For the most of us, life is a chain of habits. The alarm goes off at the same time each morning, we make our coffee on autopilot without stopping to think about whether we really want it or not, we drive the same route to work, and then settle in for a day that is pretty much the same as yesterday.
Many of our daily habits can be beneficial—they provide us with structure, balance and a sense of security. But what about those that aren’t so good for us? The caffeine or nicotine fix that gets us through? The gossip we’ve come to relish with colleagues at work? The soapies that steal precious exercise time? Most of us have at least one bad habit we’d like to shake, so why do we keep doing it if we know it’s not good for us?
“Our brain is a connection machine,” says life coach, Derik Mocke. “Whenever new information enters the brain, we try to make it fit in its current set of connections. These connections are like rivers in our brains that become deeper, the more information follows the same path. This is how we form habits over time.”
Think about when you learnt to drive. At first you had to really concentrate on what you -were doing, but over time – as the new connections become entrenched in your brain – it became second nature. So it is with habits. If they’re repeated often enough, they become second nature. The way you approach people, as well as challenges and obstacles in your life, can also become habitual. Think back to your childhood—were you often negative and pessimistic, or is this a mindset that has become a habit over time?
The good news is we are fully equipped to change our habits! The way you now use your mind is only a habit, and habits, any habits, can be changed if we want to do so, or even if we only know it is possible to do so. The thoughts you choose to think create the experiences you have. If you believe that it is difficult to change a habit, then your choice of this thought will make it true for you. If, on the other hand, you choose to believe you can change your behaviour, then this is what will be true for you.
Usually, people focus on changing their bad habits, but research shows it can be difficult to “unwire” an existing connection. It is quite easy to create a new connection and habits. So the best advice is to introduce new, healthy habits – because by focusing on these, you can phase out the old ones.
TRY THIS SIMPLE STRATEGY:
* Write down three habits you’d like to change. List what you want to achieve, not what you want to stop. Instead of “I want to cut out junk food”, say “I want to fit back into my skinny jeans”
* Tackle the habits on at a time, one each month, and focus on replacing it with a positive behaviour, Tell your partner or friend what you set out to do. You’ll need their support, but also a sense of accountability.
* Don’t let a minor slip become a major setback. Habits change slowly and a relapse is not the end of the road. Learn from your mistakes and avoid people or situations that trigger your bad habit.
* Celebrate small victories along the way—this will keep you motivated, energized and focused on your goals.