Here’s a video for your Funday Friday about eating fruit:
Here’s a video for your Funday Friday about eating fruit:
By Dr. David B. Hawkins
The years tend to take their toll on us physically, emotionally and can even impact the issue of being attracted to, and by, our mate.
Consider the following true story:
Joseph dated and fell in love with his girlfriend, Tina and they were married a year later. Shortly before marrying her, however, he had the sense of losing his attraction to her. Nevertheless, he married her, hoping the attraction would grow. It didn’t and he has regretted his decision ever since.
They have been married for several years and Tina now feels his detachment from her. Their physical relationship is negligible, he shows her little affection, while he feels intense frustration. He constantly compares his wife to other women he believes he could have dated, but didn’t. He strives to stop the thoughts, but seems to have little control over his extra-marital attractions. Both he and Tina wonder what to do.
This is a heartbreaking story. We can certainly feel the pain Tina must feel, knowing her husband is not attracted to her. She watches as he glances at other beautiful women. We can also empathize with Joseph as he strives to be a ‘one woman man.’ He believes it is the ‘Christian thing to do’ to stay married to his wife, but feels stuck.
While your situation may not be quite as dramatic, we all face the prospect of aging, getting wrinkles and comparing ourselves and our mate to younger, more attractive individuals. What can we do to maintain and even cultivate attraction for our mate?
Here are several ideas for maintaining and cultivating attraction to our mate:
One, remember that love is a powerful attraction. Having and cultivating loving actions and feelings for our mate is likely to enhance our attraction for them. The more wefeel love for our mate, the more attractive they become. The more we are bonded and connected to our mate, the more we will be attracted to them.
Two, remember that love is a verb. Too often we wait to feel love instead of involving ourselves in the act of loving. Consider the positive qualities in your mate and appreciate them for those traits. Notice the wonderful unique qualities of your mate and love those traits.
Three, explore and cultivate a deeper relationship with your mate. We are all like onions with many layers and complexities. Relating can be like an incredible adventure, seeking to unearth hidden qualities and making exciting discoveries. Each new discovery will help you feel more attracted to your mate.
Four, become active, not passive. Don’t wait for attraction to land on your lap. Enjoy and appreciate each other, finding new activities to do together. Tell your mate how they can become more attractive to you and what they would like to become more attracted to you. Be active in creating and cultivating a friendship with each other. Additionally, stop the comparisons. A glance is one thing; a longing fantasy for another is something entirely different and is very hurtful.
Five, develop a heart of gratitude for your mate. Notice what you can be grateful for with your mate. A heart of gratitude is likely to increase your attraction to your mate. Scripture says, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Psalm 107:8-9).
Finally, cultivate a spiritual connection to each other. Praying together is a powerful way to enhance attraction to our mate. Share common dreams, missions and purposes with each other. Become involved in something larger than you—a common passion. This is likely to link your hearts together.
For help with parenting, please give CornerStone Family Services at call at 614-459-3003 to set up an appointment with a coach or counselor.
Don’t worry, they won’t Google you or say hi to you at the bar
By Casey Gueren
Therapy can be mysterious and intimidating, especially if you don’t know what to expect. So BuzzFeed Health spoke with three psychologists who all have extensive experience with psychotherapy: Stephanie Smith, Ph.D., clinical psychologist in Colorado; Ryan Howes, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and professor at Fuller Graduate School of Psychology; and Lynn Bufka, Ph.D., associate executive director of Practice Research and Policy at the American Psychological Association. Here’s what they wish people knew about therapy:
They’re not here to tell you if you should call off your marriage or quit your job. “The real job of therapy is to get to know yourself better and change the way you’re thinking, the way you’re behaving, or the way you’re understanding the world,” says Smith. “The process of therapy is not to give good give advice.” There are so many different types of therapy and for all different ages, therapy can be complicated for different ages as individuals go through all different developmental stages, a child will need different counselling to college counseling. Therapists will have different techniques for adults too.
Sure, they might tell you about strategies to cope with a mental illness like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, but when it comes to your personal life decisions, they’re more of a facilitator. “Do you really want to come to therapy to give your power away to someone else or do you want to learn to have that power on your own?” says Howes.
