Forming new habits is one of the most useful techniques I found when dealing with my IBS.
Making room for new habits is not the easiest of things to do. But it can make a real difference and help you move forward with your IBS.
We already have overloaded to-do lists, without wanting to add to them. And dealing with IBS already takes a great deal of our energy. However, small steps in the right direction do deliver over time.
Changes are difficult when they are radical and we try to put them into to place in one day. They don’t last, generally because they are too different from our routines, and we forget them easily.
What helped me was learning a new routine, something small that when repeated enough became a habit that I could do on autopilot.
Research has shown how if we repeat a thought pattern or an action over time, it forms a new pathway in our neurons. This allows us to improve our lives and our reactions to triggers.
Even so, doing something differently or new does require some hurdle jumping to be successful. That’s why it’s important to choose small changes, but keep hacking away at them.
Adopting a new habit can be challenging
This is an example of a new habit I formed. As you will see, trying something new was not all plain sailing. But I’m pleased I got there.
Research has shown that coconut oil actively reduces the candida bacteria that cause bloating and digestive problems in the gut. It is unclear just how much coconut oil does the trick, nor which type we should be using.
I had heard 1 to 3 tablespoons per day of extra virgin coconut oil from different trusted sources, but I couldn’t see myself eating that much.
However, I figured that even a small amount should surely be beneficial in maintaining a healthy gut biome. So I decided to try some.
I had wanted to try coconut oil for some time, but hadn’t ever got around to it. They don’t sell it in my local store. So I had to first take the time to find out where I could buy some.
I forgot about it. The pot went into the cupboard for a few days before I remembered I was supposed to be using it…
One day I opened it to have a look at it, I tried some and it had a very strong coconut flavor that doesn’t go with everything. I didn’t like it. So I went to a different shop and found some without the taste. Maybe it is not as effective, but I wasn’t going to be using the other one much.
I tried some and put it in the fridge. Then it went too hard (I had heard you could spread it on bread, but you needed a pick-axe to use this), so I put it back in the cupboard.
Out of sight, out of mind
As I didn’t really know how to cook with it, it stayed there for a while.
One day I was frying some chicken in a pan and tried using some coconut oil instead of oil. It was great, and I only needed a small amount (half a teaspoon).
I tried some spread on toast, and it was almost as nice as butter. And I have had it on toast regularly since.
Creating a new routine
My brain has finally made the chicken + coconut oil link, and the toast + coconut oil link. It has become a habit. I no longer have to consciously think about it. There is no effort involved now.
I have also put some in a pot in my bedroom and use it as a natural hand and foot cream with no additives.
I did try coconut in a hot drink instead of milk. The taste is nice but I’m not so keen on the oily bubble that floats on the top…
Maybe I’ll adopt some more uses for it over time. If you want more inspiration there is a very detailed article on the Dr. Axe website of 77 uses of coconut oil.
Getting into the habit: Where to start
1) Decide what you think will help you move forward with your IBS
Why don’t you try coconut oil? Or something else, like essential oils to help with bloating? Maybe mindful meditation? Or deep breathing to help reduce stress triggers? Maybe reducing coffee intake? Choose whatever suits you best.
2) Adopt new habits slowly but surely
You could add or change something small at the beginning of each month, and try to do it every day for a full 30 days. This gives you time to make it automatic, and see if it is effective.
3) Start with just one small positive change that won’t be impossible to achieve
Small successes will help build your confidence to tackle more difficult new habits later on.
4) Keep in mind what you want as a result
Also, do keep an eye out for the “I’m too tired” or “I’ll do it tomorrow”. No matter how lousy we can feel, the key to success is regular repetition. (Not perfection)
5) Make it easier to succeed
If you want to drink more water in a day, keep a bottle on your desk or within easy reach, and keep it visible. Make it easy to notice when you are drinking more (maybe have a specific size of bottle you want to finish). If you want to use essential oils before you go to bed, maybe try to do this while watching TV rather than when you are ready to hit the sack.
6) Nothing ventured, nothing gained
Accept that forming new habits is difficult and requires an effort. This is particularly hard when you are dealing with IBS and getting through every day is already taking all your energy. Be confident that any effort you regularly make going in the right direction will ultimately help you, no matter how small.
7) Remember to celebrate your new habits – and not dwell on failures.
If at first you fail (as we all do) and are inconsistent, be kind to yourself and just try again when you feel more like it.