B.R.E.A.K.: 5 tips for breaking bad habits

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I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I've been biting my nails for as long as I can remember. This wasn't such a big deal when I was a kid, but there's something about a full-grown adult with bitten nails that's just, well, gross. I've managed to stop a few times over the years, but I always seem to come back to it the second just one nail gets chipped. As I've gotten older, I've wanted to break the habit even more, but the longer I keep at it, the harder the habit is to break. 
 
With my book coming out at the end of the year, I've been daydreaming about what it will be like to sign books for my readers. I'd envision a pen in my hand, the book propped open, me ready to write a positive little note, and then... the vision would be tarnished by the thought of writing with those god-awful nails of mine. It frustrated me to no end to imagine my nasty little habit ruining the act of doing something I'd waited my whole life to do: sign a book I'd written. I knew I had to break the habit, no matter how hard it was. 
 
Having quit a few things in the past — I gave up smoking after about ten years, and I've been sober for almost four years now — you'd think it wouldn't be that hard to give up a little thing like nail biting, but it's actually an incredibly difficult thing to do because, you see, I'm an all-or-nothing kind of person. I don't have the willpower to do things in moderation; if I don't want to over do it, I have to completely quit, removing all temptations from my life. And it's not so easy to remove the temptation when it's physically attached to my body. 
 
I've tried all of the physical tricks for breaking the nail biting habit — coating my nails in anti-bite polish (just got used to the taste), wearing gloves (not really possible if you spend your days typing), getting regular manicures (just picked the polish off, making it a waste of money) — but none of those seemed to work for long so I decided it was time to address the issue from an internal point of view. That's how I came up with the B.R.E.A.K. Method. 
 
The B.R.E.A.K. Method includes what I've found to be the five essential aspects of breaking a bad habit. (Note: a bad habit is very different than an addiction. If you think you might have an addiction to a substance or activity, I'd highly recommend seeking help from a trained professional.) It's only been a few weeks of bite-free nails, but I really believe that using this method is going to allow me to break the habit for good. Whatever habit you've been trying to break (and we all have that one we just can't seem to quit!), these five tips — B.R.E.A.K. — should help you tackle it. 

 

 

BE AWARE OF YOUR UNIQUE TRIGGERS

Whatever you habit is, you probably have specific situations in which you engage in your habit (at a certain time of day, in conjunction with another activity, when you're with a specific person). The first step to breaking any habit is to identify what these triggers are and avoid (or transform) them if possible. For example, I always seem to bite my nails when I'm alone and when I'm reading. It's something I do mindlessly, without even really thinking about it. Obviously I can't stop reading, but I could be more mindful of what I was doing. Every time I found myself putting my hand near my mouth, I'd quickly return it to my book, making sure I was holding the book with both hands at all times. Keep in mind that your triggers will be unique to you so you can't just go looking them up online; you have to pay close attention to when and where you engage in your habit (then you can search online for some ways to tackle the trigger if you can't think of any ideas). 

 

RECOGNIZE WHAT'LL MOTIVATE YOU. 

For decades I've longed to stop biting my nails, particularly in recent years when nail art became such a fun, creative trend. I'd always searched for some sort of motivator — an upcoming event, the start of a new year, etc. — to inspire me to quit, but nothing really worked for long. It wasn't until I thought about signing books (my dream come true!) that I really buckled down and felt motivated enough to attempt breaking my habit for good. No matter what bad habit you're battling, I bet you there's something out there that is better than the habit, something you'll receive (like pretty nails, for me!) that will make all the trouble of quitting worth it. It's not always easy to find a motivator that will keep you going, but don't give up. There is absolutely something that's worth quitting for and once you find it, it'll be the inspiration you need to keep the habit broken. 

 

ENCOURAGE YOURSELF WITH LITTLE REWARDS.

Though I don't have a ton of extra money to spend, I know how important little rewards are to keep me motivated. (After all, my love language is gifts.) In order to keep myself on track, I'm giving myself little treats along the way, including manicures, new bottles of polish, and even some custom nail decals. These little rewards keep me interested in staying on track and they serve as reminders of my progress. If you don't have something directly linked to the habit you're breaking (like pretty polish for nail biters), try rewarding yourself with little things that make you really happy (and make sure those things are also positive for you — you don't want to go breaking one bad habit only to begin a new one!). These rewards need not be big or extravagant, but they should be things that you don't get or experience every day, things that will keep you inspired to keep going. 