“I would never trust a therapist who hadn’t been to therapy,” says Howes. And according to these experts, most psychologists do see their own therapists — maybe not all the time, but at least at some point in their careers. Most graduate psychology programs even require that candidates participate in therapy, says Smith.
That’s typically the job of a psychiatrist or a primary care provider — not a psychologist or social worker, says Bufka. However, your therapist can coordinate with another provider to help you start or end a medication, if that’s something you’re interested in.
One common misconception: “That you have to be ‘crazy’ to go to therapy,” says Howes. “There are a lot of reasons why people go to therapy that have nothing to do with disorders. And when people do go because they have a disorder, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re going to get help and speak to an expert just like you would seeking help for any other medical condition.”
It’s usually this in between area — when you’re struggling but not completely debilitated — that people hesitate to go to therapy because they feel like they don’t need it. “But if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed or not able to function as you’d like to, that’s a sign you do need to talk to somebody,” says Bufka.
“Rule number one is confidentiality,” says Howes. “I would quickly lose my license if I talked about my clients with my friends or family.” However, they may discuss certain cases or broader themes with a small group of trusted colleagues. “We have groups that meet every other week or monthly to discuss difficult cases and get feedback from peers,” says Smith. “We talk about cases, but it’s a stripped-down version with no identifying information.”
“My understanding is that it is an overstepping of bounds and almost a breach of confidentiality in some ways to Google a client without their permission,” says Smith.
Plus, they’d rather talk about things as you bring them up, not force you to explain That Picture they saw on Facebook over the weekend. “I don’t Google my clients because I’m of the philosophy that I want everything to happen in the room,” says Howes.
Don’t worry about running into them at a restaurant and hearing “Hey, glad to see you out and about!” while you’re on a date. The general consensus is that therapists won’t acknowledge you in public unless the client initiates it, and even then, they won’t acknowledge that they are your therapist unless you do first, says Bufka.
So feel free to say hi and introduce them as your therapist/yoga teacher/neighbor, or ignore them entirely. It’s your call, and it’s something you can talk to them about ahead of time if you’re worried about it.
Therapy isn’t like going to your primary care doctor for a sinus infection and leaving with antibiotics. It takes collaboration — not just passively sitting back and waiting for results. “It’s pretty disappointing for clients when they think that’s the way it works,” says Howes. “They want the therapist to ask them a bunch of questions and it’s like a treasure hunt.”
But if a client is prepared and willing to talk about what brought them in and what they’d like to work on, it can make the whole process more collaborative and efficient. You need to be honest with your psychologist, honesty will get you the help that you need and you’ll be able to see the benefits of your therapy as you are tackling the issues that you need to tackle.
“Sometimes I think people hesitate to embark on therapy because they feel like ‘If I go once I’m going to be sucked in for 10 years, three times a week,’ and it feels like this huge decision,” says Smith. But the length and frequency of therapy is very individual. It can be a one-time deal, a few months of sessions, or longer depending on what you’re going through and what you’re looking to accomplish.
It’s perfectly reasonable to ask questions about a therapist’s approach in the first session or two, says Bufka. Things like: What would treatment look like? How long are we going to be working together? How will I know when we’re finished?
“You could be seeing the best, most qualified therapist in the whole world, but if the fit isn’t good, its not going to be as effective,” says Smith. “What research tells us is that of all the different variables in therapy — types of treatment, education of the provider, length of treatment, all that stuff — one of the biggest factors in therapy success is fit.”
What does that look like? Feeling heard, understood, and respected. “The experience of therapy itself isn’t always going to be fun or enjoyable,” says Bufka. “But in the context of that, you should feel safe, accepted, and heard, and at times challenged.”
“As a therapist, what I’m hoping is that by the end they feel like they’ve improved their functioning, whether in their relationships or their job or as a student,” says Bufka. “That they’re feeling like they’re contributing to whatever is of value of them and not distressed by the symptoms they were experiencing.”
Of course, life happens and things change, and just because you felt better for years doesn’t mean you won’t necessarily need help again in the future. “It doesn’t mean that you’ll never need a booster session, just like you see a primary care provider,” says Bufka.
