So you have been doing very well with your exercise routine. For the past six months you have completed a “couch to 5K” program and since then you have implemented 4-5 workouts per week that involve a mix of cardio and strength training. You are on your way and it is getting easier to adapt to your new lifestyle with each passing week. Accept when you don’t because sometimes you won’t, as Dr. Seuss kindly reminds us we will end up in a slump.  He delivers a dose of reality in reminding us that “unslumping yourself is not easily done.”

Slumps are known in the mental health field as behavioral drift, regression, or lapse. When we don’t recognize behavioral drift as a normal part of the change process we are more likely to remain in a slump, which leads to fully reliving our former, less healthy behavior patterns long-term. Drift tends to set in gradually, so it can be hard to notice until it has occurred for some time. Knowledge about behavioral drift can help you catch it early, before old patterns become entrenched.

Our brains are hard-wired to seek the path of least resistance and stay with what is familiar, even if the familiar behavior is unhealthy. Criticizing ourselves or failing to believe in our ability to change will only make us feel worse for experiencing a normal process when we drift away from a new change. When we expect drift to occur, we can more readily focus on the barriers that threw us off track, resolve those barriers and get back to making new changes permanent. Eventually, the brain learns to recognize new behavior patterns as familiar and it gets much easier to resist drift.

The principles of behavioral drift apply to the more benign needs in life (new time management plans) as well as the very serious (recovery from life threatening addiction). Don’t give up on yourself. Recognize drift for what it is, a normal part of the change process. Praise yourself for the progress you have made so far. Resolve barriers that created your drift, and get back on track!

At MHR and MPC, we understand that change is a process. Change is hard. Regressions are normal AND you can succeed. If you would like help working on needed change, call us today.

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