Eleven easy steps you can use to break any bad habit! (from Shirley Davalos of new Healing Arts Center at the Cavallo Point in Sausalito)
If you really, really want to that is… In fact, I would say that "wanting" to break a bad habit is the first and foremost step in making your dream of habit addiction freedom come true. Do you really want to break your habit? This is the most essential element for a successful outcome and it is the one question I always ask in my intial hypnosis session. Lot's of people think they would like to stop smoking, lose weight, stop biting their nails or stop drinking but they are just kidding themselves or submitting to the wishes of a spouse, friend or mom who told them they must do something about their habit. Folks must be very clear about what they really want in order to change. Once this is understood, change begins, and the rest of the steps are much easier!
- Do you "REALLY" want to change?
You must be very honest with yourself because if you are making this decision for someone else it will be a hard road to success, filled with pot holes that will trip you up and sign posts that will direct you away from your goal. After you have a notion that you have a problem with a habit you can begin the change immediately.
- Understand that the habit is controlling your life, and you can take back control.
Do you stand outside to smoke? Huddled in a doorway while it rains and the cold wind slices through you, sending ashes and smoke into your eyes? Smoking is controlling you. Do you think about food often? Eat it fast, say to yourself " I'll be good tomorrow" or "just a little taste". Do you open a bag of chips and eat at your desk never thinking about what you are putting in your mouth? Food is controlling you. Many habits are simply unconscious routines that we do on a daily basis and they can be very helpful, like taking the same route to work every day, or brushing your teeth. We don't have to think about every step because we have done them over and over again. In fact, we don't have to think about each step at all. That's good for some things, but if your habit is so unconscious that you don't even think about it or make a choice when you do it, you have given up control.
- Take back Control and make a conscious decision.
Since a habit is an automatic, unconscious activity that you simply follow it is extremely important to change every routine that is associated with it. How? Change. Change everything. So if you are smoker, change the brand you buy, take the cigarette out of the pack or put them upside down in the pack. Keep the matches in another area. Change where your smoke, when you smoke. Change everything about how you smoke. If your habit is about food, change how you eat. For instance, instead of opening a bag of chips and eating from the bag. Take some chips out, put them plate and then close the bag and put it away. You see what we are doing is creating a conscious decision and making a choice with each step you must decide to take it or not. If you have to go get the chip bag again in order to get more you are making a choice. See! It's easy when you are in control. Notice, we haven't ever said anything about guilt. We'll get to that.
- Honor yourself and be realistic. Take it a step at a time! Don't get overwhelmed!
It took a lot of time to create the habit and the truth is you are now beginning to re-train your brain to create an new positive habit. They say that if you do something 29 times, it will become a habit. There is no magical way of breaking a habit. Some people can just stop cold-turkey and other's need help from another source, like weight watchers, a doctor, or re-hab. You can support yourself by validating each change you make. Gee, I haven't had a cookie in a week! or Boy, usually I'll have smoked 4 cigarettes by now. By doing things deliberately, you are making a positive change that will grow. Your subconscious mind will get the message and begin to help you too!
- Go on a vacation or move to Japan!
David Sedaris quit smoking when he moved to Japan. Why? In an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, David said it was so much easier, because everything was different. He had a different living space so his desk was different, where he kept his lighter was different. He was able to stop smoking because his entire routine was different. You don't have to go to Japan to quit smoking or change whatever habit you are working on, but you can decide on when to quit. It really helps if you think about when you are going to begin the change to stop a habit. Maybe there is a vacation coming up, or a special occasion, of a holiday that will be your target date. Start thinking now and get your brain ready for that great day when you will be completely free of your habit. The key here is to expect success. Know it is coming and take pride in the wonderful feeling of achieving your goal.
- Give yourself a little time before you take action.
We all have cravings. You know, it's the thought that enters your head and says, "Wouldn't a nice chewy chocolate chip cookie taste good right now!" or "It's time to have a cigarette." Right, that kind of craving. Here's what you do before you do what your are thinking. Give yourself some time. Say to yourself, "I'll have it if I want to in 20 minutes." Then, breathe, take some nice deep cleansing breaths. See what happened? You didn't give in to your habit without putting in a little control mechanism. Spend some of that time congratulating yourself on how well you are doing. What control you have and how much better you feel.
- Stop beating yourself up if you eat, smoke, chew, or do anything that looks like you fell off the wagon.
We don't need to nag ourselves into guilt. It's not good for us. Instead, look back on how far you have come from the sniveling cigarette, cookie, chewing your nails kind of person you were. Notice how much your have changed and just get back up there and continue the change. I didn't say "Start all over again, did I?" that's because you are simply continuing to move closer to your goal.
- Pay attention!
Notice when you have cravings. Notice how you handle the urge and when they seem to arise. The idea is to be present and awake while you are taking significant steps toward your goal. Some people like to keep journals or diaries, others just take in the information. Find out what works for you and do it!
- Let all of your friends know you have made a decision to change.
They will support you. Just because you have declared that you are about to create a major shift in your life, people will expect you to do it. It will help you stay honest. Really!
- Do not sneak!
Yeah, I know, it's easy to say but really, who are you kidding?
- Treat yourself!
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