 

ASK OTHERS TO HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE.

I've found that letting others know what you're up to can really help you stay on track with breaking a bad habit. I've told my close friends and family members that I'm trying to stop biting my nails so that they can inquire about my progress (or simply look at my hands!) and I've even asked my boyfriend to tell me to stop if he happens to see me taking a nibble at nail. Telling others about what you're trying to do makes it feel almost as if you've made a promise to them as well as to yourself, and I've found that it's hard to break promises to others than it is to break them with yourself. If you have someone looking out for you, supporting your choice to break a habit that serves no positive purpose, you'll be more likely to stay on track. 

 

KEEP YOUR DISTANCE FROM TEMPTATION. 

The further away you keep the temptation, the easier it is to break the habit. Of course, when it comes to something like nails (which are always with you!), this can be really tough, but I've made it a new rule not to put my hands near my mouth — not even just to get that one tiny hangnail! — which makes it easier to resist biting. It's not always easy to do this — just as it won't always be easy for you to keep your distance from whatever's tempting you — but the more space you put between yourself and what tempts you, the more the temptation will lessen and the easier it will be to break your bad habit for good.    


pick the weeds, keep the flowers: my year of sobriety

 

Pickedtheweeds ()

 

[ Reader's Note: What I've written here is incredibly long. I've read time and time again that people hate to read long articles online and I completely understand that. Whether you read it all or read parts of it, please know that I've put my heart and soul into this. This is my life. These are my fingers shaking as I type this. This is my mind racing as I think of the people—both those I know and those I've never met before—who will be reading this. This is me. And, much as I would have liked to for your sake, I just cannot cut down on the words I have to say. For so long I have been silent and now that everything is finally spilling out, I have to run with it. I cannot edit down this part of who I am. ]

 

Today marks 365 days of me living without alcohol. It's pretty hard to believeeven though I was the one that actually did itthat I've made it to this one year mark. It hasn't been easy. And I couldn't have done it alone. I am so grateful to my boyfriend, my family, my supportive friends, my therapist. Honestly, I cannot put into words how thankful I am to have some fantastically supportive people in my life who have made this difficult year much easier than it would have been if I'd been flying solo. Thank you, thank you, thank you to anyone who has sat beside me or held my hand or spoken words of encouragement over this past year. I am so lucky to have you in my life. 

This part of my lifemy struggles with alcoholis something I don't ever talk about on Positively Present. For whatever reasonshame, fear, sadness, insecurity?I've held this part of my life close to my chest. But todayfueled by the pride I feel after reaching one year of sobrietyI want to share it with you, readers. You are such a huge part of my life and I feel it is now time for me to be open and honest about this part of who I am, scary as it might be to confront the reality I spent so many years running from...

 

Then: Picking the Weeds 


I said it over and over again: I will stop. I will stop. If I want happiness, I have to stop. And again and again I found myself pouring myself another, recollection of all of the mistakes and the sob-filled mornings melting like ice in a glass. I knew I was causing my own heartache by giving into the sparkly temptation of alcohola comfort I'd known since the young age of fourteenbut the older I got, the harder it was to stop. I could see, from a logical point of view, how detrimental it was to me. There were failed relationships, lost friendships, countless tear-stained pillows, mornings stained with regret, and way too many repeated offenses. Much as I didn't want to see it, tried to ignore it, I knew my drinking was hurting almost every aspect of my life. I knew every emptied bottle was launching a full-fledged attack of negativity on my life, but drinking had become such an intergal part of my life that I wasn't quite sure who I would be without it. 

After over a decade of alcohol consumption, drinking had become part of me. When I thought about my life without iteven though I knew that an alcohol-free life was what I neededI couldn't quite see who I would be. If I wasn't going to parties and bars, getting infamously wasted and waking to wonder what I'd done this time, who would I be? If I wasn't pouring the stiffest drink, making friends laugh at my determination for drunkenness, who would I be? It crushed me to realize that alcohol played a part in every scene in my life. My friendships. My family. My boyfriends. Even school and work had been impacted by my use. Without it, who was I? Would I even be me? 

