Do you often procrastinate? Consume too much alcohol? Spend too much quality time doing nothing on social media? The list could go on, but by now you should get the point. Bad habits are underrated in how often they plague people in their daily lives. Keep reading for 3 effective steps to changing your bad habits.
Change is Difficult
Every day there are people who quietly shame themselves for engaging in non-productive behaviors which help them feel good. After they have finished with the behavior, they realize that they have wasted precious time engaging in nonproductive activities.
The problem with self-shaming is that it increases the likelihood of you engaging in that behavior in the future. The reason for this is because you engaged in the bad habit to relieve yourself from the stress or discomfort. Further, self-shaming builds up discomfort. Another reason why you engage in bad habits is because you are biologically designed to be a creature of habit. From your favorite chair to your preferred clothing style to your preferred genre of entertainment, these are all examples of habits. What happens when we routinely engage in a pattern of thinking and behaving, is that neurological links are established between our brain cells. The more we engage in that pattern of thinking and doing, the stronger the neurological connection becomes.
This is why changing behaviors can be so difficult because to think and act differently involves establishing a new neurological link in the brain which will be weaker that the older and more used neurological link. Needless, the urge to return back to what’s familiar will often be difficult and painful to resist, but possible.
Here are three steps to begin practicing today, in order to practice the change you need to improve your life.
Create a Vision
Even when the change in of itself is not physical, the changed person often looks physically different from their previous self. For example, people who found themselves addicted to drugs, often seem to have a more refreshed appearance after significant time has passed from their last use. This is because the outcome of every habit, positive or negative, affects you, even on the cellular level. The point is, when your change is successful, you will become a radically different person mentally and physically.
Regardless of appearance, it is important for you to visualize just how different your life is going to be when you get into the new habit of practicing change. For example, I once had a college mentor, who after he quit smoking, committed to investing his cigarette monies into the stock market. The change he experienced was financially rewarding and less stress regarding finances for his family. The less stressful new him, was also more joyful and pleasant to be around.
If you are having difficulty establishing a vision, ask yourself; “What would you like to replace your bad habit?”
The process of change is going to be very uncomfortable. There really is no way to sugarcoat it. This is why people often give up on their attempts to change, because they found the process unbearable. You can actually train your mind to embrace discomfort and thrive through feelings of discomfort. You can also train your mind to do this until you become comfortable with the discomfort.
A good analogy for this would be entering a cold swimming pool. The initial point you enter the water can be uncomfortable. However, this discomfort is short lived as your body acclimates to the water temperature.
Before you embark on your journey of change, ask yourself, “what would you feel when you stop the habit?” Also ask yourself, “how long do you think you can initially bear the discomfort?” I have found clients experience success when they commit to experiencing the discomfort associated with the new habit, until it passes.
Another important aspect of embracing discomfort is to envision what you will feel after the discomfort passes. In most cases what you will feel will likely be synonymous with relief, (after the discomfort passes) triumph (for having succeeded in seeing things through), and happiness (for the new life you are living)
Create an Action Plan
When you have created a realistic vision to work towards, and are fully committed to going through the discomfort, you need a detailed plan.
This really is the easier part. As a matter of fact this part is so easy, most people initially engage in this past before quiting. A good action plan involves a daily schedule of you ceasing the bad habit, while engaging in a healthier replacement habit.
While this may appear to be easier said than done, the doing should be more feasible if you have gone the first two important steps of creating a vision and committing to discomfort. These two steps are what will make your action plan more tolerable to implement.
It is also important to note that after thirty days of consistent practice, it becomes markedly easier to practice change.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions a counseling and life coaching practice in Tucson, Arizona. Ugo helps individuals and families in office and online. If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to call and book an appointment or fill out my contact form and click Send.