Filling your “joy bucket” will help you change bad habits

Changing bad habits is hard work. Whether it’s to lose weight, to improve health or to have a better quality of life, it takes constant awareness and strong self talk to stay out from the rut of old habits. But there’s another important aspect to changing habits: you need to offset the feelings of deprivation and loss of a lifestyle by experiencing periods of joy. This is even truer for the person who has a strong attachment to some unhealthy habits.

Become the observer of your thoughts

Being the primary caretaker to my aging parents while deeply missing my children and grandchildren who all live a flight away – my life was way out of balance with too much negative energy creating a vortex in my soul. I had to make a conscious decision to bring more joy into my life which required lots of self-reflection. Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now was a huge source of inspiration and perspective. It helped me to find the positive in my day-to-day life and bring more focus to the present.

There’s a saying in health coaching: negative thoughts stick like Velcro and positive thoughts stick like Teflon. Our minds play negative thoughts over and over while the positive thoughts disappear in a flash. Eckart Tolle believes it’s the incessant thinking by our mind that causes our suffering. It’s our mind that creates a screen of judgments, labels and images that interfere with true relationships. And it’s when we can separate from our thoughts by just observing them, not judging or owning them, that we find peace. Tolle calls it “observing the thinker”.

Why is it important to observe self-talk? Viewing life circumstances through a filter distorts reality and “awfulizing” happens. Awfulizing is a term used for imagining the worst possible scenario in a situation which can lead to negative feelings of anger, anxiety and depression. These aren’t good feelings to have as you head to the grocery store or don’t feel like cooking. Before you know it ice cream, chips or cookies get in the cart, or you make a beeline to KFC (my husband’s favorite).

If you can detach from your self-talk and become the observer of it, you will find that the distance that’s created in your mind will deflate the emotion. I go a step further. When I can’t let go of a negative thought I say this loving kindness meditation I learned in yoga:

Let me be filled with loving kindness

Let me be well

Let me be peaceful and at ease

Let me be happy

Bring joy into your daily life

Emotions drive our behaviors.  Feelings of sadness, anger, or loneliness are powerful drivers for overeating or binging on chips, ice cream or candy. Detaching from those strong emotions and filling that space with joy makes it easier to stop bad habits.  It starts with letting go of expectations so that peace and acceptance can come. Then it requires finding and filling your daily joy bucket. For me it meant accepting my life circumstance without judgment, reconnecting with my faith, doing some volunteer work, getting a puppy and learning how to play the ukulele!

Here are some other ideas you could consider to fill your joy bucket:

1. Volunteer. Giving to others gives right back to you. There is nothing more energizing than helping someone or working with a group of people for a cause. Here are some websites that can connect you with the right opportunity:

2. Be creative. Take an art or music class or even try welding! Check out these websites for some wonderful opportunities:

3. Get a pet. There’s nothing like the unconditional love of an animal. You don’t have to pay a fortune to get a furry friend. Here are some places to look:

  • You can choose from any pet imaginable, from dog, to bird, to reptile at PetSmart.
  • Westbrook Animal Refuge League has a wide assortment of pets that need a home. There are also humane societies in Brunswick and Lewiston.

It’s hard work to lose weight, stop smoking or quit some other bad habit. You must monitor self-talk, manage your stress and balance all that hard work with positive energy. Finding hobbies or outlets to bring joy into your daily life will keep your energy flowing to do the hard work. And it’s a heck of a lot more fun!

Barbara Groth

About Barbara Groth

I’m Barbara. I have always had a passion for helping people to feel good. As a nurse my early years were focused on getting sick people back to baseline. After becoming a diabetes educator and health coach my passion became raising that bar on the baseline – helping my clients to not only feel better but to look better and have a whole new outlook on life.