Mud Season: The Messy Transition in Changing Behaviors


If you have never driven on an unpaved New England road in mud season, then you may be less aware of the challenges of this time of year, affectionately known as the Fifth Season.

Like other seasons, it is different each year, but it is always a part of the process of spring and new growth. Anywhere the frost can go 7 feet deep into the ground and the melting snow run-off is unable to permeate the frozen layers, the inevitable result is mud, squish, and mess.

When the thaw happens in certain parts of the road during a sunny day, the ruts can become deeper and more prevalent with each passing vehicle. At night, when the temperatures fall back toward freezing, these ruts become hard and are often even more difficult to navigate.

Why am I writing about mud season in a blog which focuses on health and well-being?

Well, because like the messy transition between seasons from winter into spring, behavior change can seem like a very similar process.

The well-worn patterns of behavior that are now associated with deep channels and neural pathways in our brain can make choosing new behaviors difficult and hard to sustain.

Like when we catch a tire in a muddy rut and despite our best efforts and knowing where we want to go, the mud and the rut just keep a good hold on our vehicle and on us as well.

When we find ourselves caught in a deep rut, sometimes the only thing we can do is ride it out, maintain whatever control we have, and keep pulling gently on the steering wheel until we can get the tire and our vehicle to higher and drier ground.

We have to remember that maintaining momentum is an important strategy.

Don’t give up, don’t stop anywhere in the mud and lose your momentum, as you may find yourself sinking deeper and deeper into that rut with less and less traction to get you out.

Let’s face it, behavior change is hard.

Our brains are not engineered to make it easy.

Like dirt roads in mud season, there is going to be some struggle and we will need to have a strategy to navigate the ruts as well as perseverance in order not to stop and just sink more deeply into the muddy mess.

Hang in there, and know that summer will come, the difficult roads will dry out, and the traveling will become less burdensome.

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About the Author

Carolyn Whitney, PhD

Carolyn is a trained social psychologist who has spent much of her career teaching about and researching positive psychology topics and health and wellbeing. She uses a holistic approach to coaching and empowering clients to make desired changes in order to live more fulfilling and rich lives. At Green Mountain and within her blog posts, she teaches on topics including unhooking from negative self-talk, cultivating gratitude and self-compassion, strategies to simplify life, mindset management for stress reduction and more. Carolyn is the Behavior Lead at Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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