I'm approaching the final week of the structured educational program. It has been very helpful to me, as has this forum. Today I'm thinking about what has helped me the most since I discovered Dr. Sarno's writings on New Year's Eve. I have a tendency to change too many variables at once so I'm never sure which are actually having an impact, but these are the ones that come to mind: Reading - Fortunately, I enjoy this. I have read 3 of Dr. Sarno's books, a lot of content from this site, and I'm currently about 1/3 through Steve Ozanich's The Great Pain Deception. I eat these up like they're suspense novels. What will my brain try next? Writing - I created a TMS folder in the Notes app on my phone so I can add to it wherever I am. I have a "Stress and Anger" page filled with things like "idiot customer did x" and "my wife missed the exit and keeps the car temp at 100 degrees" and "I keep dying on this level in that video game". It seems to help to get little annoyances out on digital paper instead of letting them collect in my brain. Arithmetic - just kidding, arithmetic hasn’t helped me at all. My brain just can’t resist finishing a pattern. Stopping my old routine - This was kind of scary for a few days but I think it made a big difference to give up all the back gadgets, stretches, ointments, pills, hot and cold packs, cushions, etc., that I thought were controlling the pain in the past. I gave them up and the pain actually improved. Staying active - I have loved getting back to basketball, racquetball, biking, and hauling in bags of water softener salt instead of making my wife do it. Talking - This is a challenge for me. I don't like to talk to others about my feelings. And I don't much like others to talk to me about theirs. But I am starting to enjoy a nightly walk with my wife where I talk through the latest things I've discovered, things that are bugging or inspiring me, and to find out the same about her. Allowing myself to feel - Another big challenge. I am highly skilled at blinking back tears. In recent weeks I've been trying to let them flow (as long as no one's watching). It's weird but somewhat pleasant. Saying no - How liberating to experiment with the life of a non-goodist! Two weeks ago someone asked if I would fill in as a singer for a musical number. I didn't want to. I hemmed and hawed -- I guess I could -- and then simply said, "I'm sorry. I can't." It shocked my system - did I just intentionally not please someone? I obsessed over it for 2 days - should I go back and say I'll do it? But in the end it felt great. I'm going to have to be careful to not become an anti-goodist - a grumpy old man who only does what he wants. Drinking hot chocolate - There are a few things that reliably bring me instant pleasure and I'm pretty sure my id is a big fan. Drinking quality hot chocolate is one. I can calm the Inner Child down in a few minutes with a hot mug of cocoa. Sitting in the hot tub is another. Watching the bees in the backyard. Riding a bike downhill. I try to recognize when I need one of these little luxuries and make time for it. Positive self-talk - My Inner Critic is an expert. I've been aware of the problem for years but I'm fighting back in earnest now. It also helps to write things out - I have a great family. I am a good provider. I have many good habits. I am a better person today than I was yesterday. I've helped more than I've hurt. Without yesterday's mistake I wouldn't have learned how to do it right today. Patience - I'm still working on this. I catch myself wondering when that last 5% of the pain will go away for good. I worry that some new stress will throw off all the progress I've made. But I know this is working. Not using Facebook - I used to be a Facebook junkie. I checked it dozens of times a day. I posted many times a week and relied on likes and comments for validation. At least once a day something on Facebook would aggravate me. When I quit using it two months ago, it took at least a week before I stopped mindlessly typing Facebook.com into the browser every few minutes - only to be reminded that my account was closed. It was an unhealthy part of my life and I love its absence. Spreading the word - I get very passionate when I talk about TMS. I pace back and forth and start to lose my breath on the phone. I'm like an old-time preacher. Can I get an amen?! I'm not sure how effective it is for my audience, but it really seems to help me. Testify!