Making that one big change – and sticking with it – is a challenge for even the most determined person. But there are ways to break bad habits once and for all. 

Many of us have something in our life we’d like to change. You might want to eat more healthily, exercise more, save more, stick to a budget or quit smoking, biting your nails or gambling. Very often, we try repeatedly to make the change without success. How many people do you know who have been saying for weeks – or months, or years – that they really must stop smoking? So why is it so difficult to ditch a bad habit?

The authors of Mindfulness – a Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World (Piatkus) say that much of what we do each day is complex, needing ‘the coordination of dozens of muscles and the firing of thousands of nerves’. To save on memory, our brains ‘daisy-chain’ together actions that are often repeated in sequence. At times like this we are on ‘autopilot’ – a term that describes a state in which we are not conscious of our every action. Basically, if you are thinking about something other than what you are doing, you’re on autopilot – and that’s when destructive habits thrive!

The concept of mindfulness...encourages ‘a state of active, open attention on the present.’ psychologytoday.com

In light of this, it’s no surprise that the concept of mindfulness encourages ‘a state of active, open attention on the present’, say the experts at psychologytoday.com. When we are not on autopilot, we are more likely to stick to resolutions because we are aware of why we want to change, we recognise mistakes and learn from them, we acknowledge each step towards success and we are more likely to seek support from others.

While some suffer from serious addictions to medication, drugs, alcohol and gambling – all of which require medical intervention, rehabilitation and ongoing personal development – less serious habits can also be harmful in the long term to your health and self-esteem. These include, but are not limited to, chain-smoking, compulsive eating, over-exercise and toxic relationships.

One way to overcome triggers or cravings is to choose a mantra to say repeatedly to yourself. An apt Swedish proverb says that the best place to find a helping hand is, in fact, at the end of your own arm! So believe that you can make the You change that will improve your life and use a special word or syllable as an object of concentration that empowers you to overcome the craving.

You can change. I have seen many people make changes in their lives, in which they’ve left behind unhealthy behaviours and gone on to live happily and successfully. Counsellor Frances Ward

Research published by thefix.comexplains that triggers and addictive behaviour are relentlessly intertwined. You might really want to make a change because you find a habit harmful, but this can be easier said than done when a trigger sets off the bad habit. A smoker who always lights up with a cup of coffee, for instance, might desperately want to quit smoking, but the cup of coffee triggers the urge to smoke.

Psychiatrist Dr Chad Coren says such a trigger is ‘any high-risk situation or stressor that sparks off a thought, feeling, or action’. So it’s vital to identify your triggers and consciously avoid them.

Consistency and making small changes on a daily basis are definitely key to changing bad patterns of behaviour. Addictions Councellor Cleo Albertus

So how do you navigate the available information to best find the solution to overcome negative habits.

Cleo Albertus says changing bad patterns of behaviour requires that you not only be present, but also conscious of your surroundings and, most importantly, of yourself. The problem, she says, is that ‘our minds are constantly working and have forgotten how to be still and present.’ Albertus insists that the change has to be a conscious decision, taken each and every day and worked at in the form of maintenance no matter what life throws us this week, next month or even a year down the line. ‘Consistency and making small changes on a daily basis are definitely key,’ she says.

Frances Ward of Prospect Hill Recovery Practice in Cape Town says, ‘Working alongside someone with experience in this area can only help.’ She adds that by admitting that there may be another way to live your life can work towards changing your story. ‘Sitting with a therapist can empower you, along with creating a plan of how best to make a change. Often stress is a factor. Most people can think more rationally when their body is free from stress, thereby making it easier to make healthy choices.’ So stress-releasing therapies can help make permanent changes.

Jet club members can get help ditching their bad habits with free access to jet club’s helplines.

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MIND OVER MATTER MIND OVER MATTER Reviewed by Zandile Xabendlini on April 18, 2018 Rating: 5
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