7 Steps to Break (or Make) a Habit

Understanding Our Consciousness

Consciousness is awareness of the “self”, or “The Self”, but where does one begin? With the construct of our mind and the concept of a three tiered matrix, the Conscious, Subconscious and the Unconscious mind. These make up who we are today – our habits, behaviors and personality traits – which can be changed.

The Conscious Mind stores information in our short and long-term memory. Long-term memory retains our experiences for extended periods of time. Short-term memory contains small amounts of information that are readily available, for a short period of time.

The Subconscious Mind contains all the information we have obtained throughout our lifetime. All that we see, hear, smell, touch, learn, or experience is retained in this vicinity of the mind. It is virtually unlimited in capacity and works as a servant, connecting your behaviors with your emotions and desires. It’s also the one responsible for the regulation of your body’s temperature, breathing, and beating heart.

The Unconscious Mind is where our individuality is derived from. It houses our biological instincts, our deepest fears, but also our deepest desires. These can sometimes be revealed through dreams or a slip of the tongue; however, these mental processes are inaccessible to our consciousness but heavily influence our feelings and behaviors. Much like an iceberg, the most important part of the mind is the part you cannot see.

So with this basic understanding of our mind matrix, how do we make meaningful and impactful changes in our lives?

We all have habits – some good and some not so good. These behaviors that are learned and usually hidden deep in our unconscious minds and almost always occur automatically, without thought. Most of us have habits we’d like to break, or one we’d like to reshape, develop, or recreate.

For most people, it takes about four weeks for a new behavior to become routine, or habit. The following steps can make it easier to establish a new behavioral pattern. Give it a try.

Step 1 – Set a Goal

When you are trying to stop or break a habit, phrase your goal as a positive statement. For example, instead of saying “I will quit snacking at night”, say “I will practice healthy eating habits”, and write it down. Committing it to paper helps you commit. It can also help if you tell your goal to someone you trust.

Step 2 – Determine a Replacement Behavior

Decide on a replacement behavior. (If your goal is to develop a new habit, your replacement behavior will be the goal itself.) This step is very important when you are trying to break a habit. If you want to stop a behavior, you must have a superior behavior to put in it’s place. If you don’t, the old behavior pattern will return.

Step 3 – Understand Your Triggers

Learn and be aware of your triggers. Behavior patterns don’t exist independently. Often, one habit is associated with another part of your regular routine. For instance, in the snacking example, the trigger may be late night television or reading. You automatically grab a bag of chips while you watch. Many people who smoke automatically light up after eating. Think about when and why you do the thing you want to quit.

Step 4 – Create Reminders

Post reminders to yourself. You can do this by leaving yourself notes in the places where the behavior usually occurs. Or you can leave yourself a message on the mirror, refrigerator, computer monitor or some other place where you will see it regularly. You can also have a family member or co-worker use a particular phrase to remind you of your goal.

Step 5 – Set Up a Support Network

Get help and support from someone. This is kind of obvious. Any job is easier with help. It works even better if you can form a partnership with someone who shares the same goal.

Step 6 – State Your Claim

Write daily affirmations. Write your phrase or sentence in the present tense (as if it were already happening), and write it ten times a day for twenty-one days. This process helps make your goal a part of your subconscious, which will not only remind you to practice the new behavior, but it also keeps you focused and motivated.

Step 7 – Reward Yourself

Reward yourself for making progress at set time intervals. Focus on your goal one day at a time, but give yourself a small treat at one, three and six months. The rewards don’t have to be big or expensive, and you should try to make it something that’s associated in some way with the goal. Doing this provides you with both incentive and extra motivation.

Following these steps is no guarantee of success of course. Depending on the habit it may take several tries to finally make the change. But persistence is key, you can do it.

Stay Strong.

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