Not every therapist will be open to hugging their clients, but if you really feel compelled to, don’t be embarrassed to bring it up. “The client should feel free to say anything or ask anything,” says Howes. “Ask it if it’s on your mind and then let the therapist decide whether or not they’re going to answer that. Try not to filter yourself or censor yourself.”
“Sometimes people think therapists have a special ability to see inside you but we really don’t,” says Bufka. “We have a particular training and understanding of how humans are, how humans behave, how emotions work, and we’re able to use that to understand the specific situation someone is in. We don’t have these magical skills that we’re instantly going to read into you — it’s a process.”
Between juggling several clients every day and helping patients through particularly traumatic events, it can be an incredibly daunting profession. “Obviously it can be hard to hear difficult stories hour after hour, day after day and then still have enough energy for your own family at night,” says Smith. “That can be a challenge, but it’s certainly manageable.”
“We’re professional secret keepers,” says Howes. “That takes a toll after a while. It’s really important for us to have our own confidants and our own people we can talk to about things.”
“When therapy works, and it does, you’re going to walk out of there with a new understanding and new ways of doing things. You own it. It’s yours. It goes with you for the rest of your life,” says Bufka.
“I just love people,” says Smith. “I love to get to know people, and it’s really as simple as that. I find people endlessly interesting.”
“Whenever I’m able to see someone’s growth process taking place, I’m delighted,” says Howes. “And I spend much more time laughing than I ever thought I would.”
If you would like to talk with a counselor or coach, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003.
By Mark Batterson
If you set goals in the context of prayer, there is a much higher likelihood that your goals will glorify God, and if they don’t glorify God, then they aren’t worth setting in the first place.
So start with prayer.
One of our goals – to create a family foundation – was inspired by my role as a trustee for a charitable foundation. The man who created the trust was tragically struck and killed by an automobile while visiting London, but he had written the trust into his will. It’s been almost two decades since his death, but his legacy is the hundreds of ministries that have received seed money in the form of a grant. No matter how much or how little money we make, that legacy of generosity is inspiring us to do something similar as a family.
More than a decade ago, I had a paradigm shift when it comes to finances. I stopped setting “getting goals” and started setting “giving goals.” All of our financial goals are giving goals because that is our focus. Our motivation for making more is giving more. After all, you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.
Another trick that has helped me is thinking in categories. My goals are divided into five categories: (1) family, (2) influential, (3) experiential, (4) physical, and (5) travel. The obvious omission is a category for spiritual goals, but that is by intention. All of my goals have a spiritual dimension to them. Some of them are obviously spiritual, like taking each of my children on a mission trip or reading the Bible from cover to cover in seven different translations, but running a triathlon with my son was a spiritual experience as well.
Any goal that cultivates physical discipline will cultivate spiritual disciplines too.
If a goal isn’t measurable, we have no way of knowing whether we’ve accomplished it. Losing weight isn’t a goal if we don’t have a target weight within a target timeline.
One of the ways I’ve increased the specificity of my goals is by attaching ages to them. I want to complete a triathlon in my fifties and sixties. Those are two separate goals that are time-stamped. I’ve also added nuances that make my goals more meaningful. I don’t just want to see the Eiffel Tower; I want to kiss Lora on top of the Eiffel Tower. It was extremely difficult to attach numbers to some of my giving goals and writing goals, but I decided it was better to aim high and fall short than to aim low and hit the target.
And it’s OK to make revisions to our visions.
On more than one occasion, I’ve been able to achieve a goal almost immediately after setting it. A few years ago, I blogged about a new goal that I had just added to my list: visiting the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, where Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses and sparked the Protestant Reformation. The very next day I got an invitation to be part of a gathering of leaders and thinkers to discuss what the next Reformation might look like. The place? Wittenberg, Germany. And our gathering took place on Reformation Day!
At some point in the process of goal setting, you need to muster the courage to verbalize it.
That act of verbalization is an act of faith.
When you write down a goal, it holds you accountable. The same goes for a prayer journal. I used to think that written prayers were less spiritual because they were less spontaneous. I now think the opposite. A written prayer requires more faith simply because it’s harder to write it than to say it. But the beautiful thing about written prayers in particular and prayer journals in general is that you have a written record of your prayer. Too often we fail to celebrate an answer to prayer simply because we forget what we asked for before God answers!
