How People Change

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A new year means new opportunities for change. What is it about the calendar year moving up a number that makes us think more about eliminating or adopting new habits/behaviors - "New Year's Resolutions"? Change can be hard. Natasha Painter, New Vista's Clinician Educator, helps explain why. This episode looks into how people change, providing helpful steps and resources to make the change you hope to see in your life a reality. Remember to be gracious and patient with yourself. And if you need a professional cheerleader, New Vista is here to help you!


Kevin Wallace 0:12 Hey folks, welcome to The Good Ahead Podcast where we host conversations in the areas of mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. I'm your host, Kevin Wallace with New Vista. Today we're discussing how people change. I got to talk with New Vista's wonderful clinician, educator, Natasha Painter. We got to take a deep dive into the Stages of Change, SMART goals and helpful strategies and tools that can help you in your own journey of change. Let's start by saying this: change isn't easy. It takes practice and oftentimes a lot of grace for yourself in the process. This episode is here to serve you in making your own changes to live your best life. So thank you so much for joining us, and I hope you enjoy. Well, welcome in with us, today, we have a very exciting episode. And one that I I'm super stoked to get to talk more in depth about of just how we change. And we have with us today, Natasha Painter, the clinician educator for New Vista. So welcome, Natasha.

Natasha Painter 1:34 Thank you, I'm really excited to be here today.

Kevin Wallace 1:36 And if you want to just start off by telling us what a clinician educator is, I would love to hear why you are suitable to be the person to talk to us about how we can change our behaviors and habits.

Natasha Painter 1:50 Yes. So basically, I started out as an intern, and then became a clinician. And the only difference between a clinician and a clinician educator is that I still see clients, but part of my time is spent supervising other clinicians to help them grow as therapists, and then a piece of it is also training. So I'm going through and teaching people different skills, different techniques, and all that good stuff. So that's really what a clinician educator is; a lot more outreach, a lot more community involvement than what like the average clinician would do.

Kevin Wallace 2:25 Yeah, well, this is a great avenue, this podcast to kind of educate us so that our audience, fellow employees, and new VISTA and anyone else who is interested in listening to mental health resources, Intellectual and Developmental resources, substance use, we can cover all those things. But today, we're covering how we change it. At New Vista, we're passionate about seeing the good ahead. And so this episode, I think, will serve our audience really well in setting some some good tangible steps as we launched into a new year. So why is it that we we seem to be so open to change when the calendar goes up in in number? So we're about to hit this new year, why are we so open to changing habits or starting new practices?

Natasha Painter 3:21 Well, I think that in a normal year, like before, 2020, prior to all the COVID, and mandates and vaccines, and maybe even prior to all the political stuff that's out there now, people still wanted to change. Like, this isn't something that just has been born out of the pandemic, like this is something that has been going on for like probably since year one like, and a new year equals a fresh start, right? So it's the changes that we don't have control over that we're having to change what we write down on paper, it's no longer 2021. It's 2022 now. It's a brand new year. It's a brand new time, it's a brand new opportunity. So lots of things rollover, and lots of things are starting over. And so I think that that gives us the idea that this is the perfect time to make a change. And it's because it's a brand new year. It's a fresh new start.

Kevin Wallace 4:21 Totally. And I think we can't move on without acknowledging how hard change is.

Natasha Painter 4:29 Yes.

Kevin Wallace 4:30 There's a very interesting statistic here. pretty jarring that, according to US News and World Report, the failure rate for New Year's resolution is said to be about 80% and most lose their ressolve by mid February. So it's it's pretty clear that through that statistic, that change is not something that just naturally come to us, at least maybe in our older years, older stages of life. And so why is it that change is so hard? Why is it that that statistic is so high that 80% of us actually don't stick with the, the the resolution that we're trying to make at the beginning of the year?

Natasha Painter 5:23 Yeah, I mean, we start out as infants craving structure, like we, that's why our parents put us on a schedule, like we go to bed at the same time, we eat at the same time. And as humans we're really, really drawn to that structure. Because it is that we know what's next. And we don't like the unknown, our brains do not like the unknown. So even though we may really, really want change, there's always that piece of us that is afraid of change, like we're afraid of what that might look like, if we do take the steps forward, and change something about our behaviors, our lives. And it's also really hard, I think, a lot of times, specifically to New Year's resolutions, because we it's this big buildup all December, and we're really excited about this change. And on New Year's Eve, we're gonna like set the plan and in motion, and the first we're gonna start going to the gym, we're gonna start eating healthy. And I think we build it up too much. And then we take too huge of a leap. Yeah. So in, we start telling ourselves, Well, I'm going to go to the gym every single day. And those types of changes is just too too much for us to handle. And so we burn out really quickly.

