Tuesday, February 1, 2011

You Can Break Bad Habits

The stress created by the shaky economy, bad weather, and political unrest worldwide are causing many of us to either increase, or go back to, bad habits. We all have bad habits. I often find clients really beat themselves up over them. Don’t! It is not helpful. A kinder and more effective strategy for getting rid of a bad habit is to actively replace it with a new, helpful habit.
      1. Identify a positive habit and behavior you would like to adopt. (for example, drinking more water)
      2. Recognize the sensory impulse(s) you experience in your body or other stimuli that occur just before you usually act on the negative habit. (You are having a drink with friends and crave a cigarette.)
      3. Instead of acting on the negative impulse (lighting up), use your conscious attention to re-focus your thoughts and behaviors on the new and positive habit you identified in Step 1. (Ask for a glass of water with a slice of lemon.)
      4. Substitute the new behavior that is congruent with the positive habit you want to form for the behaviors of the negative habit. (Slowly sip the water.)
5. Continue Steps 4 and 5 for at least 9 weeks. You will be using the triggers from your old habit to begin the new habit.

Drinking water is a good substitute behavior
       How long will it be painful to change from the new habit to the old one? About 9 weeks. What is important is that you stick to your new routine every day for the first couple of weeks. Use willpower to repeat the behavior so that the new, positive habit will get ingrained. Sooner than you think, you will no longer need to think about doing the behavior. It will become automatic. 
The bad news: you will slip up. No change of behavior progresses steadily. Usually it is an experience of two steps forward, one step back. The good news: If you are kind to yourself and don't give up, you can make your desired change. 
Good luck!
Be well,
Excerpted from an article in Positive Psychology News Daily, by Emily van Sonnenberg
 The 12 Bad Habits That Hold Good People Back: Overcoming the Behavior Patterns That Keep You From Getting Ahead

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