Day 137 & Coaching Friends

Day 137 Record Keeping SRHI = 77
Day 105 Fixed Meditation SRHI = 76
Day 51 Burpee SRHI= 68 (1x8)
Day 151 Eating SRHI = 43  
Good sleep, ok wakeup. Depressed last night.

Coaching Friends
Lately I’ve been coaching two friends through some behavioral changes. It’s very intimidating being put in a position where you have the potential to help. And because I care for them I worry about the opposite - messing up.

One friend is trying to cut back on drinking - she gets withdrawals and she really needs to stop. Her doctor told her to cut back without any other advice. An old friend of mine recently died from alcohol-related problems (he had severe withdrawals and was put on medication to help him with it) and to see this happen again is gut wrenching. It also makes me feel incredibly pissed off at the doctor.

Another close friend is going through a really bad breakup. Actually, calling it a bad break up is mild - he’s in an immense amount of pain and is trying to get over what amounts to an addiction to the girl he was in a relationship with.

For the former, I’ve advocated record keeping, a la the quantified self - the idea being that if you can note your patterns you will naturally start to reduce the negative activity. My own project was revitalized with record keeping, and it’s a much better and more effective step than simply going cold turkey - something she can’t really do anyway due to her severe withdrawals.  It has worked so far - she still drinks quite a bit, but has been cut back through her diligent record keeping. I’m now advocating making a small change, like BJ Fogg talks about with his TinyHabits. I’d position this by suggesting that she reduce the number or amount of her alcohol consumption by one unit.

For the latter, I’ve advocated an implementation intention strategy. He tends to obsess and then engage in the standard negative breakup activities that aren’t really conducive to recovery  -  so we brainstormed a list of 8 or 9 activities to do to get him over the emotional hump. Things like doing a crossword, progressive meditation, listening to music and podcasts, taking a walk, and writing. I feel that such a strategy would work well for “negative habits” or “habits of omission”  - things like not smoking or not eating clean or whatnot - because often enough it’s a rising emotion that leads to a splurge - and simply distracting oneself and waiting until the emotions subside is enough to get over the potential negative behavior.

I want to later include more advanced meditation techniques - I’ve already advocated Vipassana, but understandably, it hasn’t been taken up. I myself was incredibly skeptical about it until I tried it, and I think walking through a meditation so he experiences it himself would be much better than just talking about the theory. Gratitude is something that’s talked about a lot in terms of mindfulness, impulsivity, and self-control training. It’s also something I approached with extreme skepticism until I actually tried one exercise (List and describe 10 things you are grateful for) and found that it jolted me out of my depression.

These are both circumstance that make me realize the importance of this project - not only for myself, but for those I care about. I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked for advice about such things and had no real answers to give. Now that I have implemented and researched these strategies in depth, I have something worthwhile to offer up. But teaching it and getting people to do it is in additional step, one I’m still working on. Being able to clearly elucidate these ideas and work with them in a way that they start changing is hard.

Today I did just that for the friend going through the breakup and I think I did a good job. However it’s interesting to note I didn’t do this earlier - before I just talked about generalities thinking that he would go through the details himself.

Today I worked with him to come up with an effective if-then protocol.  We started with brainstorming activities - well it was mostly me brainstorming as he was in a state of mind where he was incapable of coming up with anything. Having concrete steps, assignments, and commands seemed to work better than gentle suggestions.

But sometimes when a person is in such a frail state going that extra distance is exactly what is called for to engender real change.