6 Steps to Banish Unwelcome Habits

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How to banish unwelcome habits
Here we are, almost a month into the year of 2015.
I bet a lot of you set yourselves goals and made yourself promises, in the form of New Years Resolutions. Often these bids include aspirations to eat better, lose weight or be happier with the aim of improving your overall health and well-being.

Now, a month down the track, things are starting to get a little wobbly.

That chocolate seems to be calling your name very regularly
The couch seems so much more welcoming than the track
That negative voice in your head seems to be louder than your positive one
And those unhealthy unwelcome habits you decided to banish from your life commencing 2015 have started creeping back in, slowly, but surely.

Why is it that as February approaches all of those hopes, dreams and promises that we made only a month ago are fading hard and fast leaving us deflated?

The 3 reasons that always resurface, that sum up why many of my past New Years Resolutions have failed, are

CRAVINGS, RELAPSE & TRIGGERS.

Whether you are planning on cutting down on your intake of sugar, coffee, cigarettes or alcohol, increasing your fitness or planning to send self-loathing, destructive behaviour or procrastination to the curb in 2015 { GOOD ON YOU } you need to be aware and prepared for the inevitability of facing cravings, relapses and triggers.

Cravings, triggers and relapse are pretty normal phenomena upon cessation or reduction of any behaviour/activity/substance that has been used to help us relax, ease feelings of stress, gain control, allow us to escape, aid social interaction and achieve a short lived state of elevated being.
When I say relapse I am talking about the tendency to fall into old habits, to abandon our good intentions and resign to the fact that “we’re just not strong enough”. When we are faced with cravings and triggers they often prove to be the major speed humps that stretch your willpower and hinder your chances of staying on the straight and narrow.

Now I want to make it clear from the get go, I am not telling you that you need to change your behaviour, give up sugar or anything else for that matter. No changes in your life will be permanent unless YOU have made the decision, YOU have asked yourself the questions and YOU want to change the direction your life, your body or your health are heading.

>>>>> If YOU have made that decision and need some tips to stay on the right track to successfully understand, deal with cravings and prevent relapse, here is my two bobs worth, to help you shift those habits that are no longer welcome in your life. <<<<<

create a plan

So, lets get started;

We all know that once a craving hits us, it’s like a wave that is almost impossible to dodge. Therefore it is important that we create a plan, identify our triggers, manage our “risk factors”, remind ourselves of our true intention & neutralize our risk factors to successfully banish “unwelcome habits” from our lives.

1.  Create a relapse plan;


If you are making some radical life changes, you require a plan. Just like any major task you set out to achieve; an essay, a business, a dinner party, a travel adventure. In order for it to be successful you at least want to have some idea of how you will tackle hurdles, what you will do if things go a bit pear shaped, how you will push through mental or physical barriers and have a plan B, in case all else fails.

In order to create a relapse plan you need to have a think about what it is that drives you into the arms of your weakness, your unwelcome habit. Grab a notebook and flesh out the following questions, honestly, to help you gain a more in depth picture about your unwelcome habits.

2. Identify your triggers;


In order to feel a level of control over the cravings/urges to indulge in your unwelcome habit, you need to understand what drives them, what amplifies them, what brings them to the light. And plan how you will deal with these triggers as they arise, because believe me, they will arise.

Are there certain people who encourage your unwelcome habit?
How does it make you feel if they don’t respect your choices?
Are there places that trigger a craving/urge to indulge in that unwelcome habit?
How do you feel after you have indulged in your unwelcome habit?
Are there certain thought patterns that lead you to a vulnerable place?
Do these thought patterns increase your desire to relapse? What are they?
- Depression, social anxiety, peer pressure, boredom, pain, comparisonitis?

Are there certain feelings that trigger the desire to indulge in your “unwelcome habit”?
- Anger, hurt, upset, jealousy, failure, revenge?

3. Identify the early warning signs


Now that you have identified some of the things that trigger the urge to indulge in your unwelcome habit, have a think about things that you may be able to identify as early warning signs that you are heading down the path of relapse. Its important to be able to recognize patterns in your behaviour that may indicate you are setting yourself up for failure.

Does lack of sleep, stress  or boredom coerce you into the arms of sugar?
Does peer pressure, stress or lack of confidence drive you to over consume alcohol? 
What happens to your appetite when you’re feeling low?
If you start to relapse on your goals do you become withdrawn?
If you spend too much time alone, how does it make your feel?
What happens to your frame of mind when you start messing with your sleep cycle?
Does lack of sleep effect your overall well-being, mood, decision making, energy levels?
If you leave too little time for relaxation and leisure activities, does it make you feel the need to over compensate with pleasurable substances; alcohol, sugar, cigarettes or destructive behaviour?

These prompts may seem small, but when warning signs, changes in behavioural or thought patterns go undetected and unattended, your clear and happy frame of mind can become skewed, affecting your ability to cope with situations at hand. Hence the desire to indulge in that familiar “unwelcome behaviour” becomes amplified. We know it makes us feel good, comfortable and relaxed.

However remember growth lies just outside of your comfort zone. In order to excel, to reach new heights, you need to push the boundaries of comfort. Become comfortable with discomfort, it is nothing but growing pains. Remember you have chosen to eliminate or reduce the presence of this “unwelcome habit” for a reason.

