After reading a compelling blog about the 22 Habits of Unhappy People, the two of us spent the better part of our daily video chat talking about our own bad habits. I said, “You know, I think you could’ve been right more than 25 years ago….I think I might be happy and I’m just getting in my own way. Could it really be as easy as exchanging these bad “unhealthy” habits with the good “healthy” habits? Would we notice a measurable difference in the way we felt if we “kicked the habits”? Would we find a higher level of happiness?
We decided to give it a try and created “The Behavior Exchange Challenge”. For one full month we did our best to break every single “unhealthy habit” we owned up to. We enlisted our friends, our families and our blog readers to be our accountability buddies. We journaled our progress every day and so many of you followed along with us.
Concluding the Behavior Exchange Challenge, we wanted to let you know how we did and give you a recap. Are we happier? If you’re just finding this – it’s not too late….get started on your own 30 day challenge! Here’s the worksheet we started with: My Behavior Exchange Challenge
Lee’s Final Conclusions:
If I’da known a month and a half ago what I know now… Holy Smokes!
When Barb and I started putting The Behavior Exchange Challenge together, we had MANY long talks about the potential of getting rid of – or at least getting a grip on – negative habits that we both had that kept us from being as happy in our lives as we could be. When we decided to invite people to share our journey with us – and participate themselves – I was nervous. Nervous about showing my foibles and insecurities; nervous about sharing my progress; but in the end, this has been one of the most eye-opening, heart-filled, gratifying, self-healing experiences I’ve had in quite a while. Am I happier than I was on June 30th? My answer is a resounding YES!
What The Behavior Exchange Challenge helped me with was seeing what I wasn’t seeing before. When I became aware that my unhealthy habits:
- Worrying About the Future;
- Thinking/Talking Poorly About or to Others;
- letting Negative Thoughts Enter my Mind;
- Magnifying Situations;
- Negatively Self-Labeling;
- sometimes Worrying About what Others Might Think
stemmed from insecurities, the awareness allowed me the freedom to really dig into why I thought/acted/believed what I did. As the month progressed, I was able to head-off worrisome or negative thinking, realizing that my thoughts fed my emotions that would feed into more thoughts/panic/worry which would in turn ramp up my emotions even higher. I am learning to shut down the negative thoughts, which helps to control the emotions that ran rampant in the middle of the night or at high noon.
I have been sleeping well. I have learned to catch the negative thoughts and shut ’em down. I have learned to walk myself through a thought – or thoughts – calm myself, and determine what is and is not rational; what is and is not a true worry.
What I’ve learned is that so much of what makes us unhappy is of our own doing. Blaming another for your bad day is really not the other persons fault. It is, however, your choice whether you react to them (emotions on parade) or respond to them having clearly thought through the situation.
We can choose to be happy or not by the behaviors, emotions and thoughts we hold close. We can also learn to be friendly to ourselves – to treat ourselves as well as we treat others. After 31 days, I’m thankful we put it all out there during The Behavior Exchange Challenge. Life as I know it is happier, healthier, far less negative. Thank you for coming along on the journey.
Barbara’s Final Conclusions:
What a month! The concept of this challenge, for me, was to see if I could give myself a good long introspective look and hold a frank conversation with friends, family and readers about habits I may or may not be aware of holding onto….habits that could be keeping me from being a little bit happier. The Challenge: Could I set my mind to change those habits, and would I indeed be able to proclaim I had found a higher level of happiness by the end of the 30 day challenge period?
I have to tell you with all honesty, the answer is YES!
I’ve learned an awful lot in a very short amount of time. Although there were 22 habits we tackled during the Behavior Exchange Challenge – some of them were not really an issue – but it did create a question and lead to a little higher form of self awareness. That common thread that seemed to run through out the entire challenge was…quit your “stinkin thinkin”.
Thinking….This was my biggest barrier to my own happiness. I thought negatively about things, so I worried about them. I relied on a bad history to provide the information about situations, so I jumped to conclusions and thought the worse would always happen. I thought what everybody else was thinking was more important, so everybody and anybody could determine my happiness level.
We can be our own worst enemy – the things we conjure up in our heads help determine our own happiness level and sometimes it seems we are at war with our own happiness. The way we process information, the way we “live the moment” and the baggage we already carry around with us….it all determines the outcome of our ultimate goal.
In addition to these 22 habits, I found I also needed to change my vocabulary a little bit. I had to remove some words from my daily use. Hate, Never, Always, Should Have, Failure, Mistake, I can’t afford that, I don’t have time for that & No name calling (I’ll spare you the creative titles I have conjured up over the years).
I wrote a post a while back about the effects of being in a negative environment and how it can change you “This Hidden Messages in Water”. It was the Behavior Exchange Challenge that made me realize the damage to our own psyche, and our pursuit of happiness can be damaged internally as well. I’ve heard some people describe this exercise as “Fake it until you make it” and I don’t believe that for a second….In my mind it’s more like Behavior as if you were a happy person and the feeling will soon follow.
Happy August 1st, Barbara and Lee! Congratulations on completing the Behavior Exchange Challenge, and thanks for allowing us to come along for the ride.
It’s interesting to note that you have both come to the conclusion that it is our thinking that leads to how we feel. The best news about that concept is that we can CHOOSE and/or change our thoughts…which has a huge impact on how we feel.
That process is easier said than done. It requires courage, consciousness, commitment, communication and a desire and willingness to change. You have both exhibited ALL of these qualities and more…like vulnerability, transparency and perseverance.
May you both continue to enjoy the results of your efforts and continue to learn, grow and evolve as you continue down the path of Middle Sage!
Sue, I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your comments along our journey. They’ve been so insightful! You embody the reason Lee and I started to blog in the first place! I hope you’ll enjoy and participate in our August Theme! Everybody’s got a story!
It will be my pleasure to follow your August Theme!
As a counselor, I had the “privilege” to hear hundreds of pre-adolescent life stories…and now as a Hospice volunteer I have had the “privilege” to hear the stories of a couple of 90+ aged women. EveryONE has a story.
I very much look forward to “hearing” what you have to say on this subject!
Sue – thank you for following. Don’t forget you can also “play along” with us! We want people to know us and want to get to know others better, too. What a better way that conversation starter questions!
Sue – Thank you for a your insight and your support. It has been an eye and heart opening experience for us. Your generous and gracious comments are music to our ears! Thank you!
Though I didn’t real all your posts, I found the ones I did to be insightful. I’d like to go back and read the one about “worrying about what others think” – that can be a stumbling block for me. Thanks for sharing your journey. Good stuff there, ladies!
Pam Houghton recently posted…Anatomy of a tweet
Thanks for following our journey Pam! We sure did learn a lot….I think Sue (see her comment) hit the nail on the head. You have to approach life with courage, consciousness, commitment, communication and a desire and willingness to change. Or as Dr. Wayne Dyer talks about living with intention. I hope you’ll participate in our August theme…Everybody’s got a story!
Pam – thank you so much for following along. All the goodies will be there to read at your leisure. Thank you for spending a bit of time with us…both Barb and I appreciate your comments and support!