Breaking old or unhelpful habits can feel like a bit of battle. Here are some useful self-help tips that we talked about on Allison Ferns BBC Sussex Show in her Sound Advice Slot. You can listen again and read about it here.
BBC Sussex Talking About Self Help Tips for Help Breaking Habits
Being Back at BBC Radio Sussex
It was great to be back at BBC Sussex again and to catch up with Allison, and Sarah, her multi-tasking producer that day. Being a hypnotherapy practitioner and a life coach means I have a lot of experience to draw upon to offer insights to help people when they are trying to let go of unhelpful habits and start more positive ones. And this Sound Advice slot on Allison Ferns afternoon show was to share some useful self-help advice that can make all the difference.
No Time Like the Present!
We started by talking about how for some, including Allison, the thought of start off the new year with letting go of old habits in the teeth of the winter is just too bleak a prospect! And for others they find that the general new-year theme helps them along and gives them extra support. For some there may be a sense of urgency and they may need to go for it straight away whatever the time of year if it hinges around a major reason like their health. But if you can choose, choose the best time for you when you are most likely to succeed.
How Habits Form
Before we looked at some top tips for breaking habits, I explained that habits are formed by repetition and how they can vary in their strength. The more we do something, the stronger that pathway becomes in our nervous system. We are rewarded by a chemical “hit” from dopamine, a neurotransmitter. It is unfortunate that some of the unhealthiest habits around food, drink, drugs and smoking can give us the biggest “hit”. And this is where these top tips can become even more helpful because these habits can become embedded in our unconscious and can feel harder to change.
Breaking Unhelpful Habits & Setting Up New Ones
It shouldn’t be about deprivation or making yourself miserable. You will be less likely to succeed. Ideally we need to build in ways to make it more fun. Life is about balance and being happy. As you let go of old habits, new positive ones need to take their place. And these may take time to build up to the same level as the older patterns, so sticking with it will bring its rewards.
I see people for all sorts of reasons in Lewes and Barns Green, but eating, drinking and living more healthily are really common areas where people look for help. It can also be that people feel stuck in a rut and want to rethink how they do things. Sometimes that can be around starting a new project at home or work, a career change, or getting started on a creative project. Habits can take many forms!
Just a note that if you are looking at making radical changes and have any health issues or concerns, do check in with your GP or health professional first.
Self Help Tips For Breaking Habits
- What Do You Really Want? Think about what really matters to you and what will make you happy. Not just in the short term, being a healthier weight or drinking less for example. Go beyond that, focus on something even bigger than that immediate goal. How you want to look and feel, and the things you want to do. Now and in the future.
- Give Yourself Occasional Treats to help Stay on Track! It is what we do most of the time that matters. So unless it is something like smoking or drugs, when the stop needs to be an actual full stop, the odd treat can actually help us to stay motivated. Good news: you can have your cake and eat it!
- What Does Your Habit Do For You? We talked about this a few times as it can be crucial to realise what you are getting form your habit. What it gives you. Often, even if the habit itself is unhelpful, the underlying reason is worthwhile. For example, it may be about feeling relaxed, part of a group, or rewarded for your hard work. These are all good goals but if it means we are sabotaging our health, finances or future success by turning to those habits then ultimately they can become self-limiting or self-defeating. Ask yourself the question; how can I find another more constructive way to get what the habit gives me?
- Resisting Temptation – Oscar Wilde was so very right. If you find yourself unable to resist, set things up differently. Don’t buy or have in the house food or drink that you are reducing or eliminating. Choose where you meet your friends. Go from work straight to the dance or exercise class rather than home first where the sofa and TV beckon. Set yourself up to succeed.
“…I can resist everything but temptation…” Oscar Wilde
- Pay Yourself Well! If your habit costs you money, put that money to one side to spend on something special. Perhaps something that you felt you could not afford. And even if the savings are not great, maybe consider paying yourself a bonus, however large or small, for staying on track. Saving towards a special event or treat.
- Put in Positive Reminders – it can be worth using positive cues to help you stay on track. Visual prompts like that pair of trousers that you are determined to be able to get back into! Reminders on your phone. Sticky notes or photos on the fridge door. Whatever reminds you of your bigger goal and helps you stay focussed.
- Be Realistic! Whilst it is important to aim high, be realistic. It is a process, give yourself time and support to achieve your goals. And take heart, the more you swap out your old habits for the new ones, the easier it will become.
There were some interesting questions from listeners about late evening drinking to unwind, procrastination and nail biting. And we were able to put some of the tips above into context. Everyone is different so if you are working on making some changes, it is worth thinking about how these tips apply to you personally.
Breaking Habits: When the Going Gets Tough!
But what about if you have been trying and you feel it is not working? We will all have had times when when knew exactly what Oscar Wilde meant. See it as a blip, don’t waste energy beating yourself up. Go through the above points and see if there is anything there that may help you. You may also find it helpful to consider these ideas too:
- Get More Support: Get other people involved to help encourage you to make those changes. If you can link up with friends then you can help each other and it is more likely to be fun.
- Check Out How You Think About Yourself: If a major part of your identity is tied in with your habit – a smoker, party person, chocoholic, etc. you might need to round out your sense of self to give you more room to develop other parts of yourself. You might also find Help Changing Habits useful to read.
- Cue the Lightbulb Joke: …and yes, you do actually need to want to change. Going through the motions because you think you “should” is not the best route for success. Look at the bigger picture and align what you want to change with things that really matter to you.
Press Pause, Zoom Out and Fast Forward!
In a nutshell, when faced temptation, if you can pause, even just for a few seconds, it gives you that moment to seize back control. Zoom out to the bigger picture – what really matters to you and the people you love. And fast forward to the future you want – see and live it fully, as a movie of your life. How do you want it to be? Align your thinking and behaviour to create that. If a negative habit does not help, wave goodbye to it with these three steps:
2. Zoom Out
3. Fast Forward
Thank you to Allison and Sarah. And to all at BBC Sussex as we celebrate their 50 years of local broadcasting. Tuning in is certainly I habit I have whenever I want to know about things that really matter locally.
For many using these and other self-help tips may be all you need in terms of help breaking habits. But if you are finding it hard, I offer a free mini-appointment to see if my approach my suit you. I see patients at both Lewes in East Sussex and Barns Green in West Sussex. Please do contact me for more information or with any queries.