As the warmer spring weather entices us to spend more time outdoors, eat lighter meals and wear fewer layers, it can be enough to instigate or kickstart healthier habits that may have become dormant during winter.
As the year rolls on, the festive season brings chaos, less time for our self and before you know it, those dormant winter patterns that were sidelined months ago have suddenly reappeared like they never left. The truth is it never did.
Don’t be fooled into thinking just because you’ve nailed replacing unhelpful habits with better ones does not mean they are set in solid stone. Sadly, choosing the higher road is an ongoing process of remaining aware of our choices in an effort of not returning to patterns that are always lurking and ready to pounce.
Certain triggers pull us back into old patterns. These are classed as contextual cues, such as time of day, your location, or objects around you. For example, it’s 5 pm on a Friday and instead of throwing on your sneakers for a walk around the block, you choose a glass of wine. Or perhaps ‘just because’ you’ve had a stressful day; you’ve permitted yourself to eat a chocolate bar.
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 are formed neural pathways in your brain and structuring new synapses takes dedicated awareness and energy. Each day that we practice giving less meaning to an action we create a different neural response to a stimuli, stressor, or opportunity to take the easy road (the habits we know best). 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 “This is too hard” mentality.
How to Stay on the Path Of Awesome New Habits
- 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, so I’m going to sleep in” (from staying up watching tv)
“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
- 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 the bridge and your values are firmly matched with your actions. 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 downward spiralling.
- Recognise warning signs
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 it’s time to set your focus back on maintaining a plan of health. Understand when it’s time to cut back on alcohol. Know when it’s time to reset your daily goal of walking 10,000 steps. Know when it’s time to return 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.
- Act as a third person
When you’re in conversations with others, mindfully 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” (cope out, laziness talk)
” I’m not very good a meditating’ (but haven’t given it a good crack)
” I just can’t stop smoking” (do you want to quit?)
It’s comforting to know that the preferred path is always close by. IT’S RIGHT THERE and never went away. The sooner you pick yourself up from a minor setback or hiccup the better chance you have of reinforcing the more desirable habit.