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Jan 12, 2017

How to break bad habits in New Year on Healthy Living

English writer Samuel Johnson once said, “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt, until they are too strong to be broken.” – You’ll definitely know this if you’ve ever tried switching off the autopilot function in your brain when trying to stop a habit. Why is it so hard? Well all habits, bad and good, are formed when our brain creates neural pathways associated with specific feelings, activities, time…whatever the trigger for your habit—like eating junk food when you’re bored.  Sure, you could just tell yourself stop; but that autopilot function, it’s still there. So, it’s very possible the next time boredom strikes, that neural pathway will unconsciously guide you directly back to the chips. This is why it’s beneficial to replace bad habits with good ones. We check in with a mental health professional in tonight’s healthy living to explain.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

The human brain is wired to simplify your daily tasks; when it recognizes repetitive actions following specific triggers it develops what we call habits. Most habits, do serve a purpose allowing us to get through our day more efficiently. But when these actions are set on autopilot in our brain; breaking them can be extremely difficult. Which is why it’s much better to replace them.

 

Jennifer Lovell, Mental Health Professional

“There are neural pathways between the messages that get fired up and passed along these neural pathways. Now when you have that built in there. It’s like for example if I ask you how do your fold your hands. You may do it like this. Now I ask you to change it and do it this way. Well, it’s very uncomfortable, it doesn’t feel natural but you can learn to do it that way. You build a new neural pathway. The thing is the old one is still there and you will slip back into that every now and again and that is what we call lapses.”

 

Jennifer Lovell

This is why continually practicing the new good habit you want to form is so important; even after lapses. This determination to change is one the key factors to success in replacing habits. Which is why before you start, you need to properly assess your motivation and confidence level.

 

Jennifer Lovell

“Motivation is a funny thing because you can become motivated. Like new years can be a motivating point; it’s a new year, they want change. So that’s a motivator, but you have to have something that will sustain it. And you also have to believe that you can keep this and sustain it and we all talk about sustainability that you are able to continue it. Doing it for someone else is not motivation. You have to be motivated for yourself to sustain this and then you see the confidence in believing that I am able to do it. Again, I have to be the one that decides that makes sure I’ll get through with this.”

 

Here’s a tip, use the readiness to change chart; rate, from one to ten, your motivation and confidence in being able to execute the change in habits. A score of six in both areas is ideal for really being able to execute the changes. Then identify the three R’s – the reminder the routine and the rewards from the specific habit.

 

Jennifer Lovell

“I want to talk about triggers. I talk about triggers with alcoholism but I also talk about triggers with bad habits. We have the three R’s are reminders; the triggers. The reminder is the trigger. So for example, let me tell you a bad habit that I have. Every Tuesday night, I love the “Have and Have Nots’ So every Tuesday, I go home, take a nap, set my alarm, and I’ll get up go to the fridge and take out snacks and popcorn and ill bring everything to the table and I’ll sit back and I’ll watch and much. And that’s the thing, till I was reading this study I realize that I need to put healthy stuff if I want to continue doing that I have to replace with healthy stuff. But that is a trigger. I need to change that whole routine. I can still have that trigger but I can change how I handle that trigger. I want to watch my show but if I’m going to eat then it has to be healthy. I can do fruits, maybe veggie sticks. But it has to be something I like. I don’t want to punish myself because if it’s something that you’re punishing yourself, it’s not going to work. The reward is when I sit down I have to enjoy it.”

 

Lastly assess how you feel immediately before engaging in the habit and know what emotional state triggers your bad habits.

 

Jennifer Lovell

“It’s very important that you start now taking care of our own health and again I talk about self care. We are responsible for our own health, for our own feelings, you need to have a plan for how you are going to do the things that are good for you.”

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