Why does changing habits seem so hard? Here are 5 ways to make it easier…
Happy New Year to you all, may 2016 bring you health, wealth and abundant happiness. If you are amongst the 32% of Britons who have committed to change for 2016, I wonder if you are finding your resolution easy to install? According to a recent article in the Guardian 63% of us will break our New Year’s resolutions, with 66% of us throwing in the towel within the first month.
So why is change so hard to maintain?
View the process as learning a new skill
When it comes to behaviour our sub conscious mind likes the status quo. It does a very good job of keeping you safe and simply doesn’t want the risk of learning something new (which at first will feel unsafe and risky promoting feelings of anxiety or unease). If you can tolerate the initial discomfort of doing something differently then you stand a greater chance of achieving the change you want. It can help to view this process as learning one. Just as you have learnt other stuff (that felt uncomfortable at first) in life this is another new thing to learn.
Be patient with yourself as you learn
Give yourself a chance to learn and adapt to this change. You probably didn’t learn to drive a car, obtain a degree or master your job in one day and this is no different. Be prepared for it to feel odd at first and remember your motivation for change. If your old behavior was one that helped you cope with stress it is vital to recognize the odd feeling of discomfort as you learn something new, is not stressful, it’s just new and it will feel easier the more often you do it.
Make the change feel good
Whatever the old behavior be it over eating, smoking or nail biting, it serves a positive intention both psychologically (our behaviours can get caught up with our identity) and neurologically (our reward motivated behavior releases dopamine). It therefore makes sense that the new change you are installing should also feel good. This will make it seem easier. The feel good factor could be a psychological boost to self esteem through the achievement of the change or a chemical one neurologically, or ideally both!
Remind yourself often of how good the new change feels
Change is therefore easier when we are aware of the benefits that it brings early on. Focusing on these benefits straight away and daily will help you recognize the reward that comes with your change (remember how much we like reward!) Acknowledging the benefits in this way helps counteract the discomfort of learning a new skill. For example if you are cutting out your evening glass of wine you can feel and acknowledge the greater energy and clarity that you have in the morning. Later in the day when it feels odd that you don’t have a glass in your hand you will be better able to cope because you have already logged the reward of your new behavior.
Use your powerful imagination to help you learn your new behavior faster
This can be done through mental rehearsal of the new behaviour. Imagine yourself with the new behaviour installed and build a picture (moving or still) in you mind using all of your senses and play it or recall it often.
If you don’t find it easy to visualize then affirmations can also help change seem easier and more real. For example ‘life is much better now I am …’ Both of these techniques allow you to mentally practice your new behaviour in the same way that sports people or performers mentally rehearse their goals. This will make your change seem more attainable and help you to install it as a permanent habit.
And remember your behaviour is not you; it’s just what you do. Learning is easier if you can stop identifying with you old behaviour.
Stoptober is here!
5 unexpected bonuses when you quit smoking
When quitting smoking is discussed (either by smokers or those helping them achieve freedom from the weed) it is usually the health benefits or the money saved that are mentioned. Whilst it is true that you will be healthier and wealthier if you quit these are just two of the perks, and in my view, not even the biggest wins when becoming a non smoker. Here are 5 unexpected gains that you can receive when you quit for good.
1.The feeling of freedom that you get when you realize that you have stopped for good cannot be underestimated. I think this sense of freedom comes from not having to feel guilty anymore about doing something that is ultimately life shortening. Having that permanent feeling of guilt removed is the equivalent of having a heavy weight lifted off your back. Sometimes people actually feel lighter, I know I did!
2.That winning feeling that gives you a boost every time you recognize that it is there. It’s that feeling of good triumphing over bad at long last. Of having done battle for the last time and having won.
3. Feeling more relaxed all the time. I didn’t realize how cranky smoking made me until I stopped. This was partly because after a very short time I would always want a smoke and if I couldn’t indulge my habit (as is often the case in an increasingly smoke free world) then I would become grumpy. Also I think I created a lot of stress to provide me with the excuse to smoke more (‘of course I need to smoke look how stressed I am!’)
4. Reclaimed time. I had not appreciated at the time how much of my day was spent thinking about smoking or actually smoking. As a non smoker it’s really nice to have back so much more time in my day. Now I have no more excuses not to read War & Peace, mow the lawn, do the washing up…
5. Although the freedom from guilt, mentioned in perk one, is a good perk, perhaps an even better perk is the freedom from the madness of having to smoke. I have heard non smokers compare their smoking experience to that of being held to ransom by a nasty blackmailer. Always having to factor in smoking (how long will I have to go without a smoke? do I have enough to last? Is there anywhere I can buy some more? Will there be anyone else who smokes? And on and on) The peace of mind granted by not having to consider the weed into everything I do is immeasurable.