Many of my goals revolve around my family. They are tailored to the unique personality and passions of my wife and children. Josiah is the biggest football fan, so he got in on the goal of going to the Super Bowl. My daughter, Summer, is a gifted swimmer, so I thought swimming the Escape from Alcatraz, a 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco, would be a great goal for us to go after. And Parker has my adventure gene, so he went with me to Peru last year to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
One of the most important life goals on my list is creating a discipleship covenant for my sons. I think I’ve made more mistakes than the average father, but I knew I needed to get this right. When Parker turned twelve, I had circled his birthday in prayer. I spent months praying and planning a discipleship covenant with three components: spiritual, intellectual, and physical. The physical challenge was training for and completing a sprint triathlon. The intellectual challenge was reading a dozen books together. The spiritual challenge included reading through the New Testament, identifying our core values, and putting together his first life goal list.
At the end of that year, we celebrated the completion of the covenant by going after a life goal on both of our lists: hiking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim. Those two days will forever rank as two of the most challenging and fulfilling days of my life. We made the 23.6- mile hike in July as temperatures climbed above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
I lost thirteen pounds in two days! It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but that is what made it so memorable. I’ll never forget the feeling as my son and I ascended the Bright Angel Trail and made it to the top of the South Rim. The first thing we did was get a vanilla ice cream cone at the concession stand. Then we just stood on the rim looking back at the trail we had traversed. No one can take that moment or that memory from us.
Setting goals is the way you turn imaginations into memories, and once you do, you need to celebrate them.
One of my crazy goals is to make a movie. I have no idea how this goal will be accomplished. If I had to guess, it’s more likely I’ll write a screenplay than land a role as a stunt double. But who knows? I have no idea how it will happen, but this motivation traces all the way back to one of my earliest memories. When I was five years old, I put my faith in Christ after watching a movie called The Hiding Place. Somehow God used the medium of a movie to save my soul. I’d like to make a movie that does the same for someone else.
If you want to dream until the day you die, you need to set goals that take a lifetime to achieve.
And it’s never too late to start.
By Brent Flory
If there were degrees given out for verbally beating yourself up, I would have earned my PhD in the field long ago. My strategy to motivate myself to action for the majority of my first thirty years was to berate myself mercilessly. I figured the way to high achievement was to never take my foot off the gas peddle, and harsh self-criticism was the way to push myself to go further.
In attempting to motivate myself in this manner, I found there is a short distance that separates relentless self-criticism from self-loathing. No matter what you have accomplished in the past, if you fail to meet your expectations and ruthlessly cut yourself down for doing so, self-loathing is lurking right around the corner.
I learned from personal experience that constantly criticizing yourself doesn’t take you to great heights; it freezes you in place. Motivation by flagellation repels action, rather than compelling you to act.
Radar helps warn people to prepare when there is a hurricane forming so they can take necessary precautions. The amygdala in your brain is your body’s radar, your warning system. If you forget an appointment with a high priority client and shower yourself with harsh criticism, this tells your warning system that you are under attack and makes your body’s stress response even stronger.
In addition, your self-flagellation rouses emotions like guilt, shame or self-directed anger. This further stimulates your brain’s warning system, taking the stress response in your body to another level of intensity. To make matters worse, the stirred up feelings of guilt, shame, and self-focused anger appear to justify your self-criticism, and lead you to whip yourself even harder.
It can be an endless cycle unless the pattern of judging yourself harshly is broken. This cycle does need to be broken, otherwise stress can quickly get on top of you. Stress can be dangerous and can lead to a number of mental health problems or heart problems. As no one wants that, it’s important to try and break this cycle of stress. There are a number of treatments for stress, but one of the most popular methods recently is the use of kratom powder. There is a wide variety from Organa Kratom, so anyone dealing with stress could consider purchasing some to try and reduce these feelings. That should help you to break the cycle.
What’s the alternative? Research and logic point to self-compassion as a vital key to stopping this cycle and reducing your stress, enabling you to move forward effectively after a misstep.
