Building Bridges

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A new year full of promise for fresh beginnings has just peeked its rays over the horizon. But change is hard. Unhealthy thought patterns habits surroundings and relationships are like harmful weeds which can get in the way of a fresh start. Changing these patterns and building new bridges is not simple.

How can we learn to identify behavior that’s inhibiting our growth? How do we break away from negative thoughts and behavior patterns? Here are some tips and inspiring true stories from individuals just like you who found the strength and the means to break away from bad habits and grow.

Identify the Negative Behavior

“One of the first steps is learning to recognize why a specific set of thoughts behaviors or habits is not good for you ” says psychotherapist Lena Shore Coordinator of The Place The Jerusalem Center for Emotional Well-Being. In one example Shaindy Tober* first had to recognize what was unhealthy about her relationship with a mentor before she could take appropriate action. “I knew that something was ‘off’ when she started pushing my personal boundaries in a way that made me feel uncomfortable ” says Shaindy. “Once I identified those negative feelings I was able to contact a rav who helped me take the steps to separate myself from the relationship. In my personal situation writing a powerful letter to my former mentor helped to sever the ties.”

Children’s-book author Bracha Goetz began her life-changing transformation from a secular lifestyle toward Yiddishkeit as a teenager. She understood that some of her friends and family were discouraging her from reaching her goals. “I knew that I had to make a clean and dramatic break away from the relationships that were pulling me away from what my soul craved ” says Bracha.

How do we come to realize if and when a relationship is toxic? “Ask yourself how you feel about your situation ” says Lena. “It may help to keep a journal to write down your feelings. Self-help questionnaires can also help give you an idea if something isn’t quite right. For example when gauging a friendship you can ask yourself am I totally comfortable about my friendship? What makes a relationship healthy or not? In fact asking yourself how you feel about your shopping habits eating habits or any other behavior can help you come to these conclusions on your own.”


Understand Your Motivation

Behaviors don’t occur in a vacuum. “They are internally motivated” says Lena. “Understanding the motivation behind your behavior is another major step toward creating change.” Quite often the origin is stress related Lena advises. Just picture yourself freaking out the day before a major test. Automatically you turn to the pantry in a frantic search for a chocolate bar. Learning how to better cope with stress can help eliminate some of our undesirable habits. Other common motivations behind maladaptive behaviors might be the desire to be accepted by peers or to establish a firmer sense of self-confidence. In any case once we identify the reasoning behind our behaviors we can learn healthier ways to meet those deeper needs. (Excerpted from Teen Pages Issue 685)

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