When I write these words now, I realize why it was so hard for me to give it up, why I was able to do so for eight months before slipping back to it again, sneaking it in like a forbidden lover for one last night of fun. It wasand sometimes still isterrifying to think of who I would be without alcohol to fuel me, inspire me, save me, free me. It felt, back then, like alcohol did so many things for me. It was my comfort. It was my release. It was my push out the door and into the world of other people, a world where I felt uncertain and less brave than I thought I should be. 

But, scared as I was to live my life without alcohol in it, a year ago today I started again down the path of sobrietya path I knew would make my life a more positive one. Over and over again, I listened to Kelly Clarkson's "Sober," her words reminding me that me-without-alcohol was still me. Below are the lyrics that have been inspiring me, helping me to realize that my life is just like an open field, filled with flowers and weeds. And reminding me that it's up to me to choose what to tend to. The flowers and the weeds will both grow, but whichever one I dote on, give attention to, that's what will flourish.

 

And I don't know...
This could break my heart or save me
Nothing's real until you let go completely
So here I go with all my thoughts I've been saving
So here I go with all my fears weighing on me

[12] months and I'm still sober
Picked all my weeds but kept the flowers
But I know it's never really over

And I don't know
I could crash and burn but maybe
At the end of this road I might catch a glimpse of me
So I won't worry about my timing, I want to get it right
No comparing, second guessing, no, not this time

[12] months and I'm still breathing
Been a long road since those hands I left my tears in
but I know it's never really over, no...


Wake up
[12] months and I'm still standing here
[12] months and I'm getting better yeah
[12] months and I still am
[12] months and it's still harder now
[12] months I've been living here without you now
[12] months and I'm still breathing
[12] months and I still remember it
[12] months and I wake up
[12] months and I'm still sober
Picked all my weeds but kept the flowers

 

Those words reminded me that I was in there, just beyond that liquid shield I'd been hiding behind, and it would only be a matter of time before the truth of who I was came out. Living my life without drinking was just me picking out the weedsgetting rid of what was holding me backand without them I would be able to focus on the flowers. In them, I would glimpse the real me, the sober me.

Finding the real me, the truth of who I really am, is awesome, but it's been hard. It's been really hard. Some days are easier than others. Some are painful and leave me feeling isolated from the people I love. Some days I wonder why this had to be me, why I couldn't just have a glass of wine and behave myself. But most days, yes, most days, I am incredibly grateful for my sober life. It has taken so much to get to where I am now and, as Kelly sings, "I could crash and burn but maybe / At the end of this road I might catch a glimpse of me." It's still a struggle. One day at a time. But the fact that I've made it through one yearsomething I never in my wildest dreams imagined I could dofills me with such pride and hope. I did this. I can do this. 

My therapist once told me to write up a piece on what my life was like with alcohol versus what it was like without it. Though I wrote this a while ago, it serves as a fresh reminder for me today as to why I stopped doing the one thing that was hurting me more than anything else. In the next section, you can read the words I wrote when I was first living a sober life, when I was first learning that I didn't need alcohol to be me. 

 

Then + Now: Living Without Alcohol

 

On Saturday morning, I wake up slowly, leisurely. It may seem odd, but the first thing I think is this: I am not in pain. My head is not pounding. I do not feel anything remotely like nausea. I feel awake, alive, energized. Now most people wake feeling well on Saturday morning and think nothing of it. For me, this is an accomplishment, the first obvious sign that things have changed. I roll over and engage in a cuddle session with my dog before getting out of bed and realizing that is only eight o’clock. Eight. It has been so long since I’ve woken up this early on a weekend that these hours feel like a gift. Hours and hours of free time—free time I will not spend curled up in a ball on the couch watching movies and moaning about the mistakes I made the night before. I shower. I clean my apartment. I eat a healthy breakfast; no greasy hangover food for me today. I have time (and an ache-less head) for reading. I have the energy to talk on the phone for more than five minutes. I walk the dog without feeling as if each step causes a hammer to begin pounding erratically inside my head. It has been a long, long time since I have felt this healthy and this alive.

