Breaking Habits

Well sh*t. I’ve just eaten a bowl of cereal, nineteen almonds, the seven remaining shortbread creams, my fourth packet of popcorn and a half a tub of ice cream…and it’s 10:30am…and it’s the fourth time this week. 

It’s now common knowledge that habits are essentially what make up our days, months, years and eventually lives. As defined in the Dictionary, a habit is ‘a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.’. From the moment we are born, unknowingly we begin to form habits that lead us down pathways which ultimately shape our lives. So if we as women have so much awareness around the importance of habits, why is it we have so many which do not serve our goals, wants and needs? The answer is, we do. Every habit, whether desirable or not, serves a purpose to us. I can imagine now you’re thinking of dozens of different habits you can think of which you find have no purpose whatsoever, however, this is exactly why so often we fail to break them. We forget what purpose they came with originally.

Let’s use binge eating as an example. A lot of us have experience with this every once and awhile, but for some of us, it’s become a habit. Now if you simply look at the symptom itself, binge eating, it’s hard to see why that would be purposeful. If, however, we delve deeper into the root cause of the symptom, for example; depression, low self esteem, poor body image issues, difficulty coping with feelings, trauma, social pressures, the list goes on, we can begin to see some reasons as to why binge eating would be purposeful.

Depression: Binge eating can light up the brain’s reward centre and give you feelings of temporary satisfaction.

Difficulty coping with feelings: Binge eating can temporarily give you something to focus on other than your current feelings. Even if after binge eating you feel worse, quite often you can focus your negative feelings on ones associated with your eating rather than the topic you’re avoiding.

Trauma: Binge eating can be our brain’s defence mechanism towards trauma and can help us feel ‘safe’ whilst doing so.

Social Pressures: It is not abnormal to feel the social pressures of being ‘thin’ in this day and age and sometimes that can lead to a feeling of lack of control. Binge eating, though often feeling out of our control, can often help us feel as though we at least have control over something – our eating.

So if all of our habits, even ones we view negatively, serve a purpose, how do we break them? We fulfill the purpose! If you look at other habits you may have this can become easier to understand. 

Let’s use brushing your teeth for example. This is a habit we are taught when we are children. Depending on who taught you and their values and beliefs, you may have been taught to brush once, twice, three times or maybe even more times per day. At first you had to think and remember to brush your teeth, however, now it is an automated habit that you can do simultaneously while scrolling facebook, feeding the pets, or getting the kids ready for bed. Now if I asked you to simply just ‘break’ this habit, what do you think would happen? Maybe one day would go past and you would feel ok, you might even be stoked you had the night off from brushing your teeth! Over time, however, as your breath gets worse, your teeth start to blacken, your mouth feels furry and you become overly self conscious about talking to people, what exactly do you think you’ll be tempted to do? Brush your teeth! This is because you have taken away a habit whilst not fulfilling the purpose it served. 

Now what if we used this same example but on top of me asking you to stop brushing your teeth, I provided you with a mouthwash that was scientifically proven to be more beneficial to your teeth and gum hygiene than brushing your teeth AND it only took 30 seconds once per day? Do you think you would still experience that same urge to brush your teeth on day 3 if your teeth were sparkly clean and your breath was minty fresh? Unlikely.

As important as it is to maintain the purpose of brushing your teeth, as is maintaining the purpose of your binge eating, yo-yo dieting, over exercising, emotional eating, over drinking, smoking, lack of movement, or any habit you feel you have that you wish to break. In order to do this you need to identify the root cause of your symptoms (eg: the trigger of your habit) and in order to do that you need to first increase your awareness around it. 

So like all of my articles  it’s time to take ACTION with the 4 steps to success.

1: For 7 days track the habit you are wanting to break and what you felt has triggered it. 

Example: Alcohol overconsumption: Day 1 – Had a stressful day at work then came home and had 3 wines. Day 2 – Had a stressful phone call with a family member then had a drink.

2: Identify the root cause (the problem you are trying to solve) by indulging in the habit.

Example: Felt stressed, had 3 wines, felt calm. The problem is stress and I relieve that feeling when I have a drink.

3: Identify 6 alternative options you could begin that would serve your purpose.

Example: What else could trigger a feeling of calm after a stressful day? Yoga, Meditation, Exercise, Talking to a friend, reading a book, listening to music.

4: Choose one option to move forward with and commit to 7 days of consistent effort in replacing your purposeful habit.

Example: Exercise: When I feel a trigger of stress I will go out for a short walk to calm myself down.

Remember, the 4 steps to success don’t work unless you do. Don’t add this to your to do list and get caught in motion, actively take control of your habits today by taking action and improving your tomorrow’s. If you need help in any of your 4 steps to success don’t hesitate to contact me through our contact page on this site or through any of our socials.

When women support each other, incredible things happen,

Jx

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