Have you ever attempted to kick a bad habit with only have curse words and frustration to show for it? I’ve been there and I get it. Here’s the thing Sis, it’s not that you’re not strong, or that you’ve had the bad habit too long; chances are that you were too quick to give up.
According to research conducted at University College in London, it takes 66 days for a new habit to develop. Assuming a physical addiction isn’t a part of the equation, it takes the same amount of time to break a bad habit as it does to create a new one. Before we go any further, let’s discover how bad habits develop.
Bad habits are created and reinforced through a habit loop. Initially, something influences you to start a bad habit. Maybe you’re stressed out at work, so you choose to go on social media for an hour or inhale an entire bag of chips. The trigger event is the thing that places the idea in your mind. The next step is the actual behavior. See if your mind tells you that you deserve some chips, so you go out and find some.
Step three is the most important one, and it’s all about rewards, honey. After all, rewards are the payoff for a job well done. This doesn’t have to be a super big deal, however, it should be something you enjoy. Surfing social media may escape the real world for a moment while helping you procrastinate another day away. In the same token, there is a reward in that bag of chips. That reward might expand your waistline, if that’s what you want. In the end, the reward system gets more powerful as you continue to reward the same behaviors.
After the behavior is repeated for a while, the habit loop becomes so automatic that your mind doesn’t consciously think about it to make it happen. Anyone who has ever eaten an entire bag of chips (without thinking about it) will understand exactly what I mean here.
Once a habit is set, it becomes challenging to stop, and that might be the reason you’re likely unsuccessful. You need 66 days to shift your patterns.
66 days might seem like forever, but there are four main shifts that you need to move through to get lasting results:
Days 1-10. Look inside (Shift One)
It’s apparent which bad habits are wreaking the most havoc – they probably arise during times of pressure like during arguments or miscommunications. After you’ve figured out what habits to stop, the true challenge is knowing what triggers you, and this is harder than it looks, especially if said habit is so embedded in your mind that you subconsciously do it. For instance, if you continue to receive speeding tickets, you’ll see that you’re driving too quickly when you’re driving to work; or you leave with a negative mindset. Looking inside yourself to discover the source of the habit you’re attempting to stop makes curbing it possible. The initial ten days of stopping the habit will offer clues on the habit’s source.
Days 11-40. Spread the word (Shift Two)
Accountability is non-negotiable in stopping bad habits. During this stage, develop a vocal accountability network by informing people about the habit you’re attempting to stop. The more vocal you are, the more inclined people will be to pick you up when you fall. Give these people permission to gently intervene, if necessary. Don’t forget that you may have to keep reminding them from time to time.
Days 41-66. Watch your relapse triggers (Shift Three)
During the final stretch, it’s ok to have some slip-ups —everyone does. If you sometimes slip-up tend to happen around certain people, places or things, avoid the source of that trigger and give yourself some space. Stopping your triggers from stopping you is what separates success from failure at this stage in the game.
Day 67. Treat yourself (Shift Four)
Of course, you could make the point that stopping the habit is rewarding enough, but you still gotta #treatyoself. Don’t relapse now, though. Use this chance to pick another habit to stop and create some momentum.
Pulling It All Together
OK, You’re strong, smart, and work hard, and every now and again, you will slip up – it happens. There are psychological aspects that make this process difficult for all involved, but the science behind habit-stopping comes with plenty of research you can use, so no excuses! Start by concentrate on a single habit at a time and watch your odds of success increase.
Did this help you? If so, I would greatly appreciate it if you could comment below and share on FaceBook.
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