In the past few months, a lot has changed in my life. Not only has my social life changed dramatically, but my emotional and physical lives have changed as well. First, let's start with the obvious: the weekends. The focal point of every weekend used to be drinking. Ever since high school, the weekly questions were: Where am I going to go to drink? Who am I going to drink with? If no one is available to drink with me, what am I going to do? Every single week, the questions were the same. Sometimes it was one night, sometimes two, but as long as I could find someone to partake in the drinking, I was drinking. And I was drinking a lot. I was drinking so much that I wouldn't remember what I'd doneor what had been done to me.

I would wake up disoriented and sick. My body went through weekly withdrawals in the form of vicious hangovers. I was physically ill for the majority of my weekends. I was also emotionally un-well. When I was drinking, I often cried. I often got angry at those around me. I did things and said things I was disgusted to recall the next day (if I could recall them). I would wake frequently with the "booze blues"—a feeling of sickening disappointment and despair when I realized what I'd done the night before or thought about the feelings/events I'd been trying to forget when I'd chosen to drink so much. I knew I was wasting my weekends, and this made me angry. Here I was with only two free days a week and I spent them on the couch with pounding headaches and dizzying recollections of my mistakes.

Of course, all of this changed when I gave up drinking. Now that I no longer focus on who I am going to drink with or where I will be drinking, my mind is free to think of other ways to spend my time. When I get together with friends on the weekends now, I am sober. Our conversations and activities are meaningful to me now. I realize now that so many of my friendships were based on a mutual desire to get as drunk as possible as often as possible. The connections with those people were not real. When I spend time with friends now, I realize I am just getting to know them—the sober people they are on a daily basis—and I am, in turn, showing them my true self. It's not always easy to do this. I am not used to being sober with friends. I am used to being uninhibited by alcohol, and without it I feel less open. But with each sober experience, I feel it getting easier. I am slowly adjusting to being social without the mask of alcohol to hide the real me.

And the real me has experienced extreme emotional changes over the past few months. I used to feel so sorry for myself. I would make mistakes while drinking. I would drink to erase dealing with them. I would make more mistakes. It was a vicious cycle and, rather than taking responsibility for it, I would simply cry, "Why me?" I was sad both when I was drunk and when I was sober. I was angry at myself for being sad. I would lash out at myself and at others. I would act and speak irrationally. I would blame others and I would also accept a great deal of blame that was not mine to take. I drank to numb the feelings that were aching to come out. I did not want to feel and, when sober, I avoided my emotions at all costs. When I would drink, however, they would boil to the surface and splatter everyone around me. I would be covered in the mess and I would spend most of the next day (or days, depending on how bad the mess was) wallowing in it. Swimming in sadness, I would find a way to avoid it again. I would drink or sleep so I did not have to feel.

Now I allow myself to feel without the cloak of alcohol. The feelings I have now are rational, followed by a series of questions I can ask myself when I am sober (and logical). What is making me feel this way? Why is this feeling important? What can I do to address this situation? The task of asking, of course, is not simple. It is (and may always be) hard for me to feel. My instinct is push the feelings away, but I am learning to sit with them, to be okay with their presence, and not to avoid them. It has been months since I cried for no known reason. It has been months since I've uncontrollably sobbed, felt sorry for myself, or classified my state of mind as "miserable." This is not to say that I am constantly happy. I am just much more mindful now and aware of my emotions. If I feel something, I think about it. I sit with it. I do not run from it. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I have been pushing away from emotions of any kind (good or bad) for so long that it is extremely difficult to embrace them. However, not all emotions are bad. Without alcohol in my life, I have felt emotions more strongly than I did in the past. This means I can feel the good emotions more too. I feel happiness in a way I'm not sure I can recall having experienced before.

Happiness is not as elusive as I once believed it to be. If it leaves, I know it will come back. Happiness is part of me; it is not just a visitor. Sometimes it's not obvious, but it's always there. When I feel happy now, sober, I let myself be happy. To some, this might sound odd—either you're happy or you're not—but it is not that simple. Happiness used to scare me and, like all other emotions, I would avoid it. Learning to embrace it, to be in a moment and to feel joy without thinking about the future or the past, is an amazing experience and it is something I could not do before I started down this road to recovery. I used to look over my shoulder, waiting for the next bad thing. Now I know that I have the ability (though I may not always do it) to just be

The removal of the frosted glass clouding my vision has clarified things. Everything—friendships, conversations, feelings, daily tasks—is clearer now. Through sober eyes, I can see my life—and my past—from a more objective point of view. Now I can see why I am the way I am, and it is not and never was my fault. My emotional state, my physical state, and my social life have all been affected by the past, but I know now that I don't have to live in the past. I don't have to keep repeating the same mistakes. I can—and I do—live now.  

