Time to replace bad habits with good habits

Written by Easter Becker-Smith. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on August 23, 2011 with No Comments

by Easter Becker-Smith

When we think about self-improvement, it means change. We cannot improve anything without change, and that includes ourselves. Change may take the form of a different way of thinking, of doing, of reacting or feeling.

What we want to change about ourselves often involves a habit.

We may want to lose weight, so that means breaking habits of eating too much and exercising too little. We may want to stop procrastinating (I am thinking as I write my article the day before it is due). When we want to stop one thing we do, think or feel and replace it by starting to do, think or feel something else, we are usually dealing with a habit.

A habit is an action, thought or feeling that has occurred so many times that elicits an automatic response. We do not really think, we simply react the same way we have many times.

What does your dog or cat do when he hears his dinner bowl clinking on the kitchen counter? He shows up and watches you intently.

Human habits work the same way; they just show up because they have for so long.

A habit begins as a response to a need. Some habits are good. When we have a habit of brushing our teeth twice a day and flossing, we have the need for a healthy mouth and good dental reports. When we create the habit of buckling our seat belts every time we get in the car, we have the need to protect ourselves in case of an accident.

What about the habits that we want to change in order to improve ourselves, be it physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or all of the afore mentioned?

Habits are an actual physiological reaction in the brain. When we think, do or feel a certain way again and again, we create neural pathways in the brain. These pathways are like tire tracks in soft earth. The more you drive over and over the same path, the deeper the ruts of the tire tracks. The more you demonstrate the same habit, the deeper the pathways are in the brain.

That is why habits are not so easy to break. You could decide to accept the excuse that, “my habits are deeply imbedded in my brain, so I cannot help myself. It’s why I keep doing that thing I do!” If you run with that excuse and keep thinking or saying it over and over, well now you are creating a new neural pathway, or a new habit and you have successfully created a habit about a habit. This is becoming too complicated. Know that those who truly want to change, will not accept excuses from themselves. Instead, they are determined to change and reap the rewards of self improvement.

How can you break a habit and make the change you desire in yourself? Replace the old habit with a new habit. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? It is simple, it is not easy. There is no big red button to hit that says, “There, now I have a new good habit!”

To change your habits, you must first really feel the need for the change you want to create. Your desire must be strong, so that you begin your change with determination and conviction. You must also do the following:

Write the reason you desire your new habit and place it somewhere that you will see it often.

Do not bite off more than you can chew. Changing a habit takes steps. For example, if you want to start eating healthier you might choose to eat one more serving of vegetables every day. Deciding to cut out all sweets, all caffeine and eat seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day when you currently eat just two, is setting yourself up for failure.

Know your weaknesses and stay away from them. If you are trying to lose weight, do not buy your favorite cookies. When you know what you are vulnerable to, you can stay away from it.

Avoid the people who are a negative influence to your habit changes. Anyone who tries to convince you that just one piece of cake won’t hurt, when you are changing your eating habits is not the person you want to be around.

Be with people who support you and help you stick to your goals so you can change your habits If you do not have friends and fans who will help you, then find a support group, a counselor or a coach to keep you motivated to stay on track with your goals.

Reward yourself when you are achieving behaviors that will help you accomplish your new habit, even if it is patting yourself on your back.

Follow through with the suggestions above and you will change your bad habit, and replace it with a habit that brings forth an improved you.

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About Easter Becker-Smith

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Easter Becker-Smith provides coaching for individuals, groups and corporate teams.  She coaches individuals to help them discover their own path to balance and fulfillment in their lives.  She brings her years of experience in business as a highly regarded leader to help companies improve their productivity and efficiency by learning how to better communicate with each other.  Visit her website at www.coacheaster.com.

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