How Did the Old Habits Get There?
Many of us are running through our days on autopilot. We go through the exact same motions that we go through every other day without even thinking about it. These automatic activities are the habits that we have built up over time.
Now, some of these habits may have been built intentionally. You at some point decided that you wanted to include a specific task in your routine so you did it over and over again until it became natural. But there is a good chance that a lot of your habits developed under the radar.
A lot of our habits appeared as a way to cope with something difficult, uncomfortable, or anxiety-provoking. For example, over time your mind learned that it is more comfortable to hit the snooze button until you are running late for work than it is to get up on time and have to get to work early and interact with your co-workers. So the habit of oversleeping appears.
Maybe after a bad break-up, you realized that it is safer to keep to yourself than to get hurt again. Now say hello to the habit of being guarded and pushing people away. See what I’m talking about? These habits were not chosen intentionally but rather occurred naturally from external circumstances.
Now the key is to bring awareness to these habits that we no longer want and figuring out how we want to replace them with something more beneficial for us.
Choosing New Habits
Now you first must be aware of the not so helpful habits that you have before you can decide to change them. If you don’t know it’s happening, you can’t change it. So I want you to start paying closer attention to what you do on a daily basis. Over the next week or so, make a list of your habits, big and small, positive and negative, healthy and unhealthy. Write them all down!
With your list of habits you are now going to pull out the ones that you think would be most helpful to replace with a new habit. These will most likely all be ones that you did not intentionally choose in the first place, so this is now your chance to control what habits you have.
Finally, I want you to sit down with this scaled-down list and think about how your ideal self would behave in situations where these old, unhelpful habits came up. If you had full control, how would you want to act? Now write that down next to the old habit.
Tada!! You now have your list of new, intentionally chosen habits that you can start to add to your daily life. So, you are probably thinking yeah that’s great, but how do I actually make these into habits rather than just a list of tasks?
Good question, and to find out how, keep on reading!
Making New Habits Stick
You have your list of new habits that you want to build, so now what? How do you get those habits to really stick and become consistent parts of your life? How do you get them so ingrained in your brain that they happen without thinking like your current habits?
Here are 4 tips on how to make sure your new habits stick. Follow this framework and you will have rock solid habits in no time.
1. Check your motivation behind your habits
First and foremost, let’s make 100% sure that you have chosen the correct habits for you. When you look at the list you just made, I want you to consider why you chose the habits you did. Are these things that you truly want to be doing? Do you feel as though they are what you are “supposed to do”? Is there someone else in your life that expects you to act that way?
The habits that have the best chance of really sticking around are those that you chose completely for yourself. They aren’t motivated by someone else’s expectations or by how you feel like you “should” be. Rather you are choosing how you personally want to act despite what other people think.
If you now need to go back and adjust a couple of your habits, that’s okay. Do that now and then move on to the next tip.
2. Build one habit at a time
Okay, we have the final list of habits, so now pick one to start with. Just one! Remember we are building habits that last in the long run, not ones that last for a week. So to do this, you must build them up slowly.
Choose the habit that feels the best to you to start with and focus on that one. Keep working on this one habit until it starts to feel more natural to you. Once you feel it is pretty stable then you can add another one into the mix. Continue this pattern until you have addressed all of the habits on your list.
3. Set yourself up for success
This tip goes hand in hand with the last one. We want you to be successful in the long run so go at the pace you need to in order to be successful. Don’t set unrealistic expectations or goals for yourself. For example, if the habit you are working towards is drinking a gallon of water a day and you currently only drink soda, don’t expect yourself to switch over to just water (let alone a gallon of water) in a day or two.
Even if you have to move at a slower pace than you like or wanted to, it will pay off in the long run. Just a heads up, this step will test your ability to be kind and non-judgemental toward yourself. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking we should be able to do something faster than we can. But try to avoid that trap at all costs. Practice self-love and compassion throughout all of your habit building.
4. Get some accountability set up
Finally, I want you to tell as many people as you feel comfortable that you are making these changes. The more people that you have to keep you accountable, the more successful you will be. However, make sure to choose people that will be supportive of your progress rather than critical.
Also, work towards keeping yourself accountable too. Set alarms in your phone, schedule reminders in your calendar, put sticky notes all over your house. Create a habit tracker for yourself, or grab the free one I have already made for you here, to track your daily progress. Do whatever you need to do to keep these habits at the forefront of your mid. Remember that these habits are not natural to you yet so it will take much more effort and intention to keep them going at the beginning.
Author Bio: Rebecca Haney, LPCC
Rebecca is a holistic mental health counselor and owner of Your True Path Counseling Services LLC, a fully online counseling practice servicing the state of Ohio. She supports women in discovering their self-worth and living life confidently through the use of clinical and spiritual practices. Come join her in her Facebook community of empowering and supportive women at Grow Your Confidence // Love Yourself.
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