 

Now: Keeping the Flowers


Everything I wrote about what had changed in my life when I first stopped drinking is still true. Everything is better for me now. That doesn't mean it's easy to be around alcohol and not drink. It doesn't mean it's easy when I think about my past and I have to see it as a separate part of my life. Every day it's hard. Every day I have to experience my life without an escape from my emotions. If I am upset or unhappy, I cannot cloud my mind with something that makes me forget. I have to deal. I have to be present. And it's hard sometimes, but it's also real

Before I was living my life in a field filled with weeds. Some of them were beautiful; some I even mistook for flowers. But now that I've cleared the field of them, picked them out one by one, I can see the true beauty as the flowers unfurl their long stems. I can see the way the field was meant to look, filled with vibrant color. I know now that these flowers were there all along, waiting in the weeds. It just took me a while to clear things out, to give them the room they needed to grow. 


10 reasons to sit on the couch

 

positive therapy

 

I've been in therapy -- really been in it -- for about six months now. This is my fourth therapist and the only one I've actually stuck with. I don't know if it's the method of the therapy, the clicking of personalities, or the fact that I was finally ready to do something about all of the shit I didn't like in my life, but the past six months have been the best six months for me. I've learned so much and I'm learning and growing every single week.

For years I've loved this song by Dar Williams, "What Do You Hear in These Sounds," but I don't think I've really, really gotten it until now. Now when I hear these words I feel like I relate to them on a level that makes me believe that somehow, in some way, Williams had the foresight to write these words just for me, just to express how I'm feeling...

 

I don't go to therapy to find out if I'm a freak
I go and I find the one and only answer every week
And it's just me and the memories to follow
Down any course that fits within a 50-minute hour
And we fathom all the mysteries, explicit and inherent
When I hit a rut, she says to try the other parent
And she's so kind, I think she wants to tell me something
But she knows that it's much better if I get it for myself
And she says...

What do you hear in these sounds?
What do you hear in these sounds?

I say I hear a doubt, with the voice of true believing
And the promises to stay and the footsteps that are leaving
And she says, "Oh," and I say, "What?"
She says, "Exactly." I say, "What? You think I'm angry?
Does this mean you think I'm angry?"
She says, "Look, you come here every week with jigsaw pieces of your past
It's all on little sound bytes and voices out of photographs
And that's all yours, that's the guide, that's the map.
So tell me, where does the arrow point to?"

What do you hear in these sounds?
What do you hear in these sounds?

When I talk about therapy, I know what people think
That it only makes you selfish and in love with your shrink
But, oh, how I loved everybody else
When I finally got to talk so much about myself

I wake up and I ask myself what state I'm in
I say, "Well, I'm lucky 'cause I'm like East Berlin"
I had this wall and what I knew of the free world
Was that I could see their fireworks and I could hear their radios
And I thought that if we met, I would only start confessing
And they'd know that I was scared; they'd know that I was guessing
But the wall came down and there they stood before me
With their stumbling and their mumbling and their calling out just like me

The stories that nobody hears...
I collect these sounds in my ears...
That's what I hear in these,
that's what I hear in these sounds...

 

If you aren't in therapy, or have never been in therapy, these lyrics may mean nothing to you. But for me the are extremely powerful. I think everyone could really benefit from (the right kind of) therapy. Here is a list of 10 reasons why I think I think everyone should take a seat on on the couch:

 

