Wednesday, November 27, 2019
If you have a habit that you don’t like, change it. If you have a life you don’t like, change it.
Often people have things in their life that are self-fulfilling and they get stuck in a rut. It takes a concerted effort and conscientiousness, discipline and focus on the right things to change.
Behaviors can fall into habits over time if we neglect our actions or are careless in thought over time. Sometimes we become lazy or don’t want to do something because we just don’t feel like it, but it can become a regular pattern. Just like every day we usually have a habit of combing our hair, or checking the mirror or washing our face and putting on our clothes it becomes a habit and something we just don’t think about because it becomes second nature.
We might grab a cookie with our coffee or always use two creams and one sugar or decide to snack on potato chips when we watch TV.
But we can develop other habits over time that we never considered. Perhaps when we were younger our parents argued and we would eat ice cream to make us feel better or we would cry and our moms and dads would always give us candy or a lollipop to have us stop crying and get us to be quiet and so we associate food with feeling better. Maybe this followed us into adulthood that whenever we had a bad experience we would reach for food or that tub of ice cream when we had a breakup. Maybe we got into certain patterns of bad relationships. Maybe it was we would reach for a bottle or cigarette or even sleeping pills etc.
Habits have a way of becoming automatic without us even thinking and becoming ingrained into our normal lives. Often because they were followed with positive or pleasurable responses and we became conditioned to these actions.
However bad habits can in the long term also cause painful or negative responses.
It is difficult to break habits and takes a bit of foresight, work and motivation and dedication.
To become self aware you have to ask yourself every day if the action that you are doing is good for you or negative behavior.
Is it good for your health and mental well being?
Is it going to affect my family, friends, kids positively?
Is this a habit that should be changed?
As in Alcoholics Anonymous they often start by identifying the problem. For example they might have you state your name and verbally admit “I have an alcohol problem”. Part of solving a bad habit is identifying that you have a problem and have some behavior that you have to change.
It might not seem like a big deal but it is a critical point that makes you aware and brings it to the forefront of your consciousness. This is very important because at that time you can focus your attention to how to solve the problem and put your energy and focus where it really counts.
So how do you kick a habit?
1) Identify and list which habits you need to change.
Make sure you isolate and pick only one or two habits to put your energy on.
2) Think about all aspects of the habit and how it’s affected you and the rest of your life.
3) Make a mental note how often and when it occurs.
4) Consider if there’s anything that encourages the habit and what continues to keep it alive.
5) Ponder the consequences and repercussions of what happens if you continue to pursue the habit and also focus on feelings and emotions of how the habit makes you feel and also what you might feel if you discontinued the habit.
6) Realize that you have the power of control over this habit and that it just became a reaction or behavior over time. You don’t have to feel bad or helpless. You can slowly wean yourself off the behavior.
7) Take control and make a conscious choice to remove the behavior.
8) Once you decide to kick the habit then put obstacles and obstructions to delay, replace, remove or interfere with the habit. As an example perhaps you have a compulsory eating habit. But you find out if you’re busy and doing things then you don’t think about food. So perhaps find another healthy hobby. (Obviously it needs to be another good positive activity because you don’t want to replace one activity with an activity that is equally or more harmful!)
9) Avoid putting yourself in a repeat cycle of temptation stimulus. Perhaps you have friends that have bad habits of smoking and drinking. Maybe they will end up tempting you to start smoking and drinking again by just hanging around them. You need to terminate or stop the relationship and triggers to stop bad habits. Or maybe they just want to sit around and abuse drugs all day, it might be healthier to hang around friends that like to go to the gym or take up a dance class and make new friends. They say that you are the sum of the top five friends in your social circle so make sure you hang around good influences. Another example, let’s say you’re trying to go on a diet to lose weight because you’re addicted to eating. You may want to stock your fridge with healthy foods so you can’t tempt yourself with salty, fatty unhealthy sugary foods. Avoid things in your environment that feed your habit.
10) Interrupt the pattern and create a new behavioral response. For example animals have been known to develop a conditioned response to certain stimuli. So let’s say you like to bite your nails. You could put some bad tasting nail polish or very spicy hot sauce on something you nibble on to discourage you from biting on your nails and so it prevents you from doing so. Or maybe you go to a particular cabinet to get some food, you could put a piece of heavy furniture in front of it to make it more difficult to get. You could park further away from a store to force you to walk a bit further or get more exercise or put extra distance between something to make it more difficult to get to it.
11) Visualize and imagine you’ve broken free of the habit and also track how often you repeat the habit and why. By becoming aware of when you repeat the habit you will more closely understand why and how you might be able to eliminate it. Make a conscious choice that you no longer want to do something or feel a certain way any longer.
12) Put reminders to assist in breaking you of patterns by having positive reward triggers or memory joggers to help you stay on track. Perhaps if you want to go to the gym more often then incorporate it to your routine by perhaps having your Fitbit or gym clothes laid out by your bed in the morning or setting it on your phone calendar as an alarm to remind you.
13) Lastly you get what you put out. So make it a family and public even by having friends, other people or a group hold you accountable. Perhaps get a running buddy or friend or subscribe to a club where you have friends depend on each other to spot each other at the gym or go to a diet club or club to quit the same habit. Everyone holds everyone accountable and you might be positively reinforced and also you might feel more encouraged to do so rather than feeling the shame of failure if you put up a high reaching goal.
We know life is full of change and that not everything comes easy. Even some of us fall off the wagon and revert to old habits. The old saying that old habits die hard often holds true but with a little persistance and dedication on perserverance you can give up and kick a habit that’s been around a long time. It wouldn’t be a bad habit if it was simple and easy to quit. Remember you might be discouraged or frustated at first if you are trying to stop at first. This is really quite natural.
And even with the best intentions and eliminating temptation and the above steps you may still have setbacks and relapses on certain days, but start off fresh and give your self another chance the next day since the end outcome will be worth the effort. Remember, that you’re freeing yourself from the chains of your habit and once you toss off that which is tying you down you’ll feel freer than you’ve been before. It’s all about mindset, having the right attitude, taking simple steps and taking the first bold step to you goal. Every little bit helps. Every little step will get you closer to freeing yourself.
Remember that many people are addicted to various things: getting into debt, drinking alcohol, drugs, gambing, smoking, eating, video games, other things. Whatever you want to change in your life takes effort. If you don’t make a goal and don’t act on it then you can’t change. Change comes from within your mind and not really anyone else. Someone else can encourage your or persuade you but you have to accept that you want to change and pursue it. For some it requires pursuing a very positive goal, for others it’s quitting something that causes a lot of pain or negative feedback. Decide what works best for you or a combination of both and set your mind to it. After all, everything starts off with a thought which you act upon to become a habit. If you think of it that way, you can reverse engineer your habit by thinking of what you want to achieve by thinking what someone without that habit would think.