Kevin Wallace 6:43 So true. Yeah. And it's easy to, gosh, we build up how good a change can be for our lives. But then we, when we get into the nitty gritty part of changing, it doesn't always it actually rarely feels good. And it rarely feels like it's producing the kind of change that you want later on down the road. Like it takes a lot of hard work. And so I I even see it in my own life, it's it's really hard to start something new, like I'm trying to start running right now. And it is incredibly difficult. I mean, I've had all sorts of breathing problems, as I've grown older, just with asthma and a bunch of other like anxiety stuff. But having having to go out and actually run or set aside time in your, in your schedule, to do something that isn't actually exciting to do in every moment of every, every time that you do it., to be able to stick to it when you don't feel like it, is really hard.

Natasha Painter 7:56 It is it is extremely difficult. And I think a lot of people struggle with motivation just naturally, because we have we go through these steps and our lives are kind of like the way that they are, we have that structure, we have that routine. And then when we try to throw a wrench in it, our body's like, No, I don't want to do this.

Kevin Wallace 8:16 It's it's like it's not just a mental thing, but it's like a like it's an embodied thing. Like we feel it in our in our body, how difficult it is to train every part of us to be on board with the idea of change.

Natasha Painter 8:32 Yeah. And we're our own worst critics. Yes. Like, we are so hard on ourselves, much harder than we are on anybody else. A friend says, you know, I really started running and I just can't get into the groove of it. You're gonna say, well, that's okay. Just keep trying. But if we're trying to start running, and we're the ones skipping days, where we consider ourselves like, oh, well, we fail. Yeah. So we're a lot harder on ourselves. And we set a lot higher expectations for ourselves. So we expect to, like I hear a lot of people like clients that I work with want to lose weight, they want to lose like 50 pounds in a month. And it's like, that's not that's not reasonable, that's not achievable. And so they start dieting, and I'm guilty of this myself, because I've always been, I've always wanted to start eating healthy and exercising more. But after so long, when you don't see the results that you're looking for, then it makes it really hard to stay motivated to continue with that change. And that's why SMART goals are so important. And with New Vista, when you work with a therapist, you're working on a SMART goal. It has to be specific. So you can't say well, I just want to lose weight. Yeah. Okay, well, how much weight do you want to lose? How much time do you want to give yourself? It has to be measurable. Again, there's that that timeframe and that number

Kevin Wallace 10:00 This is going through the acronym SMART. Right? Okay, so what was the first one that was specific? Specific? Okay, and then we got measurable. Okay. And then what's the what's the next one,

Natasha Painter 10:12 And then the next one is achievable. And that's the one that a lot of people really struggle with, because they want to see these changes right now. They want to see them yesterday. And it's not, it's not exactly like you said, it's, it's just not doable. And so you want to make the goal, something that you can achieve. If you don't have if you work till six o'clock every day 6pm, then you're not probably not going to be running around in your neighborhood. After that it's dark, you're not going to want to, your brain's already started producing melatonin to make you sleepy. I mean, it's just not doable. And so you got to kind of readjust what that looks like and readjust what is achievable to you. Oh, maybe I'll just get up earlier. For me, I'm not going to get up earlier. I know that about myself. And so that may mean, buying a exercise, treadmill. Yeah. So it's really just about being specific, being able to measure your success and measuring, yeah, sometimes that means changing what you measure. That may not be the weight that you measure, because we know now like sometimes the weight doesn't even matter, right? It can be how many inches you lose, because you lose inches a lot faster than you lose pounds. So it's really just taking a look at that. And then there's relevant obviously, you want your goal to be relevant to your values and what you want to see. If being healthy is important to me, then it would make sense that losing weight would be a relevant goal. But if I'm happy with my body, and I'm content with it, then losing weight mine may not be and if I'm already healthy, because also weight isn't directly associated with health. Yes. And then the last one is timeframes. So you want to make sure that you give yourself a specific amount of time to reach that goal. But also like being okay with the fact that you may not reach that goal in that time frame. And then giving yourself some grace.

