The key to breaking a destructive habit is to replace it with a good one. Such an exchange can be accomplished in one month (or so). Try it. Here’s how to go about it.
- 1. Choose the right month. October is a good time, since it is usually calm and cool…before the holiday stress.
- 2. Pinpoint the habit to break. Only do it if you want to. Don’t do it because someone else says you must, or should. Do it on your own volition, though it’s nice to have friendly support.
3. Get acquainted with the habit you want to shed. When, how, and why…does it happen? Keep a small pad with you; jot down the circumstances when you follow this habit. What time of day? Where are you? Who are you with? What triggered your impulse? Be a detective: you’re solving a mystery…why you. a sensible person, cling to a habit you do not want.
4.Use wishpower, not willpower. Habits take root because the subconscious links the behavior with temporary pleasure, comfort, distraction, or satisfaction. And it links the absence of the habit with fear and discomfort. The subconscious is not part of the rational or reasoning brain; it’s the seat of emotions. “You’re ruining your life with this habit,” says the rational mind. But the subconscious isn’t listening; it is afraid to let go of a habit that has reliably provided some form of comfort.
Pitting the rational mind against the subconscious is almost always a losing battle. “Wishpower” is more useful than willpower because it uses imagery (mind pictures) to give the subconscious the comfort it usually gets from the habit. Or…thinks it does.
How is it done? Seek out a comfortable chair, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and imagine yourself in a favorite place associated with serenity. Then imagine yourself without your destructive habit. You can smell flowers and sea breezes because you no longer smoke. You are in a bikini, showing off your slim figure, because you’re no longer overeating. Your subconscious will get the message. Meet it on its level, and it responds.
What you’ve been doing is meditative imaging. It will be a large part of your habit-exchange month and probably the rest of your life. Imaging naturally becomes a good habit, in itself, easily acquired.
5. Find A Substitute.Choosing a good habit to adopt can make breaking your old one much easier. You’ll feel as though you’re adding something valuable to your life, rather than just depriving yourself of a long-established indulgence. If the new habit is one that can’t exist in conjunction with the old habit, so much the better. There are two good habits that are particularly helpful in breaking almost all bad habits. First, adopt a nutritious, well-regulated diet. Second, establish a habit of regular, moderate exercise.
One way to control the panic attacks that may prompt a fall back to good habits is to practice deep-breathing techniques. Go for brisk walks. Pull some weeds or do yard/home tidy-up. Do some stretching movements.
6. Take one step at a time. Once you’ve decided on your habit exchange, set goals for the month. Make them realistic. Break a large task into a series of small ones. Reward yourself when you reach a goal.
7. Don’t Give Up.Success deserves reward, but failure does not deserve punishment. If you slip up, don’t berate yourself and don’t quit. A lapse does not have to become a relapse. Some people believe that urges to revert to a bad habit will build to a devastating force unless they are gratified. But you can ride them out. If you can distract yourself for even a few minutes, the urge will fade and your self-control will increase.
Staying away from an old habit is often more difficult than the initial act of quitting. But the longer you identify with your new image, the easier it will be to combat cravings that could be the undoing of a happier, healthier, more confident you.
That new identity…as a person who is control of life rather than being controlled by hated habits…is the secret of shedding a bad habit for keeps.
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