DISSOLVING A HABIT: 5 IDEAS FOR A PLAN
The sink in my new home is across from the stove to the right instead of beside me to the left, the way it was in my old place. No big deal, except each time I want to use the sink I turn to the left before I realize that it’s the other way.
This habit of turning to the left worked well in the old kitchen situation but doesn’t here. That’s the way it is with habits. They may have worked before but now, they don’t.
No, not really me.:)
Habits exist so that we don’t have to think so much.
Imagine if we didn’t create habits. We’d be rethinking all things all the time. We’d be up in the middle of the night deciding which way to get to the bathroom, or thinking about how to form the letter “a” while trying to write our thoughts.
We’d be exhausted and still never get beyond inventing the wheel…or, to the toilet in time.
Habits, a.k.a, patterns, put us on “automatic,” resulting in large parts of our lives being better. Easier.
We can thank our brains for this ability to be efficient.
The Basal Ganglia, is a big player in habit making.
Every habit we have serves a purpose, some way it made our life better at the time we made it, though that purpose may not be as simple, or obvious, as getting to the sink quickly with a hot pot of pasta.
So what to do when a pattern no longer helps us?
When the mindlessness of “automatic” makes it difficult to be as healthy, productive, creative, kind, or as loving as we desire it’s time for a change.
Luckily, our brilliant brains are adaptable too. Some patterns re-adjust or shift on their own, subconsciously, the same way they are made. I’m sure that I’ll soon have a new pattern in the kitchen and that cute little spin I do at the stove will disappear.
It’s trickier when a habit doesn’t change on its own.
If it’s an old habit, chances are it’s not going to shift as easily as my kitchen example. At this point, dissolving a pattern requires coaxing its reasons for being out from the gray world of rote behavior into the brighter light of gentle inquisitiveness.
It requires mindfulness. And a plan. A plan unique to you.
I hope you’ll use the following 5 elements to craft such a plan. When I work with clients I use these very same elements. A recent client stopped smoking, another is exercising every day, and another is making different food choices. I quit biting my nails years ago by incorporating these elements into a plan.
Do things that help you learn about yourself and your body like journaling, meditation, yoga, therapy, energy work.
Find ways to quiet the judging and shaming yourself for having this habit, or waiting too long or not moving fast enough or whatever way you shame or “should” yourself.
Start learning about the needs you are meeting by maintaining this habit. There can be more than one current one, and older ones too.
A. Cut down slowly and intentionally. B. Introduce new behavior that meets the needs behind the habit.
Celebrate the small victories! They add up and keep momentum flowing.
All 5 elements are equally important when creating the type of plan that doesn’t emphasize outer or inner work, but integrates the two.
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