Many people seek to break old habits and institute new ones. Often these are habits that have plagued them for a long time such as unhealthy eating or smoking. These habits vary in scope and character but we all have a few. The force of habit is fundamental to how we operate mentally and is what enable us to multitask: for example, to drive and problem solve simultaneously.
Whether it’s a habit you wish to break such as biting your nails, unhealthy eating, or smoking, or a habit you would like to add to your daily life such as regular exercise, learning a new skill, or a new leisure activity there is a highly reliable approach that you can follow:
Start With Small Steps
Whether you are ending an old habit or starting a new one, focus on small changes that you can build on towards your goal. Most people are intimidated or tripped up by the magnitude of the change required: that is, they attempt to start or quit all at once – and then feel like a failure when they can’t maintain the change. Changing one’s habits and routine requires a decision (best if it’s deliberate) and some planning at a minimum. The changes to work have to be integrated into your daily routine and activities. One small step at a time is much more likely to stick overall.
Mindfulness: making your choices conscious
Although you don’t need to be an accomplished meditator, being mindful as you pursue the change you desire is the most important step on the path to change. To be mindful means to pay full attention moment by moment to your behaviours or actions. In this way, you begin to regain control over the automatic, habitual actions you want to change.
Commitment for 40 consecutive days
Whether you’re breaking an old habit or instituting a new one, the most effective approach is to add these changes to your daily routine for 2 months or at least 40 days in succession. The goal is to make your new behaviour so automatic that you don’t have to even think about it within your daily routine. Mindful awareness throughout is the key to sustaining the changes to your routine.
Give meaning to your actions
Part of what makes our commitment is the meaning you associated with your actions. Often it is easier to make your actions meaningful if you have in your mind both the reason you decided to make this change and how your actions provide a meaningful benefit to important others in your life. These important others can be family, friends or others in your life who add to the value and worthwhileness of your efforts.
Track your Progress
Tracking your progress has two big benefits when changing old habits. It helps you remain conscious and reinforce of the change you are making. It is difficult to remember after a couple of weeks or a month where you were at the beginning. Keeping track gives you objective information of your progress and greater confidence that you are achieving your goals. By also tracking what you do to overcome and resist the temptation to go back to your old ways, you can remind yourself of what you do that works for you and stay focused on the process rather than the outcome.
Seek Advice from Psychologists, Experts in Behavioural Change
Although friends and family can cheer you on in many meaningful and beneficial ways, having a professional in your corner who can offer a sounding board and experienced, practical advice specifically tailored to help you manage when you start to falter and reinvigorate your efforts is invaluable.
As such a professional psychologist who has the knowledge experience and insight to help you determine the right approach for you is invaluable. Many professional psychologists have the therapeutic skills to help you mobilize your own strengths and resources so that you develop long-lasting solutions that are the most effective. Support groups tailored to your particular situation and circumstances can also be valuable.
Psychologists and therapists such as you will find at Clear Path Solutions, have the skills to help you make a real difference in eliminating unwanted habits and helping you incorporate much more beneficial ones.