We all engage in forms of habitual behavior. Unfortunately the ritualized, unthinking things we do create impediments to change and growth.
Instead of being preprogrammed and robotic in our daily lives, we need to get outside our comfort zones. We must confront what we want to change or achieve. We cannot be on auto pilot, we must be fully engaged.
Habits are nothing but repetitive behaviors that become automatic. You don’t think about it, you just do it. You feel a certain comfort in the practice of these repetitive actions which makes it more difficult to get out of the ‘rut’.
In many cases it is a false sense of comfort, offering you a cloak of normality, even when the behavior is considered abnormal.
They trap you into behaviors that hold you down and are self destructive.
There are strategies to change your habits and get on your way to happiness. Break free and you will achieve what you want your life to be.
Triggers and Cues
We receive many cues during our daily lives. These cues or ‘set ups’ trigger responses. A basic example is the time we go to bed, where most of us prepare ourselves to go to sleep by brushing our teeth. The cue to go to retire for the night triggers the response, we don’t think about brushing our teeth, we just do it. Nothing prevents us from brushing our teeth after eating our last meal or snack of the day but the actions are cued right before going to sleep.
Actions to Take
In order to achieve meaningful change in our lives we must alter the reactions to the cues in our lives. Here are the steps –
- Identify a behavior you want to change.
- Identify the cue for the bad behavior.
- Find a response that results in achieving your goal.
- Commit to it by writing down a planned response.
- Think about & read your plan for a day or two.
- Engage in the new behavior for 30 straight days, it will become habit and you won’t have to think about it!
Identifying your triggers or cues are the key. What situations trigger your current habit? For the smoking habit, for example, triggers might include waking in the morning, having coffee, drinking alcohol, stressful meetings, going out with friends, driving, etc. Eating after dinner when you watch TV can be replaced with a cup of tea, exercise, a diet soda…
Most habits have multiple triggers. Identify all of them and write them in your plan. The replace the habit with a new response to the trigger. It really is that simple!
Have strategies to defeat an urge to fall back into your bad habit. Urges are going to come — they’re inevitable and they’re strong. However, they are also temporary and beatable. Urges generally last a minute or so and come in degrees of strength. You need to ‘defend’ yourself, ride it out and the urge will disappear. Some strategies for making it through an urge: deep breathing, self-massage, eat something healthy and calorically light, take a walk, exercise, drink a glass of water, call a friend, post about it in a support forum.
I urge you to give this method, which has been universally successful, a chance today!