Discussing compassion is helpful in describing what makes up self-compassion.
Can you imagine criticizing someone you love while they are deeply suffering? Nothing spurs me to compassionate action more quickly than seeing my fifteen-month-old daughter’s lower lip jut out and quiver because she’s sad. As she cries out and lifts her arms up, wanting to be picked up, I am more than eager to comply and console her.
If you were speaking with a dear friend who has just lost their job unexpectedly, you wouldn’t respond to their anguish by telling them, “Wow, it must feel lousy to be you.” You would empathize with their pain and relate how crushing it was when you endured an unanticipated loss.
You wouldn’t say, “Good luck with finding a new job, you are going to need it.” Nor would you encourage them to do nothing and wallow in self-pity. You would encourage them and take action, connecting them with a contact in your network that might be hiring for a position that fits their skill set.
Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” Researchers of emotion define compassion as “the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.”
Have you ever wondered why you can be compassionate towards people you love and so harsh and unrelenting towards yourself? It’s a contradiction that many of us live out daily. Of course, some people have no clue how to be compassionate towards others, but that flaw often stems out of lacking compassion for themselves.
Practically speaking, self-compassion is simply showing yourself the same compassion you would display toward another. This can be broken down into three components:
Before you are able to express compassion toward a friend, you must be aware of their suffering. It is no different with ourselves. I have written extensively aboutself-awareness in the past. You have to first admit that you are hurting in order to show yourself compassion.
2) Kind Self-Talk
How would you speak to a friend in pain? You would talk to them gently, with kindness. Dr. Kristin Neff, one of the foremost authorities on self-compassion, refers to relating to yourself in a similar manner as self-kindness.
When you fall short of a goal, instead of thrashing yourself verbally, to use kind self-talk is to choose words of respect and understanding toward yourself instead of condemning language.
3) Nobody’s Perfect
When I was struggling with being very critical of myself, I would tell myself that no one has failed as badly as me, and become isolated from others. Several of my friends have recommended that I take a look at a few motivational sites (you can click here) that could be helpful. I might be able to use suggestions from people who have similar mindsets as mine in order to guide my thoughts in a positive direction when communicating with them. Also, when you encourage friends who are beating themselves up, what is a great way to encourage them to ease up? Reminding them that everyone makes mistakes. Dr. Neff refers to this concept as a common humanity.
To practice self-compassion is to give yourself the same consideration and gentle reminder that you would give a good friend; everyone fails sometimes.
Initially when some people hear of the concept of self-compassion, they equate it with making excuses or taking the easy way out. Self-compassion isn’t about ignoring the mistakes you’ve made. It’s relating to yourself with compassion so you can learn and move past them instead of locking yourself in a vicious, endless cycle.
By Les & Leslie Parrott
Your words matter. They carry power, and they can be forgiven–but hardly forgotten. They can fuel or kill momentum, build up or tear down. They are givers and takers of life. And it’s so very important to remember that they can never be taken back.
We have all said things that we regret. We have hurt, torn down, or criticized in moments of frustration. And it’s likely that you have done this to your spouse–perhaps multiple times. You know the drill: harsh words, immediate regret.
Most of us know better. To cut down our spouse with our words is never our intention–that is, until conflict arises or until hurt sets in. This is when we fight with phrases we should never say. Below we will visit six of them. You likely already know them. Perhaps you have even used them. Regardless, it is healthy to remind ourselves just how much power our words carry.
As we mature in marriage, let’s work to eliminate these six phrases, even in times of conflict.
Whatever you do, stay away from absolutes. “You always walk away.” “You never help out before I ask.” “You never admit you’re wrong.” “You always put work ahead of me.” If you have been the accused, this one hurts. We simply don’t live in absolutes. The only thing we accomplish by using this kind of talk is sowing seeds of repeated failure. It kills any positive momentum, and it’s a reminder of past failures. This is an easy one to resort to in an argument. It cuts quick and deep. It’s a low blow.
One great way to counteract this is to repeatedly tell your spouse who they are. “You are an amazing husband/wife.” “You are a provider.” “You are loved.” “You are a great friend, mother, father.” You get the point. The truth of the matter is, conflict occurs frequently when we haven’t sown good seed ahead of time. Make it a habit. Sowing those good seeds will help you avoid using those hurtful absolutes during times of conflict.
