“Habits don’t change in a day, but 1% a day makes every habit work”
I told myself no more compulsions. No more rituals. No more paranoid thoughts or delusions. I’m done! I need my life back and nothing will stop me. I can do this. Better yet, I will do this. Goodbye mental illness. Hello new life!
This was my mental conversation only two months ago. I had spent the previous 4 months in bed; depressed and paranoid. I only left the house if I had someone to go with me and it usually was to get fast food. I had to leave my job as a law student, only 5 months away from my “promotion” to associate lawyer and on the road to a career in law. I had lost touch with all of my friends. I was overweight. I was tired. Life was rough.
I was about to move into a new place. I saw this as an opportunity to start fresh. I was also beginning a few new medications which I was hopeful would provide some relief from the symptoms. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I hated where I was in life and wanted a change. I truly did. The night before I moved I made a promise to myself that mental health would never have control over me again. It was gone from my life.
I should have known better. 1 and a half months later, very little changed, if anything. I was still isolating. I was still depressed. I was still doing hours and hours of daily rituals and compulsions. I still couldn’t work. And I still feared the world. I was stuck. I felt so strongly about changing my situation, how could I have made ZERO improvement?
“Practice never makes perfect. Practice makes happy. Practice makes habits” – James Altucher
On May 20th, about a week before starting this blog, I thought long and hard about this. I realized I made a mistake. I tried to go from zero to one hundred it one night. It was an unrealistic expectation. I was doomed to fail before even getting started.
The truth is that I have been suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder and schizoaffective disorder for 25 years! Day in and day out I have become an expert in rituals, compulsions, fears and delusions. I have my 10,000 hours, plus some! I have achieved full mastery of these disorders. The habits are formed.
It is an impossibility to think that after all this time of letting these disorders control my thoughts and actions that I will be able to rid myself of them in on night. No matter how badly I want them to leave. I realized I have to take a much more methodical approach to my treatment plan. It will take effort. It will take patience. Most importantly, it will take time.
My new plan is much different from the one I set out to achieve two months ago. I have made it my goal to improve my mental health (and my overall self for that matter) by 1% a day. That’s it. No more than that. If it is more, perfect, but I won’t worry too much about that. It may seem like a small amount, but in my opinion, that is a good thing! This will allow me to go through the hardship that needs to be taken on for real change to occur. No quick fixes.
The great thing about improving by 1% a day is its compounding effects on your life. 1% seems like nothing at all, but after a month, that’s a 30% improvement! Could you imagine a 30% improvement of your symptoms in only one month? Or after 3 months, a 90% improvement. Keep in mind when compounding 1% a day, it doubles every 72 days, not 100. that’s quite the improvement in a fairly short time frame. Compounding small improvements can create big breakthroughs.
So how do I improve my mental health 1% a day consistently? Here are only a few things I can do.
- Complete an exposure
- Complete at least 30 minutes of exercise
- Read an inspiring book or blog post
- Talk/reconnect with a friend
- Write down 3 things I am grateful for
- Journal about my day (usually done in 5 minutes)
- Eat one healthy meal
- Connect with other mental illness sufferers on twitter
- Write a blog article
- Meditate for 5 minutes
The list goes on. I could list many more, believe me. They may seem like only small things each day, but they add up. And that is the important thing. Remember, it is not my goal to do each of these things on the list, but at least one.
Not only does 1% improvement compound and have the ability to create big breakthroughs, but it also prevents us from getting 1% worse each day. I felt like I was consistently taking steps backwards over the last few years. I gained weight. I lost touch with friends. I stopped doing things I used to enjoy because of fears. I added more rituals and compulsions to my daily routine.
Lets stop taking steps back, and begin to take steps forward.
I know those of us who suffer from mental illness want our symptoms to disappear. To just be gone. I totally understand that. I’ve wanted that more times than I can count over the last 25 years. Especially over the last 5. That’s what I wanted again two months ago. It didn’t work.
Mental illness is tricky. It is a pain. It needs to be chipped away at until we can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. More often than not, it will take time to have relief from our symptoms. By improving 1% a day (or week, month, etc. whatever pace works best for you), we can begin to take those steps to improvement TODAY and start to embrace the relief we so badly want.
I’ve begun my 1% a day improvement journey. It has been successful so far. My improvement in just two weeks is far ahead of where I was after 1.5 months previously. I look forward to seeing where I will end up months from now. I am truly enjoying the process and look forward to improving each day, bit by bit.