Let’s be honest — most of us have bad habits. Somebody smokes, somebody eats a lot of fast food, somebody stays up late every night. And, of course, we promise to ourselves that we’ll definitely start a new life from next Monday… But this day comes, and our lifestyle remains the same. We feel guilty and scold ourselves, entering a vicious circle.
But from the psychological point of view, it’s completely logical since our brains don’t like rapid changes. However, it’s not impossible — it just requires patience, determination, and several special techniques. And to achieve really great results, you’ll need to be aware of how our brains handle this situation.
The reward mechanism
Basically, all our habits are automatic routines, just like brushing our teeth or washing our hands. Our brain just tries to ease our everyday life, so it activates autopilot mode.
Interruption of such a routine causes a dissonance, and the brain resists all our attempts to break it. Moreover, it even starts to think that we’re in danger and turns on the survival regime (the well-known “fight-flight-freeze”). Our automatic response to this is to avoid danger and return to our comfort zone — in other words, our bad habit.
What makes the situation even worse is dopamine, the hormone of pleasure. A long time ago, it helped us to survive, rewarding us for finding food or a safe place to sleep. So, if we try to do unpleasant things such as dieting or exercise, our brain supposes that we’re hindering our own survival. That’s why it resists our attempts so hard.
How to break your bad habits?
As we’ve already said, breaking harmful habits is not easy, but still possible if you want it strong enough.
For it, you’ll need to do the following steps:
- Find what triggers your bad habit. For example, eating yummy high-calorie food may be connected to stress, sadness, or boredom;
- Try to change your behavior — for example, make an alternative route to work to avoid the cafe where you always ate cakes for breakfast;
- Get rid of the perfectionist mindset — it will quickly cause burnout;
- Know that urges are strong at first but fade away if you resist them;
- While resisting an urge, search for new pleasant feelings — for example, go for a walk. A good tip is to use various temperatures, such as a warm bath;
- Accept that the process won’t be perfect, and don’t blame yourself for setbacks. Look at them as if they were made by your friend, not you. It will help you to be less harsh on yourself.
And, of course, the main recommendation is to decrease stress in your life. If you stay calm and determined and won’t become upset after each failure, you’ll achieve all your goals! Good luck!