Why do we do the things that hurt us? It's almost as if we have no control over our actions at times.
Here's the deal. Our brains are amazingly good at remembering how we deal with certain situations. When stress occurs our subconscious mind says "don't worry, I got this! I've totally dealt with this before and I remember exactly what we do, we [insert bad habit here...eat, smoke, drink, watch t.v., etc.]." This frees up the conscious mind for any new situations that occur.
Likewise, if we always eat potato chips when we watch t.v., as soon as we sit down with the remote and no chips, something just feels weird.
We are creatures of habit and our habits are woven together into a complex fabric that is meant to cocoon us in a safe, reliable pattern and keep us alive. And, at one time, this was exactly what we needed to survive!
Before there were houses and guns and grocery stores full of food, our habits were what protected us from the biggest threat to humanity....the unknown. If we ate a berry that was unfamiliar or ventured into a part of the wilderness never before attempted, we were likely to be met with our untimely death in the form of food poisoning or as a predator's meal.
However, now our habits are doing exactly the opposite of what nature intended, they are quite often killing us. At the very least, they are stunting us. Making our world small and making the world outside seem too big and scary.
So how do we change something that is genetically encoded in us?
We tear the fabric.
All of our habits are dependent on all of our other habits whether we realize it or not. When we change one thing, anything, it disrupts the whole, previously, well oiled habit machine. Our foundation becomes unstable and that is when we can swoop in and make other changes.
There is actual science behind this. The times we are most vulnerable to change is when our lives have been disrupted. One of the biggest times of disruption studies indicate to be childbirth. Shortly behind this are divorce, death of a loved one and moving.
But it doesn't have to be a big life change to disrupt the foundation of our habits. Here's the really cool part. And, remember, there is actual science behind this. Changing something really tiny can make changing the bigger, important things possible. It can be as simple as picking up your pencil with your left hand if you usually pick it up with your right.
However, we're not going to change something as insignificant as this. But what we are going to do is change something that we are absolutely positive we can change! Our first challenge was to ditch the "all or nothing" mentality. Here's a great time to put that into practice. You are NOT going to set a goal of working out 6 days a week if you haven't laced up your tennis shoes in two years. You are NOT going to vow to eat perfectly if you binge on chips every night. Instead, you are going to ask yourself "what do I KNOW I can do?" An example might be eating one piece of fruit a day if you're currently not eating any. It could be vowing to go for one walk a week if you're not currently walking at all. Whatever the habit is that you decide to change, remember that you are setting yourself up for success.
If you're a chronic over eater, here's a blog post of mine you may want to read: You Can Change
The reason you need to set yourself up for success is two-fold. First, for the aforementioned reason. When you change something, anything, you make future (and bigger) changes more possible. You are changing the patterns in which you do things. Second, every time you succeed, you increase your confidence in your ability to succeed.
Which leads me to our first weekend challenge! I intend to have a challenge similar to this each weekend in which we will dedicate 3 days to focusing on changing one habit. We will choose a different (always small) habit each weekend. Here are a few more ideas of small, manageable changes:
- If you are a smoker and you smoke, say, a pack a day. Resolve you are going to smoke 18 per day instead. Even 19. Whatever you KNOW you can do.
- If you eat horrible all day, every day. Resolve that you will start your day with one healthy meal. Or even just start your breakfast with one healthy thing. Whatever you KNOW you can do. And nothing more.
And you'll do this for 3 days. Remember, little, little, little changes. I can't emphasize this enough.
If you want to repeat yesterday's challenge a little more in this area and learn the science behind change, check out the book "The Willpower Instinct" (available in audio form as well). This book helped me soooo much.
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