It’s the time of year again when people make resolutions for improving something in their lives, be it that they’re going to exercise more or drink less. And it’s also the time of year that you hear many people talking about it, for example in social exchanges or the news.
Often times the conversation comes down to focusing on making something new stick. You can look at what your motivation is; you can look to practice discipline. Often our efforts eventually wane. The initial positive wave of emotion that we feel at the beginning of the year is replaced by the feeling of ‘same old, same old’.
I would like to offer up a reason why this happens and what we can do about it.
The other day Karen was in for her regular session. She initially presented to the clinic with severe low back pain, sciatica and a herniated disc. The treatment plan for the initial phase of care was designed to correct structural and postural alignment problems. Structural and postural distortions had been causing increased stress on her low back and discs for a long time. When she first came in, she couldn’t move very well and was in intense pain.
Over a period of 12-13 weeks, we were able to correct much of the structural and postural distortions, alleviating the pressure on her low back thus allowing her nerves, discs, muscles and joints to heal and recover. Even after 20+ years of practice, I’m still amazed that the human body can heal even after many years of distortion and dysfunction and heal relatively quickly.
So when Karen came in the other day, she shared that over the holidays, she took her children tobogganing. She herself wanted to join them but instead decided to just supervise. She observed that her thinking was that even though she feels great in her body and feels the urge to move and do things that she used to when she was younger, those worrying thoughts creep in. ‘What if I do something and I hurt myself again?’
She thinks she wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize how she feels right now and at the same time she said she felt that she should be grateful for what she is able to do now – go about her regular routines without pain and dysfunction (with almost a feeling of ‘you should be grateful for what you have now; if you want more then you’re taking what you have for granted’).
We talked a bit about how it’s normal for us to have protective thinking after experiencing a lot of pain and suffering. And it’s protective thinking that ends up holding us back from enjoying life more, from trying new things and from learning and growing.
This is most evident to me and I often see this with patients once they’re done their initial phase of care. Once the body has a more normal alignment and the nervous system is running more optimally, the body is able to physically heal to a large extent.
The normal progression of healing also includes that the mind can change its thinking from protective to productive. What that takes is self-awareness and examining our thoughts.
According to Kierkegaard, there is however only so much self-reflection that can occur before we need to take a leap of faith. And if that sounds scary, that’s because it’s meant to feel scary. If it didn’t feel scary, you wouldn’t need faith:). And I’m not talking about religious faith. I’m talking about having faith in your body and in life.
When we’re feeling pain and dysfunction, it can feel like our bodies are letting us down and holding us back. This can be reinforced by cultural thinking that our bodies degenerate as we get older and by the millions of dollars worth of advertising that is aimed at us in order to sell “magical” cures such as drugs and medication to us.
If you address the structural and postural distortion in your body and you improve the functioning of your nervous system, then what’s really holding you back is protective thinking. And in every moment we can either choose protective thinking or productive thinking. It’s not that one is right and one is wrong. Each serves a purpose.
If you’re not consciously choosing one or the other then you’re not being in charge of yourself. If you do choose consciously, then you’re able to choose what’s most appropriate for you in the context of your life and your hopes and dreams.
So maybe this year if you’re going to make a resolution, have it be that you will consciously choose your thoughts rather than relying on either habit or the past to choose them for you.