10 Reasons to Sit Down Now:

  1. You have time set aside just to talk about YOU. 
    I don't know about you, but I like to talk about me. I like to talk and talk and talk about all of the things that have happened and are happening. It's so refreshing to just get it all out and to tell it all to someone who isn't related to me as a friend or family member.   
  2. You create a safe haven where you can be completely honest. 
    It's great. You go in and you are in this place where you can be completely you. You aren't being judged. You aren't trying to put on a brave or cool or interested face. You are you and you can be whoever that is all the time.
  3. You learn new things about yourself every week (very cool!).
    Ever since I've started going to therapy (and I mean really going), I've learned something new about myself and the world every week. It's so exciting and great to learn new things in general, but to learn things about yourself that will impact the world and the way you live in it is really awesome.
  4. You find ways to better relate to the people around you.
    I'm still working on this one, but I definitely think I've made some progress. The more honest and open I am in therapy, the more open and honest I become in life. I am learning why I act the way I do and how that impacts others. I am learning to change and adapt and react in a healthy way to others act.
  5. You figure out why you do the (sometimes stupid) things you do.
    This is really important because I've done a lot of stupid and pain-causing things in my life and I've asked myself over and over again, "Why did I do that?!" Now I'm starting to figure it. It's all coming together and starting to make sense. I am getting some real answers that are helping me to take different, smarter actions.
  6. You explore the past, which leads to a better present.
    I've always been a big fan of just pushing the past away and telling myself, "It's over and done with! Move on!" It's great to move on, but it's also pretty great to think about what happened in the past and how it affects me now. Whether it was something that happened when I was five or something that happened five days ago, looking back helps me to see the present more clearly.
  7. You open your mind to new ideas and ways of thinking.
    Over the past six months, I've learned to see things differently. For example, my therapist really encourages me to think about my feelings (and not my thoughts, which are too very different things). When I experience an emotion, she asks me to identify it, acknowledge it, and think about how I am reacting physically and mentally to it. It's a really great way to use mindfulness every day and it's helped me to realize when I'm getting angry or upset.
  8. You accept and love yourself for who you are, flaws included.
    Okay, I'm not totally there on this one yet, but I'm working on it. Now that I have a better understanding of my past and tools to make my current life happier, I'm becoming more accepting of myself. I'm learning about me and I'm finding out that I actually really like who I am and who I'm still becoming.  
  9. You deal with the hard stuff you normally avoid like the plague.
    Ouch. This one hurts. There are a lot of things -- and I mean, A LOT of things -- that I'd rather not talk about. If my friends or family members brought up these topics, I would brush them off or change the subject or (if I were in an especially bratty mood) get up and leave the room. Therapy's not like that. She knows when I don't want to deal with something and she doesn't let me just brush over it. She knows that there's a reason it bothers me and, instead of avoid the hard stuff, we dive right into it and try to get to the bottom of it.
  10. You wake up one morning and realize, "Finally, I'm really living."
    Yes, this has happened to me. One morning, I don't quite remember when, I woke up, sober and bathed in the sunlight coming through my window. And as my dog raised her sleepy little head and blinked at me, I stretched and yawned and thought to myself, "Wow, I'm actually alive. I'm not miserable. I'm not cloaked in sorrow or hiding under the pain of a horrendous hangover. I'm me. I'm here. Right now." It sounds cheesy maybe, but it was really great. Really great.

 

And -- a bonus -- you suddenly become accountable for the things you do! Let's say I tell myself, "Okay, I'm going to get out this bad situation. I'm really going to do it." Then I wait...and I make excuses...and, even with my friends asking and my family members inquiring about why I don't just stop the pain, weeks and weeks go by with nothing changing. But when I'm in therapy things are different. I make plans. I set goals. I have to go in that office every week, sit on that couch, and either (1) admit that I haven't removed myself from the bad situation or (2) lie. (Word of advice: lying to your therapist is not a good idea. I did it for years and I've finally realized that it's a waste of time and money, and, most importantly, it is a big indicator that whatever you are doing is not healthy for you.) Therapy makes me do things. It makes me act. For years I said to myself, "I should quit drinking. Everything that is bad in my life is tied directly with alcohol-use (either mine or someone else's). I'm going to stop." Did I stop? Nope. Why? Because I wasn't being held accountable. No one was asking me weekly if I had a drink and, in fact, I was receiving the opposite feedback from the people in my life who wanted me to keep drinking. Bottom line: therapy makes you do (good) things you wouldn't normally be able to do.

Even if you're against therapy or think you don't need it (c'mon, be honest with yourself...), try to have an open mind and at least give it a try. Or many tries. It took me a long time -- ten years! -- to finally find a therapist and a place in my life for therapy. Now it is one of the best experiences I have every single week even when, like last week, I was faced with some things I didn't necessarily want to deal with.

