March 1, 2013

By Don Luedke

By this time of year many of your New Year’s resolutions have already taken a permanent hiatus. For some of us however, we still are on course with our new resolutions. This forces us to ask ourselves some serious questions, “Why is change so difficult?” “Why are unwanted habits so hard to break?” And lastly, “How can I develop good habits that lead to lasting change?

 

            Most, if not all, recovery programs struggle with the problem of producing permanent, healthy “change.” It is commonly thought that when a person is bringing about a healthy change in life, “out with the old and in with the new” will be adopted! Establishing new, healthy habits is not that simple. Doing away with an unwanted habit but not replacing the habit with something else, creates a “vacuum,” so to speak, in our human command center, the brain.   Medical and psychological sciences are making fascinating discoveries about the brain on a daily basis. In fact, brain science has become what the microscope was to medicine a hundred years ago. Through brain imaging, we can watch different areas of a person’s brain activate as he or she thinks, perceives and feels in different ways. The mind is one of God’s most amazing creations. The brain has 100 billion neurons that have the potential to make an infinite number of bio-chemical combinations of thought.

            Habits rule! The brain loves habits because they conserve energy. Brain activity works in symmetry when it functions on similar activities. As one noted neuroscientist said, “Neurons that fire together wire together.” Once a habit is established in the brain, the habit can be performed on autopilot. This is precisely the problem. With the formation of a new habit, the brain must make new strings of assumptions for the new behaviors. Just as we need to develop physical strength through exercise, the brain needs to be exercised to make satisfactory changes. In Romans 12:2, in the NLT, Paul mentions, “Becoming a new person by the way you think,” or as we know it, “the renewing of our minds.” True success in making good, lasting change, requires the assistance of God’s grace, mercy, and love, working inside our minds continually, not as a one-time event.

            Many addicts who have relapsed while in recovery programs have mentioned that asking God to help with their recovery made the difference in their transformation. In many cases, the long and continual process of sustaining good habits and abstaining from bad habits produced the highest degree of success.

            Steven Stosny, a therapist, had several clients who discovered great insight into their emotional problems. Conducting a follow-up survey, Stosny discovered that many of those clients were worse off than in the beginning. Stosny realized that a slow, steady, methodical counseling approach had better long-term success. What Stosny focused on next in his counseling was to implement a process called “Perdurable Change.” Perdurable change consists of gradual and persistent counseling processes over a longer period of time. The practices are in effect habitual, and part of the reason for greater success.

            Time appears to be a key element in the transition towards successful change. Time is an ally of transformation of the mind. Our relationship with Christ is the master key that unlocks the holds put on our ability to change.

            As you continue to seek to be more like Christ, here are 6 Rules for Making Positive Lasting Change:

  1. Take small steps forward – make goals measureable Luke 16:10
  2. Focus on where you want to be in the future I John 3:2
  3. Give yourself ample time – practice allows you to build new connections in your brain Romans 12:2
  4. Do not be discouraged by setbacks, they are only temporary Romans 7:15
  5. Focus on your ultimate goal – becoming more like Christ Ephesians 4:15
  6. Ask for God’s help. By His indwelling Holy Spirit, He is more than able! Phil. 4:13