I have a confession to make that lately I am getting inspired by spin classes. I’ve been benched from running for a couple of years, and I recently attended this really amazing spin class while visiting my family in my hometown. It was fun, it was connecting, it was energizing and it was inspirational. I’ve since returned to DC and have been on a quest to replicate that experience. I admit that what I loved the most about that first spinning experience was the coaching. Of course, as a therapist I take on the role of coaching my clients on a daily basis when I see couples in couples therapy, families in family therapy sessions, or teens or adults in individual psychotherapy. So I appreciate the value of a good coach, even while spinning madly in the dark with music blaring at 6 a.m. in the morning.
Last week, I tested another class in DC and the coach touched on something that I often use with clients. As she encouraged us to turn our dial “just one small turn to the right,” she also encouraged us to consider that one small turn really equates to one small change that can change your health, your heart, your day, and your life. Wow! I agree with that philosophy when it comes to exercise AND when it applies to making changes in our relationships and emotional lives through counseling.
Exercise is a good metaphor for “the work” of therapy. We commit time, space, energy, money and resources. We use repetition, and we practice a newly learned emotional skill over and over again until it becomes more comfortable and accessed more naturally. Why do we do this? Because we want to live happier, fuller, more productive, and better connected lives. Those goals can feel so lofty and hard to achieve at times. Yet, if we think about how we can shift our attitudes by just 1%, we could change a negative thought into a positive thought for that day. And when we repeat that change in attitude again and again, we can begin to build the emotional muscle to maintain that shift in attitude over time. For example, if I want to feel less rushed in life, I might need to practice giving myself more time in my daily activities. I could start with allowing for a 10-minute restful breakfast rather than 3 minutes of breakfast “on the go.” Then I could expand that to how I deal with my morning commute. Do I rush from home to work while I make calls, or do I turn on some music and take in the day around me during that drive?
So just one small change in a spin class can add up to 45 minutes of turning your dial to the right and a whole lot of energy expended and calories burned toward better health. And just one small change in our behavior or mindset through psychotherapy can add up to a better mood, an improved relationship, or a healthier family life. Yes, it does require that we commit our time and resources to the process, and working with a therapist can help. Yet, change isn’t a mystery for most of us. It’s most often about showing up, taking that step to change our behavior by just 1%, and practicing what we’ve learned and experienced along the way. In time, we have a series of small changes, which accumulate, and we begin to notice that we have transformed an unhealthy behavior or attitude into a more healthful life.
Dr. Allison Sibley
Director, The Sibley Group