We continue our series of articles about living an authentic life and our next topic is about habits. The questions we follow in this article is how can we break a bad and harmful habit and how can we grow a good and healthy one. We have started this series of articles called “Live an authentic life” because we wanted to present and debate topics that can help us live the lives that we want, authentic, beautiful and meaningful. If you have ideas or questions related to this topic, please share them in the comment section.
We all have habits we want to break or grow and we all face challenges during the process of change. Habits have on the one side some bad outcomes, they can be harmful to our bodies, but on the other side they represent a desired or pleasant outcome. That is why is it hard to break habits, because they have a certain satisfaction. Smoking is bad, but it can release stress, we want to lose weight, but we enjoy fast-foods and so on. The challenge is big and the fight is between our brain and hearts, between what we know is good and what we like. But the good news is that our mind is malleable and we can actually change, all depending on our motivation. Dr. Thomas G. Plante points out very simple how we deal with breaking habits:
“There are a wide range of variables that determine how long it takes to break a habit with no simple answers. First, it depends on how much you really want to break the habit. Many people are ambivalent. They want to reduce their alcohol consumption, but love their happy hour. They want to stop picking their nails, but it reduces stress for them. So, one important issue is how strongly do you really want to break the habit in question. Second, how established is the problem habit? It is easier to break a new habit than an old one. Third, what are the consequences of not breaking the habit? Will a partner leave you? Will you lose a job? Will you get sick? Will something really bad happen if you don’t change?”
When we are aware of a harmful habit and understand the consequences it can have in our lives, it becomes a lot easier to get rid of that habit. It is hard to break a habit only when we don`t understand its consequences or if the consequences are not important to us. The process of change involves social, psychological, cultural or biological factors that can help the process or totally the opposite, cumber it.
Everyone has tried to change a behavior at least once and we know that this is not only hard, but that sometimes it seems impossible and giving up comes so easy. One other very important thing that usually keeps us from making the changes we want is that we tend to blame others and not see the problem in ourselves. For example, for those that get angry, they might think it is because of the others, because they do things that upset them and that is not them overreacting and getting angry in vain.
But what about the habits we want to grow? Breaking a habit and growing one is very much connected and it is not easy either to grow a new habit, especially if it takes us out of our comfort zone and challenges all our senses. But trying something new can be quite exciting, so it is easier to grow a habit than to break one.
Here are some basic steps and recommendations that can help you out through the process of breaking a habit and growing a new one:
- The key to change is motivation. If you think you want to break a habit, do a list of consequences it has in your live and meditate upon them. It is easier to change a habit for personal reasons that are in line with your inner values, than to do it for external reasons, such as pressure from the society.
- Break one, grow one. Breaking a habit comes hand in hand with growing one. It is way easier to get rid of a habit if we replace it with another one. This way, the harmful behavior gets forgotten and the excitement of trying new things gets its honor place.
- Don`t rush yourself. Change takes time and there is no right or wrong timetable for change. Be aware that change can`t happen overnight, be gentle and understanding with yourself. It is important to acknowledge the difficulty of change and don`t get demotivated if you fail one day. Don`t be inpatient, it is possible that if you push too hard to actually sabotage your efforts.
- Give yourself some credit. Don`t be too demanding of yourself and remember that small steps can lead to a great success. Allow yourself to pass through each stages of change at your own pace. Some days can be easier and some others harder, but each day with each baby step brings you closer to your goal.
- Get support. It is easier to make the change if you have someone to support you, so think about it and don`t try to go with it alone. You can find a friend that maybe wants to break the same habit or just to support you. Or you can even find a therapist, a support club or an online group. Whatever fits you bests will help you out throughout the process.
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