Kevin Wallace 12:22 Definitely. And I feel like milestones are really important in this too, like you've got an end goal in mind. But that end goal might be something that takes a long time, which is why we're talking about timeframe is really important. And something to help you with that measurement tool can be the milestones like week, after week, or month, whatever it is, you'll be hitting certain milestones in order to, to show you that that you are making progress towards the goal, though it's not your you're not arriving at the goal just yet. You're able to look back and and see, okay, um, I'm not there yet. But I'm, I'm slowly progressing towards this end goal in mind.

Natasha Painter 13:10 Absolutely. And we usually will always when we're working with clients at New Vista, like when we're using the SMART goals, and we're going through it like we try to guide them to a goal that is smaller, because what happens is you reached that smaller goal, and that gives you the motivation and it gives you that like good feeling, which motivates you to continue on to the next step and then the next step and then the next step. It's a I do this a lot with clients who experienced depression, it's behavioral activation, you break down the steps. So instead of saying, I'm going to go take a shower, which may be to someone who's depressed an impossible task, you give yourself the goal of, I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna put my hair up in a ponytail first. Yeah. And then once you reached that goal, it gives you a little bit of motivation to get your clothes ready, like lay your clothes out. And then it gets you ready for the next step, which is maybe turning the water on.

Kevin Wallace 14:22 This break in the conversation is a reminder that The Good Ahead podcast is brought to you by New Vista. New Vista is a community mental health center caring for Central Kentucky communities in the areas of mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. If you want to know more about New Vista services, call our 24-Hour Helpline at 1.800.928.8000 or visit our website at Let's also talk about the stages of change. So help us out Natasha, help us understand the progression that we have to go go through and understanding how we can change our behavior or implement a new habit or whatever it may be for this new year. How can we how can we build a healthy framework for approaching this new year, and setting ourselves up for success in in these new habits or change?

Natasha Painter 15:24 Absolutely, like, anytime you want to make a change in your life, it doesn't matter what that change is, it can be getting a new job or losing weight, quitting smoking, it could be being happier overall, being less anxious. The first thing that you have to realize about yourself is that what stage of change am I in? And working with a therapist, it like, that's what we do. We help you figure out what stage you're in and help you go through those stages. The first stage is that pre contemplative stage. I used to smoke. I am I quit in August, actually. So that's a change I made for myself. But I used to smoke. But when I was in that pre contemplative stage, my thought was, it's not it's not really bothering me, it's not a big deal. Nobody cares. I don't need to quit. So that's kind of like that pre contemplative stage, you don't think that there's a problem, so you don't make any steps to change anything. And then you get to that contemplative stage where, Well, you know, it's getting kind of hard to walk up steps and breathing is a little bit difficult. Maybe I'll quit within the next six months. Maybe not now. But yeah, but maybe that's something that's on the horizon. I know it's a problem. So maybe I'll start working towards that.

Kevin Wallace 16:48 You're kind of recognizing that maybe this is something that needs to change eventually. And it doesn't have to happen right now, but you got to start, you start thinking about, Okay, this is something that I would want to change, or would like to see different.

Natasha Painter 17:02 Absolutely. And maybe not now. And that's okay, if you don't want to work on it right now. Just recognizing that that's the stage of change area.

Kevin Wallace 17:10 Yeah. And sometimes I mean, life, situationally doesn't provide the kind of space for those kinds of new behaviors, which is just because how, maybe you're in a really busy stage of life, and you've got a lot going on already. You don't want to spread yourself too thin, or overwhelm yourself too much, or even put up some kind of new distraction to take your attention away from something that you should be focusing on, for your own mental health and well being. So there's not always space in your life, for you to invite a new habit or to try to break something off.

Natasha Painter 17:54 Absolutely. And it's really difficult. And that's another reason why sometimes people I don't want to say fail at making the change, but they don't follow through. And it's because they try to make a bunch of changes at once. And I am so guilty of that, like I at one point in time, within the same week, tried to start running every day, started lowering my sugar intake and eating healthier. I think I started intermittent fasting at that point. And then I tried to quit smoking all at the same time. And that did not end well.

Kevin Wallace 18:28 That's a lot going on for anybody. Yeah, I'm an idealist to a fault as well. So if there are things in my life that unlike, I'd love to see this be different. And I can just overwhelm myself really quick with new behaviors and habits and try to implement those all at the same time, like you were talking about. And it just does not work out very well.