Nothing kills a marriage quicker than comparison. It is disrespectful and damaging. Any time you find yourself comparing your spouse to another husband or wife, you are comparing their highlight reel to your behind-the-scenes. It is always based on the partial truth of another’s reality, and it creates an unfair and unrealistic standard to live up to. Oftentimes comparison is bred out of your own insecurity, which is a dangerous fuel to run on. Any time you feel this one boiling to the surface, let it go.
This one should receive a simple “don’t say it.” Divorce is a reality for over 50% of American marriages. It’s not a word to toss around, angry or not, and is often a quick escape route from an argument. If you have reached this level of anger in a conflict with your spouse, take a break. Remember, we can’t take back what we say. The damage has been done. The “D” word may as well spell “danger.” You know that you don’t mean it when you use the word ‘divorce’ during an argument, but your spouse doesn’t. They could really take it to heart and they may worry that you’ve decided to hire a divorce attorney without even talking about your marital concerns to them first. This could cause more trouble than just walking away from the argument in the first place. Make every effort you can to not say this word to your spouse!
It can be hard to apologize. Some people are more stubborn than others. But when you do apologize, leave it at “I’m sorry.” If you add the word “but” with any explanation, valid or not, it negates any form of apology that preceded it. Apologies should be sincere, and if you’re not done sharing your feelings, then don’t apologize!
None of us want to live under a microscope, and most of us are well aware of our wrongdoings without them being pointed out at every turn. “This is why you’re so stressed.” “This is why you don’t finish anything.” These are toxic, demeaning phrases, and they’re typically a reminder of a source of shame in your spouse’s life. Using them puts you in a place of inferiority, and can make you come across as a know-it-all.
Instead of inferring that you have all of the answers, ask your spouse what their source of frustration or insecurity might be, and how you can help. This keeps you on the same team, as opposed to causing separation. The simple truth is, you may not know why. Ask and assume the best. It will be a sweet and even surprising way to approach a source of frustration.
This one is for guys, mostly. News flash! Men and women are different, but it doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Men, your wife may appear to be acting crazy, and she certainly may even know it, but let’s stop pointing it out. It is most certainly an attack, and it could escalate an argument to a place it never needed to go.
Men, you are meant to be the stronger vessel in your marriages. If your wife is acting in a way that appears crazy, let us suggest that it could be a result of your actions. Take the high road. Choose to love your wife in these moments, even if you don’t understand.
Have you ever found yourself using these phrases? It’s likely that you have, but you don’t have to continue patterns of destruction. The good news is, you have a choice from now on to cut these out and to replace them with constructive and loving communication. Life is too short and marriage is too important! Love your spouse with the way you address them. Use your words to build up and not to tear down. Start today!
By Joe Carter
Making New Years’ resolution is one of my favorite end-of-year activities. Every year I’m encouraged by the idea that in a mere 12 months I will have become a (marginally) better person. But every year I’m unable to keep the resolve in my resolutions for more than a few months. I’ve tried to be more persistent (Resolution #12 – 1988), develop more willpower (Resolution #9 – 1993), and even “resolved” to keep my resolutions (Resolution #1 – 1998). Nothing ever seems to be effective.
This year I’m trying something different. Instead of just making new resolutions, I intend to make new habits.
Think back over your day’s activities. Did you pray or read your Bible? Did you have a snack before lunch or dinner? Did you check you email or social media after receiving a notification on your smartphone?
While these activities may not appear to have much in common they all share a common feature: they are usually done out of habit.
A habit is a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior acquired through frequent repetition. Habits, whether good or bad, are behavior or practices that have become so ingrained they are often done without conscious thought. If we seek out a vending machine at 3 pm it’s likely because we have developed a habit of having a mid-afternoon snack. If someone were to confront us and ask why we were buying a cookie and soda we’d say that we were hungry. But the truth is we are simply re-enacting a pattern of behavior that has become ingrained in our daily routine.
