How to Build Healthy Habits that Help With Chronic Pain

By Lorraine Faehndrich

How to Build Healthy Habits that Help With Chronic Pain

Lifestyle changes that lead to optimum health and wellness and help with chronic pain, require building new healthy habits.

And the #1 healthy habit required to help with chronic pain and anxiety is a daily practice of connecting to yourself.

I like to call this a daily connection ritual. It’s a time when you interrupt your old auto-pilot habits and protective patterns, like perfectionism, stress, and worry…and consciously practice creating new habits like connecting to your body, emotions, and soul wisdom.

The Daily Connection Ritual I teach my clients and include in the Healing Female Pain Program builds a new healthy habit of living from your body and emotional center, rather than from your mind.

It transforms old protective patterns that create tension in your body and nervous system into new supportive habits that create relaxation and ease.

In order to create new habitual responses, you need a daily practice. Just like if you were learning an instrument or a sport, mastering the mind body skills that transform your health takes practice and repetition.

This is not always easy.

Over the past decade of helping women create the healthy habits they need to help with chronic pelvic pain and anxiety, I have become very familiar with the pitfalls and want to give you some strategies to get past them.

Setting aside time for yourself every day to do the inner work required to transform your life can kick up a surprising amount of resistance.

Today I’m going to share with you 5 simple strategies I’ve identified for successfully building the new healthy habit of a daily practice just for you!

Because lasting change doesn’t just happen, it requires practice, intention and a plan.

Over time a daily practice will become your habit, and like brushing your teeth it will feel weird if you don’t do it.

But when you’re just getting started, or going through a time of increased stress and emotion (hello global pandemic), you may find yourself resisting your regular practice time.

At those times it helps to have some power strategies to get you started, or help you get going again.

If you’ve been struggling to take time for your daily mind body ritual lately, or any other healthy habit you want to create, here are my top 5 tips to help you overcome your resistance and get on the path to lasting relief and radiant health!

My Top 5 Tips to Build Healthy Habits (including a Daily Mind Body Practice)…

 

1. Create Your Health Vision

If you want to build a new healthy habit like a daily ritual of connecting with yourself, it’s important to start with why.

Research shows that people who have a clear vision of where they want to go and why, have much greater success with lasting change.

It’s easy to skip a practice if you don’t connect it to your bigger purpose, something that has meaning and emotion for you.

So, why do you want to make this change?

If your answer is to help with chronic pain or anxiety, that’s a great place to start, but it’s likely not enough.

Negative motivation is not as powerful as positive motivation. In other words, getting rid of pain, is not as powerful of a motivator as living your best life.

Connecting with your vision of a healthy happy you and why you want that is a key to success with your daily practice.

Take time to reflect on these questions, or better yet, pull out a journal and write down your answers…

  • What is your vision of a happy healthy pain free you?
  • What inspires you about this vision? How does it feel?
  • Why do you want that? What does being your healthiest happiest you give you in your personal and professional life?
  • If you do make this change in your behavior and make time for your daily mind body practice, what is the likely outcome in 5 years?
  • What do you imagine the outcome will be in 5 years if you don’t make this change?
  • What do you want your health for?
  • What is most meaningful to you about your health?

Connecting to why you want radiant health and what your vision of health is will give you the inspiration to commit to your daily connection ritual even when things like resistance are getting in the way. It will give you the motivation to make the changes in your daily life that will bring about your desired result, and stick to it when things get hard.

2. Make a Plan

Now that you know why you want to create this new healthy habit, pick a regular time to practice each day (or most days) and put it in your calendar.

Pull out your schedule for the next week, think about the reality of your life, and choose the time that works best for you. When will it be easiest for you to take time for your daily practice? Is it the first thing in the morning?  Right after breakfast? After lunch time or before bed?

Scheduling this time in your calendar elevates it to the level of importance it deserves, like everything else you are prioritizing and making time to schedule in your life.

You are making a choice to prioritize this healthy habit for yourself for all the reasons you’ve identified in your vision. Write that down and guard that time the way you would any other commitment that is important to you.

3. Take Baby Steps

One of my mentors, Martha Beck, calls this “turtle steps”, because when it comes to lasting behavior change, just like the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.

Transformative change doesn’t happen all at once. You’re literally building new neural pathways in your brain, and you’re going to run into old protective patterns that create unexpected resistance. Going slow will feel safer to your brain and help you to keep going even when it feels hard.

Choose a minimum amount of time for your daily practice.  In general, if you’re facing resistance to getting started, or getting started again, I recommend an amount of time that feels so easy and doable that your lizard brain can’t come up with a good reason not to do it. You will recognize a story like “I don’t have time” from a mile away.

What feels like the easiest baby step you could take? Is it 10-15 minutes a day or do you need to go down to 5 minutes?

You want to choose an amount of time that feels simple and easy to commit to. While your lizard brain may tell you that this is such a short time that it couldn’t possibly make a difference, don’t fall for that! This small amount of time, is exactly what WILL make a difference, starting with allowing you to practice in the first place.

Commit to your minimum amount of time every day, remember to put it in your calendar. You can always do more if you want to, but for right now your minimum is more than enough.

4. Cultivate Curiosity

Instead of putting pressure on yourself to do this right, cultivate an attitude of self-kindness, ease, and curiosity. The purpose of a mind body practice is transform how you’re relating to yourself and you can start with how you approach your practice.

Think of this as the one thing in your life that you absolutely can not do wrong…no matter how you do it. (As long as you do something.)

Imagine that you are a detective on a mission of self-discovery.  You’re making observations and gathering clues about yourself that will deepen your self-awareness and understanding.

Everything you notice is valuable information, even resistance.  Nothing is good or bad – it’s all data, including things that you may ordinarily think of as negative, like tension or stressful thinking.

Stay as curious as you can about exactly where you are, because that increased self-awareness, is the foundation of freedom and relief – in your body and in your life.

5. Celebrate Success

We all have a tendency to focus on what we’re doing wrong and where we are falling short rather than on the hundreds of things we’re doing right every day. Even if this incessant self-criticism helps us achieve something, the price is high and the enjoyment is fleeting.

Research by Barbara Frederikson at the Positive Psychology lab at the University of North Carolina shows that positive emotions encourage a creative state of mind that helps people build on what they are doing. We are more likely to take on and continue new changes when they are associated with positive emotions.

So, cultivate an inner cheerleader instead of an inner critic.

One way to do this is by celebrating your successes no matter how small (even when your brain is pointing out all the things you haven’t yet done). Each day write down a few things you’ve done well. Did you practice? Did you notice a new thought or sensation? Celebrating your successes creates the positive emotions that will keep you going. It can also provide evidence that you are making progress at those times when you feel like you’re not.

What will your mind body practice this week? I’d love to know your plan!

For more help with building the healthy habits that help with relieving Vulvodynia, chronic pelvic pain, and anxiety check out my Healing Female Pain Program, or click here to learn more about pelvic pain relief coaching. 

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