Break a Habit!
8 Simple Steps To Change for Good!
At some time in your life, I am sure that you have had the desire to break a habit. We humans are creatures of habit. Although we might say our habits are either "good" or "bad," habits are behaviors that we developed and learned out of the need to cope and survive through everyday life. Inherently, habits themselves are neither good nor bad. However, the effect that they have on our lives can be helpful or hurtful, depending on our current needs. That is why we refer to them as good habits and bad habits.
"Habits are neither good nor bad, they are simply behaviors that no longer serve us."
These behaviors can occur automatically or intentionally. There may come a time where a behavior no longer serves us, and it is time to break a habit. As we grow and evolve, most of us eventually become aware of how habits impact our life. We identify habits we would like to break, or habits we would like to develop.
How Long Does it Take to Break a Habit?
Depending on the behavior, it can take about two to four weeks to fully break a habit, or to create a more helpful habit. Of course, there are more extreme situations that will take longer, and require counseling or behavior modification therapy. We encourage you to get help and explore these methods if you habits are destructive or harmful to yourself or others.
Mindful Habits Blueprint - A Practical Exercise
In this practical exercise, we will focus on those daily routines that are mostly subtle, unconscious behaviors. With these every-day habits, the following steps can make it easier to break a habit, and establish a new behavior pattern for good.
- Name your goal!
The first and most important step is to set your goal. You are not going to see any results if you are not willing to spend some time defining your goal in a concrete way. The wait-and-see method is a terrible strategy for real and lasting change. So, get to work and figure out what you really want. This goal should be phrased as a positive statement, even if your goal is to stop doing something. For example, instead of saying "I will quit snacking on junk food after dinner,” say "I will practice healthy eating habits.”
- Write it down!
Bringing it to paper helps you to make a commitment to achieving it. We often talk here about the creative power of writing. Writing something down, in and of itself, is powerfully creative. When you write something down, you create something that has never existed before. This brings your intention into existence. It signals your mind and the Universe that this thing now exists, and it becomes official.
- Choose to do your best!
Decide on the new habit or behavior that you want to develop. Describe the new behavior that will be formed. Or, describe the behavior you will have instead of the habit you’re trying to replace. This step is very important. If you want to change your behavior you must be specific about what it will look like when you get your wish. Remember, do not use negative terms. Instead, only describe the behaviors you want to keep. Using our example above, you might say, “If I feel like I am hungry after dinner, I will drink a glass of water and wait at least 30 minutes. If I still feel hungry, I will have a pre-set portion of fruit or vegetables.”
- Learn from your triggers!
Identify, and learn from, your triggers. Behavior patterns don't exist independently. Habits are often associated with another part of your regular routine. For instance, watching television or reading on the couch might trigger that part of you that wants to mindlessly snack on junk. You automatically grab a bag of chips and don’t even remember eating them. Think about when and why you do the thing you want to quit. Building good habits can be as simple as identifying triggers, and eliminating them, or changing your reaction to them.
- Keep it Front and Center!
Post reminders to yourself in strategic places, or set alarms on your phone to bring you out of auto-pilot during vulnerable times of day. You can leave yourself a message on the mirror, refrigerator, computer monitor, or some other place where you will see it regularly. You can also have a family member or co-worker use a particular phrase to remind you of your goal.
- Get accountable.
Accountability can be scary, but it is so effective. Any job is easier with help! Consider forming a partnership with someone who has a similar goal. Talk about ways to help keep each other accountable. If you don’t have an accountability buddy, you can still ask for someone to check in with you, or remind you of your goals at strategic times. Did you know that people who enlist accountability partners are ten times more likely to succeed? It’s positive peer pressure!
- Reinforce daily
Write affirmations every day. Pick one short, powerful phrase to represent your will to develop a good habit. It should be written in the present tense, as it if is already happening. Write your phrase ten times every day, every morning, and nightly before bed. Repeat this routine for at least 21 days. This process helps make your goal a part of your subconscious, which will not only remind you to practice the new behavior, but it also keeps you focused and motivated.
- Reward yourself!
Reward yourself for making progress at set time intervals. Focus on your goal one day at a time, but give yourself a small reward at scheduled times. Start with frequent spacing, and then spread out over time. The rewards should not be big, or expensive, but make sure that it is something that supports your goal, and not sabotage it. For example, if you are trying to quit smoking, your reward should not be a cigarette.
Following these steps will greatly improve your results when trying to develop good habits, and squash bad ones. It is important to realize that obstacles and setbacks are a part of the habit-breaking/habit-making process.
#9 Super Secret (not really) Power-up Bonus Tip
Forming habits and retraining behaviors all comes down to motivation. Here, motivation is an emotional attachment to your goal. If you have a hard time staying motivated, make sure that when you write your goals down in step number 2, you have described the emotional feeling you will have when you have achieved your new habit. If you need to, add pictures or any other visual link as a visual cue to help you remember the feelings behind the goal. Then, when you are practicing step 7, writing down your affirmation, make sure that you pay attention to these emotions while you are writing your affirmation. This makes it more real to your subconscious, and helps it manifest even faster. For more tips on using tools for manifestation, check out this article!
The Key to Success
When you have a failure, slip, or setback, don’t give up or put off your reset date. The old saying, “get right back on the horse” strategy is really effective. Start immediately back on the plan, at day 1. Reaffirm your commitments and affirmations, recommit your goals to paper. Engage your support person. Identify what went wrong, and how it can be avoided next time.
Remember to focus on progress, not perfection. Be kind to yourself, believe in yourself, and Depending on the habit it may take several tries, but persistence is the real key to lasting change.
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