Habits drive our behavior, which in turn forms our character. No one wakes up one day to find they’ve suddenly developed either an immoral or a godly character. It is through habits of rebelliousness against God that we become “slaves to sin” and through habits of obedience and obeying from our heart the “pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance” that we become “slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:15-18).
Our character is shaped by the responses we make to thousands of decisions over the course of our lives. Most of the time we respond without consciously thinking about how to act. We tell the truth because we’ve made a habit of truth-telling. Over time we become honest and trustworthy because the habit of truth-telling has become engrained in our character.
Because of the role habits play in spiritual growth (or spiritual degeneration), it’s important to understand how they work, how they’re formed, and how positive habits can be created.
Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. God designed our brains to automate mundane and rote tasks (such as walking) in order that we might have more mental energy to spend on spiritual or cultural tasks (such as worship or creating songs).
Every habit starts with a behavioral pattern called a “habit loop,” which consists of a cue, routine, and reward. The cue is a type of trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and begin the routine, which is the behavior itself. The final step is the reward, an internal or external stimulus that satisfies your brain and helps it remember the habit loop.
Consider, for example, one of the most frequently practiced habits of personal hygiene. As you prepare to go to bed at night (this is the cue) your brain reminds you to brush your teeth (this is the routine). The fresh, clean feeling that results provides a positive experience (this is the reward).
If you forget to follow this routine, you may find your brain sending you a reminder or a signal that something is wrong (usually after you’re comfortably warm and snug in bed). This is because habits satisfy a neurological craving — our brains look forward to the sense of fulfillment that comes with completing the routine. This is also why it becomes so hard to not check our email when we receive a notification. Even if we know the email is something that can be handled at a later time, our brains want us to “close the loop” by completing our habitual routine.
To create a new virtuous habit, apply the following four steps:
Identify the habit loop — The new pattern of behavior you want to create, such as one based on a resolution, will consist of the habit loop: a cue, a routine, and the reward. Take a few minutes to think through and write down the details of each part of the loop. For our example let’s use the habit of a daily devotional reading. To set up the routine — the main action of the habit, such as actually reading the devotional — we’ll need to identify the materials that are needed (e.g., access to a Bible and the devotional material) and establish a time in which we can consistently carry out the habit loop (e.g., in the morning, before work).
The more you understand the habit loop you are creating, the easier it will be to identify any problems that might prevent you from making it a habitual behavior.
Isolate the cue — Cues are signals that tell us to begin the habit routine. In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg says research has shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories: location, time, “emotional state”, “other people”, and “immediately preceding action.” Choose a cue for your habit loop that takes advantage of as many of these categories as possible. For instance, our cue could be pulling into the parking lot at work (location and immediately preceding action) at 8:40 am (time) when we are relieved to be out of traffic (emotional state) and when no one else is around (other people).
Create a reward — When creating a virtuous habit, the reward stage can be the most difficult step of the habit loop. Why should we be rewarded for doing something we should be doing anyway? And isn’t the habit — such as our devotional reading — a reward in itself? It’s understandable that you may feel guilty about creating a reward for developing a good habit. But keep in mind that you are not rewarding yourselffor doing the right thing, you’re training your brain to create a neurological craving. If we have a “reward” (such as eating a small piece of candy) after reading a devotional it isn’t to actually reward us for our accomplishment; it’s merely a way to directly affect how our brain will respond to the habit loop.
Plan and evaluate — The reason habits are difficult to consciously create is because they have not yet become a habit. It’s the conscious part—making sure your brain is actively focused on the habit loop—that becomes the stumbling block.
For the habit loop to become an ingrained habit requires effort and persistence. You need a plan that outlines how you’ll handle obstacles and what you’ll do when you miss your schedule and need to get back on track. Similarly, you’ll need to continuously evaluate your habit loop to ensure you have effective cues and rewards.
On their own, resolutions can be a helpful tool. But by combining them with habits you can create a powerful means for transforming your character and helping you to live a more godly life.
Take a listen to this hour long podcast Getting Through Grief Together. David and Nancy Guthrie take the listener through the grief process and the strength that comes through going through grief with a helpful person.
If you would like to find help in your time of grief, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to set up an appointment with a counselor or coach.