You KNOW that I love the power of good habits! Habits like drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning, setting out your gym clothes the night before, or journaling before bed are easy to do and make a positive impact in our lives. But what about those bad habits of ours? I have a new way to help you break bad habits - and maybe even change them into good ones!
I know how frustrating it is when you realize you’ve been doing something out of habit (again) that you didn’t even want to do. Like finding yourself arm-deep in a bag of chips whenever you get upset, despite normally being committed to your health goals. Or maybe you drink a glass of wine or two after work each day, but wake up the next day wishing you hadn’t.
We aren’t born with these bad habits - they are learned behaviors! And if you learned to do them, you can also unlearn them. And the key to breaking bad habits has to do with how and why we form any habit in the first place.
Why You Have Bad Habits
Habits are simply actions you’ve repeated over and over, in response to a trigger. The trigger can be an emotion, a time of day, or something that happens around you. And after a while, they become automatic.
Remember the story of Pavlov’s dogs? A bell would be rung right before the dogs were fed. This was repeated with each meal. Soon, every time the dogs heard a bell they would start to salivate. Even if they didn’t see the food yet, they knew they were about to be fed. Our brains work in the same way.
When you repeat an action over and over again, your brain creates a link between the trigger and the action, and the link strengthens over time. Technically, the brain is creating a pathway inside itself that automates what you do next. And then when the pathway is used, the brain rewards itself with a shot of feel-good hormones. Sneaky, hey?
So in our snack food example, the trigger is feeling upset. Maybe at some point in the past, you tried to distract yourself from feeling sad or lonely by eating sweet or salty foods. Eventually, your brain linked the trigger to the action. And when you take the expected action, your brain gets it’s feel-good juice, reinforcing the behavior.
No wonder our brain loves habits! So while you’re heading for the snack cupboard or the wine fridge, your brain is basically running on auto-pilot. And there you are, busy thinking about the future, your to-do list, or thinking about what you’re going to make for dinner… and not thinking about the chips you are eating.
And that is the key: learning to be present in the moment.
Short Circuit the Bad Habit Loop
When you notice yourself on autopilot and engaging in a habit you want to quit, it’s time to be present. Ask yourself why you are reaching for the chips or wine or whatever. This interruption forces your brain to be MINDFUL, PRESENT, and ENGAGED.
And then, you have the opportunity to stop what you are doing, and replace the action with something you DO want to become a habit. Stressed? Put down the chips and go for a walk or meditate for five minutes. Mindlessly filling your wine glass? Turn on the kettle and make herbal tea instead. You have the power to make a healthier choice that will make you feel good.
And soon, you will have changed the trigger-action to something you can be proud of, and that will help you live the life you actually want.
What habits are you trying to break or create? Remember, I’m always here to support your success and help you reach your goals.
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Hi, I’m Crystal!
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