As we settle back into routine for the year with work and family life, it’s important to avoid being bogged down with old returning habits.
Yeh, that’s easy to do… NOT… I hear you say.
Let’s take a closer look. As we’re faced with daily choices, believe it or not we have the power to steer those choices on a different path – or mindlessly stay on the same one. Usually around the beginning of the year, there’s a sense of ‘fresh starts’ and ‘new beginnings’ which makes it all the more attractive to choose a new path. As the year rolls on the ‘honeymoon’ period sets in and before you know it, the path that was sidelined months ago has suddenly reappeared like it never left. The truth is it never did.
One point I like to share to my health coaching clients is that there is no end point. Just because you’ve nailed replacing old habits with new ones does this mean that they are set in solid stone for life. Sadly it’s an ongoing process of being aware that old ways are always lurking and always ready to pounce.
Certain triggers can pull us back into old patterns. These are classed as contextual cues, like the time of day, your location, or objects around you. For example, it’s 5pm on a Friday and instead of throwing on your sneakers for a workout, a glass of wine takes preference. Or perhaps just because you’ve had a stressful day in the, you deserve a handful of the office M & M’s.
So why is it so easy to fall back into old habits when you’ve tried so hard for months to strengthen new ones?
Habits form neural pathways in your brain and restructuring them takes a lot of dedicated awareness. Each day we practice changing an action we create new neural responses to the old stimuli, stressors, or opportunities to fall back into our old habits. The main takeaway point is to help stop returning to old habits we need to remain in a state of ‘trigger proofness’. This is a state where we’re mindful of self-defeating actions, words and behaviours that take us back to a “I don’t give a shit” mentality.
This is where all our good work that may have taken months to get to a point, can become unthreaded in a matter of hours.
How to Stay on Path of Awesome Habits
1.Be aware of permission giving self talk.
” I need chocolate because it’s that time of the month but I won’t eat all of it” (Yeh, right)
” I’m tired (from staying up watching tv) so I’m going to sleep in”
“It’s the holidays so let’s just get takeaway” (the holidays last 6 weeks)
As simple as it sounds, just one step left is sometimes all that is needed to go off track. If you are going to reward yourself with something do it for the right reasons and not because of regurgitated old patterns or beliefs resurfacing
2. Don’t push your boundaries
If you know buying a tub of ice-cream is going to tempt you until a moment of weakness, don’t go there. Wait until the time is right when you feel like a LOT of water is under bridge and new patterns are well and truly reinforced. It’s fine to test your limits now and then but make sure that there is a quick pick up plan and strategy to stop down spiraling.
3. Recognise warning signs
Reoccurring behaviours can reappear in an instant and it doesn’t take much effort to fall prey to a bout of laziness. We all need time to recoup and recover but recognise when enough is enough and when it’s time to set your focus back on maintaining a plan of health. Know when it’s time to cut back on sugar or alcohol. Know when it’s time to reset your daily goal of walking 10,000 steps. Know when it’s time to return back to practising relaxation techniques at work. Momentum is a funny thing and if energy is moving in the wrong direction it can take a heck of a lot of effort to intervene.
4. Act as a third person
When you’re in conversations with others, mind fully listen to how you’re speaking – or how they’re speaking of themselves. By removing yourself from the context of the conversation it allows for easier recognition of repetitive talk (that our parents may have used) or ways that we talk down on ourselves.
“‘I’m hopeless at cooking so I just eat out all the time” (cope out, laziness talk)
” I’m not very good a meditating’ (but haven’t really given it a good crack)
” I just can’t stop smoking because it helps to relax me” (no words…)
It’s comforting to know that the preferred path is always close by. IT’S RIGHT THERE and never went away. The sooner you can pick yourself up from a minor set back or hiccup the better chance you have of reinforcing the newer, more desirable habit and not the old.
pic via – awesome sky by pascall campion