Put a Little Love in Your Behavior Change

Fiddlehead unfolding

People are not only stingy with their money; they are stingy with their love. And as surprising as this may seem, people are stingy with love for themselves! While there is debate about how many days it takes for a person to make a change in behavior, physician Christiane Northrup recommends that you practice an affirmation for 21 straight days to jump-start a change. And she recommends sweet-talk: “…beloved, please change me into someone who loves myself fully.”

Your words will take a different tone but edit your words if you find you are swearing at yourself! It depends upon each person, but research on health-related changes found that it took an average of 66 days to set a new habit; some individuals needed more days! If your chosen behavior change is linked to some passion, you have a better chance for success. Also, when in the midst of a pandemic, you may find that you have new changes in how you view time.

Unfolding habitual thinking and behavior is challenging because it takes time. Remember, it takes a pearl time to fully form. You can change parts of your personality that you know you can no longer live with easily. Novelist James Baldwin observed: “Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without but that we know we cannot live within.”

The pandemic has unmasked certain behaviors in us while also requiring that we physically mask up to be with other people, especially in any interior spaces. In my survey of retired and semi-retired folks about how they coped with the pandemic, there was a range of responses. Here is how one 71-year-old man (retired 7 years and currently volunteering 8 hours each week) responded to my question about how he spent time in 2020-2021: “I actually had more contact with out-of-town relatives since I started using Zoom…I learned that I can still adapt at age 71!”

Greek philosopher Aristotle is attributed with this action line-up: “All human actions have one or more of these 7 causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire.” Do not leave your actions up to chance. And put a little love into your actions!

Pearls of Peace (PoP) quiz:

6. How has the pandemic affected any of your behavior changes in the past year and a half?

7. What behavior change would you like to make happen next?                                 

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.

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