Tag Archives: goals

What is Creative Hopelessness?


In past blog posts, we’ve talked about how to use mindfulness and acceptance to cope with uncomfortable thoughts, sensations and emotions. The take-away message is that in order to avoid unnecessary suffering, we must let go of any ideas about the way we wished things could be and instead accept the way that we are in the present moment. Once we accept our reality without judgement, we are better able to see things for what they are. This allows us to shift the behaviors that we control and take steps towards the fulfillment of our goals and values. 

 “Creative hopelessness” is tool used to promote acceptance by encouraging people reflect upon what they have been avoiding in their lives in their efforts to avoid distress. The logic behind this focuses on the theory that these avoidance behaviors make pain and suffering worse over time. For instance, not taking part in meaningful activities can trigger depression and anxiety, which makes pain and distress feel more severe. The heightened pain and distress then further decrease motivation to engage in activities. This cycle can be powerful, leading many people to believe that they have to wait until their unpleasant life circumstances go away before taking steps toward fulfillment. 
 
If you have ever been caught this trap, thinking “I’ll start [positive goal] when [unpleasant current circumstance ends]”, creative hopelessness could be useful for you. The important thing to remember is not to conflate feelings like “anxiety” or “sorrow” with “suffering.” Equating uncomfortable emotions with suffering can easily make us feel tortured by those emotions. Consistent anguish and torment will ignite the hopelessness that adds fuel to the cycle of avoidance and misery. 
 
Creative hopelessness encourages the use of acceptance to acknowledge struggles for what they are. It goes a step further by asking the questions: “What you would do if your struggle never goes away? How would you live your life differently?” Chances are, you would find ways to take steps toward whatever bring you joy and purpose, even if you have to bring sadness or anxiety along for the journey.   
To practice this yourself, think about your goals (or learn about how to set effective goals). Ask yourself what avoidance behaviors have prevented or slowed down your progress toward these goals, and what that avoidance has cost you. Then, make necessary adjustments to those goals by accepting what you cannot control and identifying what behaviors you do have control over. Although it may not be the path you initially envisioned, getting “creative” with hopelessness can be a powerful tool in helping you decide what path you were meant to travel.
 
Carolyn Moriarty, LPC

How to Make and Break Habits

Humans are creatures of habit. There are certain things we do every day that give our lives order. Having some type of routine is considered healthy because it can help us with time-management and provide structure to an otherwise chaotic day. However, this adherence can also mean that we mindlessly continue to engage in unhealthy behaviors while avoiding more beneficial habits. Alternatively, we may have tried to “kick” bad habits multiple times without success. So what does it really take to make and break habits for good? 

The 21-Day Rule 
You may have heard about the “21-day rule”, which proclaims that it takes a minimum of 21 days for an old habit to dissolve and a new one to take root. This makes sense, since the more often you do something, the more likely it is that you will continue to do it—that is exactly what it means to have a “habit”. The next time you are tying to implement a new behavior, or get rid of an old one, try to do it for at least 21 days before considering whether it is a realistic change for you to make at this time.  

Make Modifications 
It is easier to break bad habits if you replace them with something positive or neutral instead of quitting them cold turkey. For example, rather than cut out soda completely, you can replace it with seltzer water or another carbonated beverage. If you want to get into the habit or running, you could start out by taking short walks or jogs.

Focus on Improvement 
When it comes to changing habits, it is helpful to think about the process, rather than the outcome. A good way to do this is to focus on ways to improve your life. For instance, if you ate avoiding junk food, focus instead on how this can be used an opportunity to you to teach yourself how to cook yourself healthy meals.

The important thing to remember is that there is no guaranteed way to beat a habit. Habits are by definition rigid and consistent. It will take time, motivation and self-awareness before new behaviors become your new norm. So don’t feel like a failure if it takes you 22 days, or two months or one year to change a behavior. Once you have changed it, chances are that it will stay that way for the long-term. 

– Carolyn Moriarty, LPC