4. Remind yourself or identify the reason/s why you decided to banish this “unwelcome habit” in the first place


By outlining a clear reason, that is honest and of importance to you, you can create a mantra to come back to when you are really struggling to keep your “unwelcome habit” in the past.

Think about why it is so important that you banish, or reduce this unwelcome behaviour from your life? Is it because;

- After the immediate pleasure, it results in feelings of failure, negativity or self loathing
– It is negatively effecting your emotional, physical or mental well-being
– It hinders your ability to lead the life you truly desire
– It hinders your ability to be the role model you aspire to be, for your children, family or friends.
– You’ve come to realize that whilst these “unwelcome habits” provide momentary relief, the underlying problem is still there and needs addressing (stress, depression, anxiety, upset, heartbreak)

Whatever the reason, you need to make your intention clear from the start to have the best chance of success.

5. Reducing the risk factors


Have a think about the types of things that make you feel good, release endorphins and put you in a better frame of mind to deal with the situations that life throws at you so that you are able to fend off the cravings/urges long before you’re in throws of being taken over.

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What can you do to minimize these risk factors?

Draw on experience - What have you done in the past that has been successful at combating these “unwelcome habits”? How did you feel after you triumphantly fought off the cravings? It may seem like the hardest thing in the world when its the one thing you are craving, or used to having, as an aid to ride through a difficult, boring or traumatic situation. However think back to a time when you have successfully combated the unwelcome habit, whether it was a big or small win at the time, take solace in knowing that you’ve done it before and you can do it again.

Use the art of distraction - If you’re sitting on the couch and all you can think of is that block of chocolate in the cupboard, debating whether to down the whole block and hate yourself later or be good and feel miserable, you need to mix it up and do something else. If you’ve been pondering the “life altering” question to eat or not to eat, to smoke or not to smoke, to run or not to run, for the last half an hour you’re probably just bored or being lazy. Meet a friend for coffee, go for a walk, a swim, do some cooking, read a book, listen to some uplifting music, do some writing, painting, play with your dog. Anything, just get yourself out of your current situation, or you’ll get stuck in a rut. If you’re doing something that you NEED to be doing (your job, an assignment, parenting) take a little break, stretch your legs, become present in the moment and then immerse yourself in the task at hand, give it your full attention, dedicate yourself.

Delay giving into your cravings - Make a deal with yourself, if all you want to do is get cosy with your “unwelcome habit”, put a time delay on it. If in 2hrs you still feel like indulging in your “unwelcome habit” reassess the situation. This doesn’t rule it out completely but allows you the opportunity to put it out of your mind for a few hours, at which point you can re-analyze the situation with a fresh mind.

Debrief with your support crew- Talk about the craving or urge to indulge in the “unwelcome habit” with someone else. Explain why it is that you no longer want this “unwelcome habit” in your life. Putting your intentions out in the open and saying it aloud helps make sense of the situation, not only for yourself, but for your support network. If they understand how important these changes are to you they are more likely to stand in your corner when you’re having a moment of weakness or prop you up if someone is trying to coerce you into relapse.

Stay hydrated - Often when we crave something, especially food its because we are thirsty. Even the act of having a water bottle in hand to sip on as you ride through a craving will help you feel satisfied and give you something to do to combat the urge the splurge.

Practice deep breathing & being present in the now- When you start to feel yourself becoming emotional, overwhelmed or stressed, take a moment to sit somewhere quiet, ideally outside, and still your mind. Tell your mind to hold its horses for just a few minutes so that you can become present in the current moment and let go of the racing ego.

Focus on the sound and feeling of your breath coming in and out of your lungs, take note of the sounds around you, the smells, the colours, the movement of the tree’s, the grass, the birds. When your mind tries to race onto something else, acknowledge that your mind is working, but instead of letting the thought take over you, making your heart race and your mind wander, observe it and listen to it as if someone else is telling you a story.

This technique works WONDERS for me. It never fails to calm my mind, even amidst a break-down/stress attack/uni crisis.

Get your natural endorphins flowing - I have never heard anyone say that they felt worse having gone for a walk when they were feeling out of sorts. Walking gets the blood pumping, muscles working, endorphins flowing. It clears the mind and refreshes the body. If you are steering towards relapse island, drop what you’re doing and get your butt outdoors.

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6. Set your boundaries


Lastly it is important to set some goals and boundaries to help keep you within borders that you are happy with.

For example, you may want to cut down on sugar but not go all out and eliminate it from your diet completely. Hence you might outline to yourself “if I start having … much … per day/week, for more than …. days/weeks” I am falling into dangerous grounds for a relapse and therefore may need to step back a little bit and have a look at some of the other things we discussed such as identifying & managing risk factors and re-establishing the reasoning behind your initial decision.

This article in no way, shape or form is designed to persuade you to give up anything or make lifestyle changes that you do not wish to do, it is simply a guideline for those wishing to stick to goals that THEY set, for reasons that THEY have identified, to work towards building a healthier & happier life for THEMSELVES.

If you’ve got this far, thank you for reading, I hope you take something away with you.

BIG LOVE

Chloe

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