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 that hinder your progress? I’ve got a simple approach to help you break free from negative patterns and transform them into positive ones. This effective method will empower you to conquer your bad habits and create lasting change.
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.
You weren’t born with these habits - they are learned behaviors. And if you learned them, you can unlearn them. To break bad habits, though, you need to know how and why the habit was formed in the first place.
Habits are behaviors we learn and repeat over time in response to certain triggers. Just like Pavlov's dogs, our brains create associations between triggers and actions, making them automatic responses. Every time you engage in the habit, your brain rewards itself with a shot of feel-good hormones. This explains why bad habits become ingrained and seemingly uncontrollable.
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 its 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.
Now that you know how habits work, you can use that knowledge to start interrupting that auto-pilot mode so you can make a different choice. Here’s how to break bad habits in three simple steps.
Step 1: Stop! The first step in breaking a bad habit is to interrupt the autopilot mode and become fully present. When you catch yourself doing something you want to quit, stop and take a moment to reflect. Do you really want the chips, or are you feeling stressed and looking for a distraction? By bringing mindfulness and awareness into the equation, you reclaim control over your behavior.
Step 2: Replace and Redirect. Once you've paused to assess the situation, it's time to consciously choose an alternative action that aligns with what you actually want. If stress prompts you to snack, go for a walk or meditate for five minutes. By deliberately replacing the old habit with a new, positive behavior, you reshape the trigger-action link.
Step 3: Repeat. To break bad habits and replace them with good ones, consistency is key. As you repeatedly choose the alternative action, your brain begins to forge a fresh pathway, weakening the old habit's hold. Over time, the rewiring process becomes more natural, and the positive choice starts to feel rewarding. By focusing on the present moment and consciously making good choices, you’re deliberately creating the extraordinary life that you want.
If bad habits are holding you back, you have the choice of what to do next. These three simple steps are one way you can turn the negative habits in your life into positive ones. It’s a process, and I’m here to support you to reach your goals and a fulfilling life that you love.
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