Detoxing: When Positive Life Changes Hurt

This is the time of the year when we are all so ramped up to make big life improvements and change ourselves. New year, new you. We start off full of hopes and dreams and ready to kick all of those bad habits and start making positive changes in our lives. Have you ever tried to break a bad habit and you quickly get to the point where quitting feels worse than the consequences of whatever bad habit you’re trying to break?

I’m like that with caffeine. I’ll try to quit and the next day I’ll be exhausted and I’ll have a headache and I’ll feel completely miserable. One thing that comes up a lot of the time is why does it hurt to change?

When you start making changes, good changes and positive changes, why do things start sucking even more?


Because you are detoxing.

When you give up the bad-for-you-things, whether they are physical or emotional, your body and your mind rebel.

If you are an avid coffee drinker – give up coffee and see how you feel, or stop smoking, or eating sugar, or start exercising after a long period of inactivity. Migraines, fatigue, crankiness, depression, soreness – there’s so much suckiness that comes along with those changes.

Then look at yourself two or three months later and you feel so much better. It takes time.

That’s the nature of change and transformation. It’s painful.

And it doesn’t happen overnight. When you start making positive life changes, self-improvement and personal growth ones, you start getting those same growing pains, they’re just not as easy to recognize.

It’s harder to pinpoint why you’re having those negative feelings. Let me give you an example.

If you want to be happy, start thinking happy thoughts and it will happen. That’s not how it works. It doesn’t tell the whole story, it just gives you the happily ever after. If you are the most negative person on the planet and you decide that you want to change all of that and be positive you have some work ahead of you and it’s going to suck.

First you’re going to have to deal with the people in your life.

They’re going to be used to negative, glass-half-empty-you, and chances are, they’re probably the same kind of people. So you turn up happy and positive and first they’re going to be very confused and then will come the resentment and then they’ll try to bring you back to reality by being even more negative than usual. Which is going to bum you out and make you want to go back to negative you. It doesn’t make them a bad person, it’s just most people are afraid of change and what it means.

What are you going to do the first time something doesn’t go your way? You get a flat tire on the way to work and forget your lunch and get in trouble for being late. How are you going to deal with that? You’ll probably roll your eyes with an “Of course this was bound to happen because nothing ever good happens to me so why do I even bother?”

Positive change takes a lot of work (and time) but you’ll get the hang of it.

Everyone has a certain set of “default” reactions that have been programmed into us by our life experiences. Feelings, emotions, and coping mechanisms that make up part of who we are. We can change them, but it’s not easy and it takes more than a few days, weeks, months and sometimes even years.

It takes time for those changes to stick. The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that people expect it to be easy, they expect the good things to click right away and to override the bad or negative habits that are their current default. We don’t prepare ourselves for the pushback.

If it were that easy, then we’d all be perfect.

If there’s something that you’re working on, something good-for-you, and you keep seeing all of this negative gunk coming up in your life as a result, acknowledge that you’re detoxing. It’s allowing you to get it out of your system, to deal with it, or to learn new ways to deal with it. That’s the most important part of the process – developing the coping skills to make those changes stick.

It doesn’t mean you are failing.

It doesn’t mean you should stop.

All it just means that you need to keep going, keep leaning into it, because when you really come out the other side. You’re going to be so damn proud.

Keep going. When you’re having those difficult days when you’re struggling to stick with it. Keep going. If you have a bad day and you fall off the wagon, get back on it. You need to choose every single day to stick with it. Keep making that choice over and over again.

There will be bad days. Don’t let them defeat you.

Be Gentle. The way that you talk to yourself is going to be a game changer. That’s always the hardest part of self-improvement. It’s not all about staying positive. There will be days when you’re just not feeling it. But it is important to always be kind to yourself. The biggest cheerleader you’ll ever have in your life is that voice in your head.

Cultivate Community. Find other people who are on the same journey as you. Find people who get it and who motivate and inspire you and lift you up on the bad days. Your world will be full of people that just don’t get it and there might even be people who try to sabotage you for their own comfort. If you’re on Facebook, join our group!

What positive changes have you made that caused nothing but struggles for you in the beginning?