Ah, September! This is the time of year I associate with renewal more than the traditional new calendar year. Along with new pencils, new classes and teachers, and a blank slate from schooling years, fall opens me to new possibilities, including developing a new habit or two.
Habits are things we generally associate with a behavior that we want to have fade out, rather than something positive we’d like to add in to our life. Sometimes habits are patterns, and patterns are something we influence consciously (or unconsciously) in our Trager® sessions. Being more conscious of how we facilitate new habits and patterns will serve our clients well.
I’m currently reading Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything, by BJ Fogg. I find his ideas applicable to my personal life, my work as a PT, and as a Trager practitioner, Tutor and Teacher. BJ bases his writing in behavioral science, and writes in a very accessible way. He provides just enough detail in his models and methods, and supports them with great examples with real situations. It is easy to remember the ABC’s of Anchor, Behavior, and Celebrate!
Here’s how I see BJ’s ideas connecting to Trager.
We explore with our clients the situations, places, activities that are already in place, that are routine. I am listening for habits, the anchors that might be appropriate for attaching a new behavior. I find that the anchor needs to be something that is already happening 3-5 times a day. With my clients and in my personal experience, this affords more opportunities to practice, and makes it more likely that the new behavior will become more habitual. The anchor acts like a prompt for the new behavior. For example the anchor could be brushing teeth, washing dishes, checking email, etc. The key is for it to be something that is consistent from day to day.
Attaching new habits to existing behavioral anchors is important for recall, because our brains are associative in nature.
Clients often find a movement, a feeling, or a question (with our guidance) that they would like to integrate into their life. It could be a new movement quality with a direct application to something the client already does, or a more generic question along the lines of “what could be easier?” The key is for the new behavior to be tiny and not overwhelming.
I find Mentastics movements and associated questions (eg what could be lighter?) to be tiny and manageable for all clients. Clients attach the new behavior to the anchor, allowing the brain to connect the anchor and the behavior together many times until this too becomes habitual.
I suggest to clients that they acknowledge the times they succeed in remembering to attach the new behavior to the anchor, rather than getting down on themselves for the times they forget. The celebration could be as simple as saying “I did it!” or “I remembered!”
Acknowledging is celebratory, and this releases dopamine, a great feel-good substance. Dopamine, as a neurotransmitter, is involved in the reward circuit in the brain. Even anticipating a reward can increase dopamine. More dopamine creates even more motivation for changing behavior. Clients love knowing that there is a biochemical reason for congratulating themselves!
I find that clients enjoy learning more about their bodies, and when they know the “why” they are more engaged and consistent with integrating suggestions. And when clients know more of the “why” they are better at telling others about Trager. Voila! Self-development becomes marketing! Do you feel confident sharing the “why”, the anatomical and physiologic information with your clients?
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Getting back to Tiny Habits, Tragerology incorporates another key point BJ makes, that of finding your tribe, or having an accountability partner for your desired behavior. Tragerology provides continuous support for your learning by bringing you to a community of learners. There are ample opportunities for you to apply and integrate what you learn. Each member of Tragerology participates to the degree that works in the context of their life. I honor each person’s choice.