Anything we do repeatedly becomes a habit. And there are lots of habits that do us good, such as brushing our teeth twice a day or putting a seatbelt on as we get in the car. But most of us have developed habits that don’t do us good; such as reaching for a glass of wine after a stressful day or biting our nails when we’re bored.
I was reminded yesterday of how easily habits are formed. Those of you who use the M60 will know it’s been 50 mph for months, while they’ve converted it to a ‘smart motorway’. I, like many others really struggled with reducing my speed. It felt unnatural to be going so slowly. Yesterday, although the speed restriction has finally been lifted, I saw lots of drivers still doing 50mph! It had just become hard-wired into their brain. The good news is, just as they got used to doing 50mph, they will be able to re-wire their brain to do 70mph again. And in the same way, you can also change your habits if you want to.
Here are some tips to help you do it:
- Identify what you’re getting from the habit
All habits serve a function, even the bad ones. Perhaps drinking helps you to be more sociable? Maybe smoking gives you the opportunity to take a break at work. Mindless eating can be a way of comforting yourself when you’re feeling down. Our brains release dopamine when we eat, which is a bit like an internal hug. The more you eat, the more you need to eat to get the same comfort. Identifying what you gain from your habit will help you find a different one to replace it with. Maybe a bath will help you to relax instead of a glass of wine.
2. Ask yourself, ‘What’s the real problem?’
Dealing with whatever the real issue is will help you achieve your goal. If you over-eat because of low self-esteem, then that’s something you can work on. If you drink when you get home to mask a problem in your relationships, then you’ll need to face that to move forwards. If you smoke to get breaks at work because you don’t like your job, then that’s the place to start.
3.Write out your goal and look at it often to keep yourself on track.
What do you want to achieve? Maybe it’s 3 alcohol free days a week, maybe it’s stopping the daily donut. Whatever it is, putting it into a clear goal will help.
4. Assemble your support team
Having people around you who will help support you in your goal is a huge help. Maybe it’s your partner who can help prepare healthy meals, or a friend who will go to the gym with you. Let them know what your goal is and how that can help you. Also, keep an eye out for those around you who may try and sabotage you and plan how you will deal with that. It may be the co-worker who doesn’t want to be the only one eating donuts or a partner who starts bringing home takeaways because they’re worried about losing you.
5. Be patient
Our brains aren’t programmed to like change. Our brain wants to keep us safe and to do that it likes repeated patterns of behaviour. Sometimes we fail because we try to change too much, too soon. Pick one small thing to change and take small steps forwards; the tortoise wins the race on this one!
6. Be prepared for slips
An ingrained habit won’t change overnight, and we will face challenges on the way. Slipping up gives us valuable information. What was happening before we reached for that glass of wine? Why did we lose our temper? Knowing what our stressors are will enable us to put plans in place to deal with them. Try keeping a diary and record how you felt before you slipped into an old habit.
Hypnotherapy can help you to change your habits, by helping you re-wire your brain. For a free consultation call 07973914718.