Change your mind through changing your habits
Everyone has them. Old ones. New ones. Ones that bring benefit. Ones that don’t. But what is a habit?
A habit is a learned pattern of behaviour that a person will repeat over and over until the pattern becomes subconscious. To the point where you won’t even realise you are doing it. Sometimes we build these behavioural patterns deliberately to achieve a positive purpose, for example, brushing our teeth before bed. Sometimes, the behaviour is built unknowingly, and may be a natural response to a stressful situation, for example, biting your nails. People often have many habits without even realising it – and herein lies the problem most people have when it comes to their weight.
Don’t get me wrong – it is difficult to recognise and identify our own habits. Isolating which ones bring about positive health results, and which bring about negative. For example, always buying a packet of biscuits on the weekly food shop. You know it won’t do your body any good but it’s a habit and you do it anyway. It is so much easier to stick safely to what you always do, safe, familiar patterns, eating what you always eat and exercising the way you always have. You got this. You know how to do this. This is safe. Eventually, this will pay off and you will magically wake up 10lbs lighter – right?
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”
Identifying the bad habits is just the first step. Breaking down the bad habits is the next, and it can be an extremely difficult process. As Mark Twain famously said about habits, “quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” That occasional biscuit when you go to the fridge, the extra glass of wine on a Friday, the sugar in your tea. All seemingly innocent and small, these habits can build up and be the key reasons preventing you from reaching your goals.
But how do you give up something that is so ingrained, so normal?
Pay more attention to yourself. When are you doing? Why are you doing it? Actively force yourself to consider why you are reaching for that mid-afternoon sugar hit. Recognition of the habit is step 1.
Write it down.
Record what you are doing. For example, keep a food diary and push yourself to record every little thing that goes into your mouth and how it makes you feel. This is step 2.
Now you know when you do these little things, replace it with something positive. Instead of a biscuit, have a banana. Instead of a coke have a glass of water. Re-train your mind towards a behaviour that will bring you benefit. This is step 3.
This is the 4th and final step. Maintaining a new habit is key to reap the positive rewards that come with your new and improved behaviour. Congratulate yourself on your success. Share it with those around you. Get them to hold you accountable for sticking to your new habit. We are all human, and you will have days where fighting the urge to slide into old ways will be more difficult than others. Stay strong and be proactive, a problem shared is a problem halved.
Habits are the cornerstones that form the foundations of all our day to day behaviours. They are difficult to break and hard to reformulate. However, you won’t ever make the changes to your mind and your body without taking the brave step towards modifying these traits. Give it a go. Pick a habit that isn’t getting you anywhere and put a better one in it’s place and see where it gets you.
I dare you.