A habit is what we do, like brushing our teeth in the morning. Some of us do it before we eat, others after. The bad habits are the ones that don’t do us much good and are hard as hell to give up. Do you have any habits you could do without? If you are nodding yes, those are the ones we are looking at today.
Lets name a few: Getting to work late, checking phone while crossing the street, talking during movies, twitter, hair pulling, worrying about what could go wrong, chasing small money, when your business has a bigger vision and ____(insert here)_____.
How it works is its usually a trigger, like its morning.
Then the routine: It’s morning so I must brush my teeth
Then the reward the reinforces the behavior (something that either feels good, or what you avoid): My breath is on point, less floss and less likely for the dentist to stick a giant needle in my gums to clean the build up at the base of my teeth…true story. The science behind it is the reward sends that feel good rush of dopamine, which after a while makes you crave more or do more to get that satisfaction again. Its be basis for addictive behaviors. Say What? Let’s try again: I’m stressed, I eat chocolate, it feels good, I eat more chocolate and then the king size family bar is gone. Like the after effects of most habits, we then feel bad. However, unless the reward or reinforcer is strong, you won’t kick that habit.
But you know those bad habits. You recognize it and that’s a big step. Now the next time there is an urge, take a breath, say your new intention and hold it long enough for your brain to switch gears and respond to the trigger differently. It may not work all the time but it’s worth a try.
Here is what to try to increase your willpower:
Increase mindfulness practice to increase your awareness and ability to respond and not react. (check out stop, breathe, think app or calm.com)
- Decide your intention. Write it out, set reminders to pop up on your phone, have picture visuals everywhere you go and get an accountability partner to increase your doing power.
- Try some compassion. It’ll be hard at times. Give yourself space to mess up, to fall off the wagon and roll down the hill. Remember the beauty is you can come back and start again.
All of the above takes a conscious effort to work. It took work and energy to get you to this point and it will take the same to get you out. Change is work. If want to do some more work sign up for the Break Your Bad Habits free worksheet here.
Amanda Fludd, LCSW-R