Monday, February 06, 2012

The New Three Rs

I'm no traditionalist, but I do believe in the New Three Rs.

That is, the  New Three Rs  which I see as most relevant to  flourishing and the art of living, namely

  • Repetition
  • Reminders  and
  • Rituals

 The  New  Three Rs can help you develop any practice which would help you live better, including :-

  • Eating more healthily
  • Drinking more healthily
  • Exercise and fitness
  • Yoga
  • Meditating 
  • Having a daily period for reflection
  • Planning
  • Problem-solving
  • Spending quality time with people you value
  • Doing any important but not urgent activity (i.e in Stephen Covey's quadrant 2)
  • Prayer
  • Reading for fun

So how can you learn and live the New Three 3s?

1) Repetition. 

Image result for repetition
Repetition of the same thought or physical action develops into a habit which, repeated frequently enough, becomes an automatic reflex. – Norman Vincent Peale

New practices have to be repeated to become habits. They need to be done regularly to become part of your routine, and many things in the above list need to be done repeatedly to have a lasting effect. For example, meditating once may be quite a nice experience but it will only  make a significant difference when you get into the habit of meditating regularly, if only for a few minutes a day.

2) Reminders. 

Image result for reminders fridge

"People  more frequently require to be reminded than informed.” ― Samuel JohnsonThe Rambler

Remember  the old joke about the man with a knot in his handkerchief who can't remember what he's supposed to remember?
So what  reminder can be more effective for you ? 

Here's a result of brainstorming some more modern a  "knots in the handkerchief"

  •   E-mail to yourself, 
  •   Notice on the fridge, 
  •   A message on your home page on your phone, tablet or computer,
  •    Something scribbled on your hand,
  •    Asking a friend to keep tabs on you. 

Personally I wouldnt go so far as writer Jules Evans who got a Stoic tattoo to remind him of what is important, but that's up to you!

For example: If you want to remember to meditate everyday for 5 minutes
after cleaning your teeth, a note by the toothbrush  might be in order.  At night, a book on meditatons by your bedside. You can also use modern technology - I use memotome which is a free service which allows you to set up reminders at any time, any day and receive an e-mail

3. Rituals

This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don't have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn't have the specific ritual you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet.”― Elizabeth GilbertEat, Pray, Love
Religion does rituals rather well, as Alain de Botton  argues in Religion for Atheists 
But we all have our non-religious "rituals"and they can be very positive. Brushing your teeth is something you  probably do twice a day - you dont even have to think about doing it, because it's established itself as a daily ritual. So why not establish new rituals that can help you and those your care about flourish? What new rituals might help you get into habits that help you flourish?

So that's what I mean when I ask my students and clients to remember the New 3Rs.
So what were they again - that's right -
           Repetition, reminders and rituals.
           Repetition, reminders and rituals.
           Repetition, reminders and rituals.

Have a great day

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Experiments in Living

I've posted an article on my cognitive therapy blog about how to design behavioural experiments for clients.
But why restrict their benefits to CBT clients? The basic idea is simple
Don't assume, test it out
I think there are two main categories of assumptions we often make that don't do us any favours.

1) Habits we unconsciously repeat

2) Assumptions about other people

Let's look at both of these in turn and how you can conduct helpful experiments in living without going anywhere near a therapist.

How much do we live on autopilot, without really evaluating whether its conducive to our flourishing? Here is a random list of such activities that you might do

  • getting up at a particular time each day
  • what you eat, drink and consume in other ways
  • when you eat
  • what route you take to work
  • who you speak to
  • whether you smile
  • how you react when someone makes you angry
  • how much encouragement you give people
  • how much time you devote to relaxation
  • how much time you devote to personal development
  • how much television you watch
  • how much radio you listen to
  • which books you read and when
The list could go on. My challenge is for you to try out an experiment in living today.  Identify one habit that you think may not be working out so well for you - and test out whether an alternative works better. For example, if you think you don't listen to the radio enough - make a point of listening to it today. If you think you would like to try getting up earlier - do so- and record the results. 

Let's now look at the assumptions we make about other people
  • what other people think about us
  • whether we have upset people
  • which other people we can help
  • which other people will enrich our lives
  • why other people are behaving in the way they are
How much do these assumptions rule our lives, without us even bothering to check them out?
Why not think about an assumption about other people you make that may be inaccurate, and make a point of checking it out.
I've just been reading  some behavioural experiments done on themselves by some students in a CBT course I am giving and am struck by how much they have benefited by carrying out  some simple, easy experiments.

Don't assume, test it out