I'll be honest -- therapy isn't always easy. I've had to talk about things I didn't want to talk about. I've had to give up things (and people) I didn't want to let go of. I've had to adjust my life big time to make it a healthier, happier place for me. But you know what? I feel great. It feels great to have a place to go where I can be honest, where I can sit down and know that I'm going to have a session filled with new insights and inspirations for myself. It's so fulfilling to see the progress I'm making, week after week. Knowing I wouldn't be where I am now if I hadn't taken the step I really didn't want to take -- going to therapy -- made me want to write this post. Honestly I believe everyone can benefit from the right kind of therapy. Every adult I know (and probably every adult in the world) has issues and demons of some kind, and if they can find the right therapist (trust me, this is the hard part), I really think they have the opportunity to live a much more fulfilling and satisfied life.

Okay, now that you've read my little rant about how great therapy is, let's get down to the practical stuff. I have a lot of friends who, when they hear these rants on an almost weekly basis, say to me, "I'd love to go to therapy, but I just can't afford it." Yes, yes you can. Here are some 5 tips for saving up so you can save your sanity:

 

5 Ways to Save Your Money (and Your Mind):

 

  1. Quit your addictions. Cigarettes, booze, drugs -- they're expensive and, trust me, your therapist will make you quit anyway.
  2. Stop shopping. Do you need a new pair of jeans or do you want to live the rest of your life in an unhealthy relationship? Yeah, that's what I thought. Put the credit card down.
  3. Don't eat out. Cut back on a few restaurant meals a week and you could have a enough for a weekly session.
  4. Create a budget. Do you really think there are many things in your life that are more important than your happiness? Think about what you really need and ask yourself if you rather have it than be mentally healthy and happy.
  5. Find out if you can get help. Maybe your health insurance will pay for it. Maybe you have a loving family member or spouse who wants to help you out. Look for ways to sponsor your sanity.

 

Trust me. You can afford it. I don't make a lot of money and I have a pretty serious shopping problem (yes, I'm working on this). I also live in an area where rent is absurdly expensive. I have a social life that involves meals and movies and spending money I shouldn't. If I can afford it, anyone can afford it. And, to be honest, I wouldn't want to spend my money anywhere else. Sometimes I'm holding that check, about to hand it over, and I think, "Ugh, that's so much money," but then I instantly remember how much I've gotten out of every single session and I know it is totally worth every single penny.

Another excuse that reaches my ears when I mention how wonderful therapy is seems to be, "That sounds great, but I just don't have the time." Yes, yes you do. While I don't have children (I know this is a big time suck), I do have a job and friends and family. I have a social life to maintain. I am a volunteer. I write articles for a local lifestyle website. I write on this blog almost every day. I am busy. But I make time. You can to. No matter how busy you are, there is a hour of your week that you can dedicate to you. If you do, every other hour will start be better and more productive. One "lost" hour will not kill you. In fact, it will make you a lot more alive. Here are some time-saving tips:

 

5 Ways to Find Time to Find Yourself:

  1. Ask your friends or family for one hour off. You might be surprised at how willing they will be to give you time to yourself. Ask your friend or spouse to watch your kids for a bit. Don't be afraid to cancel a dinner date with a friend if means getting a chance to spend time on you.
  2. Leave early or take a long lunch. If you can't tell your boss what for, you can probably be vague about it. If you're as lucky as I am to have the best boss ever, s/he will probably be flexible.
  3. Stop doing things. Okay, don't stop doing just anything. Stop doing the things that are unhealthy for you. Do you spend hours and hours eating out every week? Do you go to the mall too often? Stop it. Stop whatever you don't need to be doing and use that time for your mental health.
  4. Get offline. How much time do you spend on the internet? Too much? I bet you could spend that time somewhere else...yeah, you know where...Go on. Sign off. Shut down. You can do it!
  5. Organize yourself. It's so easy to say you "don't have time," but, really we all have a lot more time than we realize. Think about how you spend your day. How could you spend your time better? What can you stop wasting time on?

 

Remember, no matter who or what or where you are in your life, this life is about YOU. When it comes down to it, you are all you have, and you should spend time getting to know yourself, figuring out what you want in life, and learning how to live the happiest life you possibly can. So go on...go visit Psychology Today's website and find a therapist near you!