The Strategist

Getting Bad Habits Off Your Back

02/12/2016 - 16:08

All people often indulge their weaknesses. Gradually, some of them turn into negative stereotypes that mess with our work and relationships.

nerdegutt via flickr
nerdegutt via flickr
But, fortunately, there is a reason for optimism. In recent decades, psychology has made great strides, and now offers new tools to overcome ingrained habits.

Sufferers from themselves

Sometimes we do not even suspect that our attachments and ordinary acts are way to self-destruction. Procrastination, overeating, avoiding the spotlight, self-doubt, stay on poor performance or continuation of a failed relationship, carelessness and inability to listen become a source of unnecessary emotions.

Richard O'Connor, a psychotherapist with thirty years of experience, said: "There are more stereotypes of self-destructive behavior than we think." The problem is that we do not recognize them, and therefore we repeat our mistakes over and over again.

Overcoming bad habits is not an easy task, but there is a hope. If you practice good habits, your brain changes and evolves in response, nerve cells create new connections with each other. So, following good habits becomes easier with every step.

Do not hurry. When we want to lose weight, then we expect that in three months we will cease to experience such a hunger as before. Strange? Perhaps it is unrealistic expectations. We have to give ourselves more time and practice more to fulfill our desires.

The power of thought

There is experimentally proved evidence that human brain almost immediately begins to change when exposed to exercises, not matter, real or imagined.

Alvaro Pascual-Leone, professor and neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, found that motor cortex area increases and re-shapes itself within five days of playing the piano with one hand,. Once the practice is stopped, the changes disappear. However, what’s the most surprising is that if you do the same exercises in mind, the brain is still changing.

This means that your internal pep speech, efforts to promote awareness, control over thoughts and willpower will achieve the desired effect.

Do not become discouraged

For example, we have been eating junk food for years, and now began to follow a diet in hope to lose five kilograms in two weeks. What some people do if the diet is not working after a couple of weeks? We throw it away. Although we would never expect that we could learn to play guitar in a couple of weeks or become proficient in a foreign language during the same time.

We look forward to overcome the habits acquired over the years of life during a short period of time. However, habits die in struggle. Each time acquiring a bad habit, we facilitate a path to it in the future. Nevertheless, at the same time, each new good habit get us closer to return.

We can learn how to program our brain so that it would be easier and more natural to make right choices and train our willpower. Every day, a good practice leaves traces in the brain: after the fall, we can again sit in the saddle and expect that soon it will become easier.

How to get rid of a bad habit

You feel ready to give up addictions and those actions that interfere with daily life to enjoy? Then try to take advantage of this plan.

1. Don’t spread yourself too thin

Focus on a self-destructive habit that you really want to change. It can be anything: workaholism, stubbornness, procrastination, self-doubt - all that really pulls you back.

2. Become a researcher

Take a few days to study your habit. Take notes to see any hidden incentives that trigger it, such as time of day, mood, someone's remark in your address or other stimuli.

Then write what happens next: how did this habit begin? What are consequences of self-destructive actions? Do you feel guilty or ashamed? Or relieved, like letting the steam off?

Finally, note how you are going to eventually get out of this pit of the destructive habit.

3. Prepare a path of retreat

After a careful study of unhealthy sides, you are more than willing to change. What can you do with the trigger mechanisms? Avoid some of them, and flee from the others?

4. Set a date

Select a start date of work on yourself, but not later than the next two weeks. If it takes time for gathering information or a rehearsal, it does not matter, but do not let your plans become an excuse for delay.

5. Practice three months

Make a commitment for three months. Count them and circle the date on your calendar. Do not forget about your goal - even if you stumble on the second day, the third start again. Remember that every day the positive activity creates new connections in the brain, even if you're not all were on the ball.

When you have mastered a good control over any of your self-destructive habits - excellent, you can savor your success. You can be proud of yourself, because you have coped with the difficult task!

based on 'Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior' by Richard O'Connor

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