Natasha Painter 18:55 No, it does. Which, if you're if you're working with a therapist, like if somebody wanted to work with a therapist, that they would help you stay on track with that, one thing at a time, then we'll move on to the next thing.

Kevin Wallace 19:06 Okay well, what's what's the next step in this in this process? I think we just wrapped up the the contemplative.

Natasha Painter 19:13 Yeah, so once you get to the preparation stages, the third stage, that's more of you know what, I'm going to start making a change. So you start calling you call New Vista and schedule an appointment with a therapist, you start making a list of healthy foods that you can eat, you talk to your doctor about an exercise program, so you're putting those plans into place. Excellent. And then the next stage after that is that action stage. And so the action stage is when you're actively doing it like you are putting your shoes on and going outside and you are running every day or every three days or whatever, you're putting that action in the place. The then there goes you go into the maintenance stage. So after after you've made this change, and you've been doing it for like four to six months, and then it just come in and becomes habit, and then you're just maintaining that change. Now, there's another stage that we talk about whenever, specifically when we're talking with clients. And that's the relapse stage. Because life is hard, and life is unpredictable. And so sometimes we do go back to those old habits. And I have quit smoking four times in the past six years. And I find myself sometimes thinking, Well, you know, just one won't hurt, right? One isn't a big deal. Yeah. And it is. So it is being able to prepare for that and being able to recognize when you're falling back into those behaviors,

Kevin Wallace 20:51 Yeah. How do you? How do you move through that and give yourself grace for if and when that does happen?

Natasha Painter 20:59 Well, definitely recognizing that we are human. And it took us how many years for me 30 years to get to where I am now, it's going to take less than it's going to take a lot more than six months to break that old habit that took 30 years to develop. And I think a lot of times people do get really down on themselves. Like I said before, we're our biggest critics, and we hold ourselves to a higher expectation than other people. And so we need to be able to take that step back and say, You know what, like, I'm human, this was, this was a learning experience, as opposed to a mistake. Because each time we fall back into those old behaviors, we have the opportunity to learn from it. What was it that caused me to fall back into that. Another thing to remember is that these stages aren't linear. Like, you can go from the action stage back to pre contemplation, and then jump into preparation, back into maintenance. I mean, you can bounce it all the way around. But when we do find ourselves falling back into those old behaviors and recognizing it, like saying, You know what, it's okay, I'm human. I'm just gonna take it day by day and start again tomorrow.

Kevin Wallace 22:22 Yeah. Yeah, those expectations that we set for ourselves, that can be so unrealistic at times, when they're broken, they can feel so defeating. And you don't even want to go back to the starting point because that starting point feels so overwhelming. And so how do you recognize that it's okay, to go back to the starting point, and release that feeling of being overwhelmed. And just try to take taking those small baby steps towards that end goal again.

Natasha Painter 22:57 Yeah, the like, I think the best way is to first I mean, I'm a big believer in mindfulness. I think mindfulness is a beautiful practice, I use it every day. And being able to be in the present moment without judging that moment without attachment to that moment is such a relief. Because even though we do make mistakes, we fall back into old behaviors; that doesn't define who we are as a person. What we do next, defines who we are, and defines our future. So it's what we do with the knowledge that we have. And I think it's really important to have a support system in place. Somebody that can remind you of that, too. So like, because it is really hard for us when we're in that moment. And we're feeling disheartened. And we don't want to go back to it for us to give up. But if we have somebody that's kind of there that are cheerleader, yes, then that can kind of push us a little bit.

Kevin Wallace 24:01 Yeah, it's good to know when somebody is in your corner, and is checking in on you and supporting you in that. Even if it's I mean, the word accountability comes to mind. Sometimes we we need somebody to just keep up and ask us how we're doing in that thing that we're trying to change. Other times, we just need somebody to listen to our victories. Right? And and how cool was it to have people to know that they're in your corner and you can go and celebrate with them, those little milestones that we were talking about earlier that you hit? I think it's important to keep that aspect of celebration throughout your your process of wanting to change something, because I think that that helps serves as an engine of motivation to get to that end point that you're wanting to get to. So having people in your corner, gosh, that's that's got to be a huge part of the equation. Right?

