have been able to do the work I have needed to do if I just kept allowing all the emails, phone calls, texts, and social expectations to keep coming in. It has been heartbreaking in so many ways, but also so incredibly necessary. I have found Nedra Glover Tawwab to be a great resource on this topic.

There is no way in hell I would have been able to do the work I have needed to do if I just kept allowing all the emails, phone calls, texts, and social expectations to keep coming in.

Learn from qualified mental health professionals

I'm not the type of person that thinks ANYBODY has life all figured out, but I do know that there is a lot of bad advice out there, especially for people who have been through complex trauma. I became so exhausted by all the gurus out there that claim to have the "secrets" to life that I finally got fed up and decided to start paying more attention to the people who have degrees and a ton of experience to back up their claims. I was tired of listening to people who were not trauma-informed tell me how to heal. Sure, I have found that even licensed professionals can get off track for me, but a lot of them seem to have a pretty good handle on giving advice that is aware of the bigger and deeper picture of what it means to be a human trying to heal, survive, and create a meaningful life. They just seem to get the complexity of it all and are not going to sugar-coat the process with promises that don't deliver. They tend to be aware that "good vibes only" just doesn't cut it. My current favorites right now are Whitney Goodman, and Helen Marie. I tend to rotate the people I watch and listen to so that I don't fall into the trap of thinking any one person has all the answers. Some of the people I mentioned above have said some things that don't resonate with me personally, but they come close. I do also enjoy the content of some coaches and writers, as long as they are fully aware of the complexities of life and don't claim easy, quick-fix answers.

Write in a dumping journal

My brain is full of so much stuff, I would never be able to keep up with it all if I didn't write it out each day. There's just so much to process in life that a dumping journal has become like breathing to me. I feel the feelings, say the things, and get it all out. All of it. For as long as it takes. I "write to be free" of all the garbage. It's a daily practice. I sit down and write any and all thoughts that come into my mind, then I go back and ask myself if there is anything I can or need to do in relation to the things I have written down. If there is something I can do, I either do it or write it in my planning systems. If there are things there that I can't do anything about, I either reframe it or allow myself to feel the feelings about it, then let it go. There is so much letting go. There is so much I can't control, but writing it out helps to clear my mind.

I "write to be free" of all the garbage.

Cultivate beauty as a practice

We all know there is so much heartbreak and pain in this life, but there is also beauty. So much beauty. Life is all the things and I have found that it helps me to accept the tough stuff more when I'm also willing to integrate the beauty right there with it. Cultivating beauty isn't about ignoring the pain, but allowing them to walk side by side. This isn't always easy for me (especially when things get especially tough) but on most days, I am able to notice, cultivate, and create beauty in ways that feel authentic. Some days that looks like buying myself some flowers or taking in the colorful sunset and other days it's watching an inspiring movie or listening to a piece of music that I love. Whatever it tends to be each day, I try to make beauty a consistent part of my daily life.

Write "Mind Rewire Cards"

Ok, I know this is so specific, but it has been such a powerful tool for me, I had to include it in my top 12. Anyone who is doing the work to rewire their brain knows how damn difficult it can be. Neuroscience is teaching us that that the human brain can change, but it does take work. It's like building a muscle. I decided that I needed to come up with a very practical way to help me do that so I started writing my new thoughts on 3 x 5 cards that I pull out and read on a consistent basis. I write down the old thinking (or conditioned thinking) on one side of the card, then turn it over and write the new thinking on the other side. It's kind of like affirmations, but without the magical or unrealistic spin on it. It's more like a practical way of seeing things through a new lens in an honest and hopeful way that feels authentic to me.

Shadow work

I learned pretty quickly in my healing journey that I was going to have to face some of my own demons if I was going to find a sense of peace with life. Nobody likes to admit that we might be hiding some of our own fears, insecurities, and repressions. It's not really all that fun, but it's effective. I have learned that as I have been more willing to look at my own stuff, my relationships have gotten better.

I have learned that as I have been more willing to look at my own stuff, my relationships have gotten better.

Cultivate self-compassion

I would guess that most of us are pretty hard on ourselves. We beat ourselves up for any number of reasons because life can be hard, confusing, unpredictable, and frustrating. We're going to make mistakes and fall short over and over again. It's just part of being human. Cultivating self-compassion has been a huge part of my healing journey and I am so thankful for the people who are doing the work to help us in this area. My current favorites are Dr. Kristin Neff and The IFS Institute.

Eat a diet that works for ME and MY body

There is so much conflicting food advice out there, it's actually kind of insane. I have followed several very well respected diet professionals over the years that all seem to have their own very specific formula for healthy eating and none of them seem to agree with each other. It's a jungle out there. The only thing that I have come to fully believe about diet is that every single person is different and we have to do the work to figure out what is best for us personally. We all have different ways our bodies process and handle nutrition, so there is just no such thing as a right way to eat. The most helpful thing I have found for me is to do an elimination diet and then build from there. This process helps me see what foods are triggering autoimmune reactions, allergies, headaches, inflammation, pain, and depression. It has helped me know how to make informed choices that work best for me and my body. It's not perfect or easy, like nothing ever is, but it is a good starting point for me.

So that's my top 12. There are so many things I have done to change my life but these are my top ones right now. I know that it can be so incredibly difficult to heal from our traumas and heartbreaks, but I also know there are a lot of resources out there to help us through it. I'm so thankful for the helpers who have created resources to help us make those changes in the ways that make sense for us.

Here's to healing and hope!

We got this.




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