Here are 9 points on how to break-free of bad habits and create the life that you want to live.
1. Understanding Why You Have a Bad Habit
Why have you formed this habit in the first place? To understand this, you have to realize that your brain works on two levels. Logic and Awareness account for the first 10% of your brain and other 90% of your brain make up your subconscious, behaviours, emotions and things that have happened to us in the past. This is where your habits are formed.
Often I hear, “I don’t want to do this anymore. Why am I not able to stop?” This is because the subconscious isn’t lined up with your consciousness, and will not allow you to move forward and stop the bad behaviour.
Our brains are designed to work with you, keep you alive, and have your best interests at the forefront of your decision making. Habits are actually there to help us. Our brain works in a think, feel, act pattern. We have a thought, there is an emotional feeling connected to that thought, and then an action or a behaviour is connected to that feeling. These are called habit loops.
The key is understanding these habit loops and slowing down to find out what might have been the trigger that started you in this loop to begin with. When is it that you binge eat? Or crack open a bottle of wine? When are you doing these habits that prevent you from moving forward?
So the first point here is understanding your triggers and knowing where they come from. Let’s bring them into your awareness, rather than letting them play out in your subconscious.
2. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Your brain has done its very best to keep you alive and help you thrive given the information that it has. These habit loops are there to support you and make you feel better. Everytime you perform a habit in your habit loop, your brain produces Dopamine. This hormone makes you feel better for a short period of time. Don’t beat yourself up for having this hardwired loop in your brain. This is a natural response of the body. Rather than beating yourself up about something you can’t control, appreciate that your brain is doing that to help you feel better. Acknowledge it and then let it go so you can make room to create a new, more beneficial habit. What behaviour would you like to have instead? Choose a new one that will better serve you.
That bad habit was not a conscious behavior, but it is in your control to change it going forward. Take the reins to your mental well being.
3. Decide That Your Ready
If you’ve got something going on in your head saying, “I’ll give it a go” or “I’ll try” but you’re not really on board with this, you’re not going to succeed at changing the behaviour. Until you are absolutely ready to give up; for example, alcohol or sugar. Don’t bother trying until you are 100% ready to make a shift. Take some time to think about the impact this change will have on your life. Be ready to answer questions from friends and family about why you are making the change. Reflect on what impact it will have in different scenarios, for example, family meals, going out for work functions, or socializing with friends. Imagine yourself in these situations, then take a week, or even a month, to decide that this is going to be your commitment moving forward. This is what you want to do, your new habit.
4. Recognizing How the Bad Habit is Not Giving You What You Want
What are the negative associations with the habit you are trying to overcome? At the moment, your brain is hardwired to think that it’s serving you and it’s not. So for example, if the bad behaviour is eating sugar, what are all of the negative things associated with eating sugar? Same thing would go for smoking, or alcohol use, take time to sort out what the negative things are happening in your body or in your life connected to that behaviour.
Write them down. Get clear on all those things that you do not want in your life anymore.
5. Get Clear On The Benefits
What are the benefits of stopping this behaviour? Stack the list of all the benefits that you will be rewarded with by quitting this habit. How will it feed into your future vision? The contrast between all the negative and positive attributes you’ll gain with this habit will show you exactly why you want this so much. I want you to write all the positives down until there is really no question that this is what you want to do moving forward.
6. What Are You Going To Do Instead?
Decide on what you are going to do instead. Your brain needs to have something else. You will have days where you are feeling low, or are triggered. The decision you make to overcome a bad habit is probably going to happen when you’re in a good mood, however, you need to be prepared for the bad moods. This will happen, so you need to arm yourself with an alternative behaviour. This should be something that will support you, but also make you feel good and come from a loving place.
Contemplate on what that thing might be. If the bad behaviour is eating, maybe try avoiding it with a bath, or going for a walk outside. If it’s alcohol and your behaviour is to come home from work and have a glass of wine, what new behaviour would make you feel good in place of this?
7. Celebrate Every Time You Make a Positive Step
Celebrate each time you make a positive step to create a new healthy behaviour in place of the old bad one. It’s not going to be easy and each time you overcome when you felt like you were feeling triggered or wanted to revert back to an old pattern, you should celebrate! This will help you to create new neural pathways and recondition your brain. If you were able to get out of that habit loop, allow yourself to feel happy and congratulate yourself. Recognize the hard work you are doing and speak to yourself in a kind, loving, and understanding way that is positive. You’re doing a great job!
8. Read Your Goals and Vision
Get clear on why you want to achieve your goals, why you want to break these habits and what benefits it’s going to bring. Read the negatives that that habit brought and then read over what the positive behaviours will be that are coming your direction. Keep reminding yourself of why you are reconditioning your brain. Do this daily. Stay on top of your game!
On the difficult days, you’re going to forget why you are doing this. Your brain is going to say “Let’s go back and do that old behaviour.” It’s going to play tricks on you. Getting clear on your goals is going to help you arm yourself against those particularly tough days. Create a journal and remind yourself of why you are doing this.
Journal Entry Example: I do not want behaviour any more. This is why I made this choice. I am going to benefit from this in this way. (Fill in the underlined portion)
9. Get Support
Tell people around you what you’re doing. Make sure they are people that are going to be kind and give you the type of support you need at this time. If you tell people that are not happy with you making this change, because it makes them feel uncomfortable in what they are doing, they’re not going to support you in the way you need to be supported. Choose wisely. It might be that you only tell one person, or that you don’t tell anyone. Maybe the best choice is to find a support system of people outside of your friends and family. You’ll need a good support system to help you stay inspired on this journey as well.
If you are looking for the support you need, let me be there for you. Join my 365 Days of Self Love Emails and receive empowering quotes, journaling exercises, and positive affirmations to get you through to that new and positive change.