Natasha Painter 25:02 It is. And unfortunately, not everybody has people in their lives that's there that can be in their corner. And so like in those situations, I recommend reaching out to a therapist. And I mean, with New Vista, we have all different sorts of services. We have case managers that can help you with resources, we have peer support specialists that can share their experience with you and kind of be with you on that journey. And, and then we have our therapists. If medication is something that you think might be helpful, we have psychiatrists, I mean, we have all these services in place that can be that support system for people who don't already have that in place at home.

Kevin Wallace 25:40 Yeah, expert cheerleaders is what New Vista is right, in many, many different in many different ways. But gosh, yes, if you are at all in need of somebody, to listen to you, and to support you in seeing the good ahead for your life, New Vista, I can't think of any other other great organization than New Vista to help you along that path. So that is a great point. People need people to get through the the good and the bad, and everything in between, especially if we're trying to change something, it's hard enough as it is to try to go about it on our own. Because I mean, this is an individual choice, right like that we have our own agency and our own our own decision making, like, we are responsible for that, you know, there's there's that and then life happens, things that we don't choose. But, you know, at the end of the day, I think that we were all meant to be having other people rally around you and support you to get through to the other side. I hope that if you if you don't hear anything else you do here, that New Vista's here to help you see the good ahead of your in your life and help you achieve that end goal, that happiness that you and that good that you want to see ahead of your life. So that is an incredible place to land. And I guess just as a as a last, last point to make what are some specific ways that New Vista can help in in this category or whatever you're thinking. But helping with change any resources, anything that New Vista offers?

Natasha Painter 27:35 Absolutely. Like anybody who's looking for a change can call New Vista at our helpline or 1.800.928.8000. They can schedule an intake with a therapist in their area, we also do telehealth so you don't even have to leave your house for it. And there's a lot of different therapists that do different hours. So if you need like later hours, we have that. So any if anybody's looking for that help that push that support, that is the first step, calling that number. If people are in that, like that contemplative stage like they think I'd like to make a change. But I don't know if I want to commit to that, they can always use the MyStrength app that we have. We it's MyStrength, you can download it. The code is seethegood, no spaces. And it is basically I tell my clients, it's a Google for coping skills. It's awesome. So you can do is you instead of going on Google and typing in like, what are some good coping skills for anxiety, and getting a bunch of weird stuff that you probably don't want to see, this is just a really good app. And it doesn't just focus on anxiety or depression. It focuses on trauma it focuses on if you just want to learn how to be a better parent. If you are pregnant, and you want some skills to learn how to deal with that, if you want to look work on sleep, all of these things you can work through the app. That's also things that you can work through with your New Vista therapist. It may just be a change, like you're not sure if you want to take a promotion at work and you want to bounce some ideas off somebody like New Vista is a good place to do that. Like the therapist can use the skills and help guide you to a decision that you feel is the best for you.

Kevin Wallace 29:28 Yep. And that my strength app is such a great resource and it's free to you it is if you use that that code see the good it is it is it's free to you to download on your Android or Apple smartphone and wherever you get apps. But and yet it to find that even even if you're having trouble finding it, it's you can go to and you can find it there. And I also have been thinking about some of our blogs that have been created as we're approaching this new New Year. There, there's some good resources on our webpage, that you can go to the blog section. And you can find some of these blogs that we've created through our experts. And it's a great resource to go on our homepage homepage and, and see any of those blogs that might be helpful as well. Well, Natasha, thank you so much for guiding us through how we can change in this new year. 2021 has been a whirlwind I'm sure for many people. And so it will be a relief for many to see the new year approaching. It may be hard for many people and so we just acknowledge all walks of life, wherever you're at. Just know that New Vista is here to help see the good ahead in your life. And I hope that you take this resource and and it serves you well as as you go about wanting to change parts of your life that you don't want in there so that you can see the good ahead for yourself. So again, Natasha, thank you so much for being with us and sharing your expertise. I think this is going to serve a lot of people well as we head into this new year.

Natasha Painter 31:22 Thank you so much for having me. I had a really great time.

Kevin Wallace 31:29 Thank you for joining us in today's episode, just a reminder that this podcast is brought to you by New Vista. We assist individuals, children and families in the enhancement of their well being through mental health, substance use and Intellectual and Developmental Disability Services. We see the good ahead for all individuals in our communities. Again, if you need help, call our 24-Hour Helpline at 1.800.928.8000 or visit our website at We hope you enjoyed today's episode, and we'll see you next time