Some people say changing habits takes 30 days, a short period that can seem like a lifetime if you are trying to alter your meal plans, quit smoking or abstain from other unhealthy activities. Creating a routine of good habits is also not easy, as working out, changing spending patterns or trying to make more time for personal enhancement or relaxation is challenging. People are creatures of habit and changing the consistencies in one’s life takes time, effort and awareness but, if you have determination, you can break out of a bad routine or start one that enhances your quality of life.
All habits are those of the mind because it is your brain that tells you what to do; you pre-programmed it throughout your life and now, it works automatically. For the most part, this luxury of not having to think about minutiae makes each day go along smoothly but, if you want to break a bad routine or develop a healthy habit, this automatic thought process poses a problem. Fortunately, a psychologist by the name of Charles Duhigg came up with a common sense solution to assist you in changing habits.
In order to break away from an old habit or develop a new one, Mr. Duhigg recommends using a three step process that starts with cue. The idea of a cue is to create a link between your current habit and the one you want to develop, as this makes you aware of your actions. Once you recognize the cue, you can then alter your behavior from your normal routine to that which you want to be your new daily practice. Lastly, reward yourself each time you exhibit your new behavior, as this offers encouragement and should help you stay on track until your new habit fully develops.
Try as you might, you are not going to lose five pounds in one week, stop smoking or using drugs overnight or develop better study habits before your next exam. However, you can achieve any goal if it is realistic, you practice patience and remind yourself that part of changing habits is occasionally falling back into old patterns. If you slip and have a cupcake or an extra cigarette or study one less hour, it is okay as long as you do not give up and go back into your comfort zone. You have to remember why you want to change a specific part of your life and look at the benefits; visualizing your victory might also help keep you focused and get you back on the right track.
Some bad habits are worse than others and are harder to change by yourself, such as those related to drugs, alcohol, sex or criminal behavior. Changing habits of this nature require support, possibly that of a counselor, and much more dedication and persistence than simpler life changes, which is why you should not give up if you do not improve your behavior right away. It is important to know that you may mess up more than someone trying to diet or spend less money but the fact that you are trying and seeking help is where you should focus your energy. If you fall, just remember why you started this journey in the first place and know that the reward is well worth the wait.
The choice of changing habits is a very personal one, as every individual has their own vices to overcome but deciding to enhance your life is a good first step that shows your dedication. Your thoughts are the beginning of a plan that you need to now put into action so you can develop positive habits and become that much closer to being perfect.