Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body,
but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out & proclaiming “Wow, What a Ride!”

Monday, September 28, 2015

which is harder?- make or break a habit

Which is harder… making something a habit or breaking a habit?

I asked myself that  recently when I noticed that I had restarted a couple of bad habits and left behind a couple that were good.  "Oh-oh" --my mind said—"gotta nip these in the bud now."

Do you have something you want to change in your life? Yes, it takes time and focus but you can begin a new habit or break an old annoying one. No one really knows how long it takes to make or break a habit.  Some say two weeks and some say 21 days, some say three months. It is quite variable since it depends on the person, their determination, their focus, and the habit in question.

Here is a biological fact about learning. When you learn something new, the brain creates new synapses or neural pathways. I call them a crevice.  It is as if a new road has been laid to reach a physical destination. Once that road is established, it can be used numerous times. Over time, the more it is traveled, the easier it gets to follow, much like a well-worn habit, thus the crevice is made.

On the other hand, breaking a habit resembles tearing up that roadway so you will not reach that destination anymore or filling in the crevice. However, in the brain, that roadway is not completely demolished but now in its place there is a roadblock sign.  But in a moment of desperation or a stressful situation, you can roll right over that sign and use the road again….
….Therefore, I believe breaking a habit is harder than forming one, but not impossible.

Here are a few steps that I follow that for me help make or break a habit. There is no way to know if it will take you two weeks or three to accomplish your goal, but over time you can affect a change if you keep at it.

  • Identify the habit –Know what you are working towards clearly, before you get started. It will increase your chances of success.
  • Do the research – Know what you are up against. How hard is it to let’s say to start exercising or stop smoking? What are the resources available to assist you? If you want to be more assertive, learn the traits of an assertive person.
  • Create a positive replacement habit for bad ones -Positive replacement habits might be something such as exercise or meditation to stop overeating or biting your fingernails.
  • Prepare – Think ahead of time how you are going to consciously insert your new plan into your schedule. What are you going to do to start you on a different pattern?
  • Keep at it – If you forget one day, be sure to do it again the next day. Foster building that new pathway. The more you do something, the more it will become second nature and create a new crevice for yourself. As for breaking a habit, practice using daily affirmations where you tell yourself you can quit whatever habit you wish to conquer or keep whatever you wish to start. Say things out loud like I love to experiment and have so much fun doing it.  List the reasons why you can do it to boost your confidence too.
  • Start simple- if you have more than one, like me, that you want to start/stop then start with the simplest and easiest- one that guarantees success, it will start you on a "roll" to accomplish the next slightly harder task.
  • lastly--Get help – if you need! -this can be a friend, a couch, behavior therapist, or hire a Life Coach who can hold you accountable for what you are about to do. Therapy can also help with breaking habits as it can teach you to create an alternate way of thinking to avoid returning to old habits instead of just focusing on not doing something.

 There are a ton of people on the internet with all sorts of suggestions of how to develop and break habits…but the best suggestion I have… is just do it. If you’re trying to make a change in your life, try the steps above. Soon, you will be moving on the right track. And if you slip back…grab the seat of your britches, pull yourself forward, and go at it again. 

Remember, you are an unlimited person, your mind serves you well! 

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