Habit – a response triggered by your context, your environment or cue. ~  Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., health psychologist at Stanford University

an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary – Dictionary.com

Even though I’ve used hypnosis to help my clients eliminate bad habits, I wanted to find other alternatives for those who didn’t believe in hypnosis. I was inundated with information as I searched the World Wide Web.

Between 40 – 45% of our daily lives are habit driven. All habits are automated and the good ones keep us from being overwhelmed, and they help us to be more productive.

Bad habits on the other hand can wreak havoc on your life. Some bad habits are more harmful to your well-being and productivity than others.

The challenge of eliminating a bad habit

A few months ago my friend (doesn’t believe in hypnosis) decided to use willpower to give up her daily fix of 4 cans of diet soda and replace them with 8 glasses of water. She started the new habit of drinking water, but the bad habit continued.

What happened?

Building a good habit doesn’t guarantee that the bad habit will be replaced.

Habits form behavioral patterns that are literally etched in the neural pathways of your brain which make it difficult to eliminate the bad ones.

How about you?

Are you struggling to give up a bad habit that’s affecting your personal and/or professional life? Is it affecting your productivity or keeping you up at night? As difficult as it is (for most people) to get rid of a bad habit, it’s possible to make lasting change following proven steps.

Through my research and my experience as a coach and hypnotherapist, I believe these 5 proven steps can help you eliminate your bad habit.

Warning: these steps may not  eliminate some addictions.

1. Motivation

What is your motivation for giving up your bad habit? If your motivation isn’t strong and crystal clear you may not be ready to break this habit.

Your motivation will ignite your desire to achieve your goal, and in those dark moments when the temptation to give in to your bad habit becomes overwhelming, your motivation will strengthen your resolve to resist temptation.

If you’d like to strengthen your motivation, write a letter to your future self without this bad habit. Share how giving up this bad habit is going to change your life. Be detailed and have a strong emotional connection to your success.

You can write and send a letter to yourself via email on this website futureme.org

2. Be Mindful

Mindfulness sounds mystical and complicated, but it’s not. Being mindful – is to be in the moment, to be present, to be aware of your thoughts and action.

Being mindful, as it relates to your bad habit, means to pay attention to the when, why, how and where your bad habit shows up. This is crucial for change.

How to be mindful

Start paying attention to what triggers your bad habit. Is it a place, a person, a feeling, a thought? Does it happen at a specific time of the day, or brought on by an event?  Is it triggered by your emotions, such as anger, boredom, frustration, joy etc.?

Identify your triggers so that you can avoid or replace them.

Use a cue to alert you when you’re about to engage in the bad habit. For example, if biting your nails is your bad habit, wear a repulsive (for you) nail polish.

Identify the benefit (the reward) to you from engaging in this habit. For example, one of my client only smoked when she socialized with friends who were smokers. Her reward was the feeling togetherness and being accepted by her friends.

With mindfulness activities or behaviors that are counterproductive can be avoided before they sabotage your success, and the opportunities that can help you won’t be overlooked.

You can learn mindfulness through mindfulness meditation. Get the instructions here

3. Willpower

Willpower is important for eliminating your bad habit. It can help you stay focused on your intention when self-doubt, temptation, boredom, stress or anxiety threatens to take over.

What is willpower?

Willpower is like a muscle it can be strengthened with use, but it can also become fatigued.

Willpower is  overcoming the impulse to do something that you decided not to do. It’s the ability to forgo immediate gratification for long-term benefits.  In situations where you could lose your temper, willpower helps you to stay calm. It’s the mindset that allows you to cancel unwanted thoughts, reactions and impulses.

Self-control is learned at an early age before one develops critical thinking. In the now famous “Stanford Marshmallow Experiment” researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes. Wikipedia

How to develop willpower

Increase the odds of accomplishing your goal by eliminating one bad habit at a time.

Take baby steps to achieve your goal.

Focus on the positives in your life.

Find a reason to reward yourself.

Keep active – exercise.

Pay attention to your glucose level.  Read more about why here

Christine L. Carter, Ph.D., at Psychology Today, offers these 5 tips for developing will power:

Get enough sleep.

Meditate for 15 minutes per day.

Lay off the cocktails.

Make a plan for dealing with the temptations you will face.

Remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing, and what you will lose if you give up. Read more here

Willpower by itself doesn’t work for most people to eliminate bad habits.

Have you tried unsuccessfully to use willpower alone to break a habit?

Stop beating yourself up, most people can’t get rid of a bad habit with willpower alone.

Here’s why

Willpower (like logic, rational and analytical thinking) is a function of the conscious mind and a habit is a function of the subconscious (unconscious) mind.

Willpower is conscious thinking; your habits are unconscious behaviors.

When I studied hypnotherapy, I learned that the subconscious mind is 88% of your mind and the conscious mind makes up the other 12%. Some believe that the ratio is 90% subconscious and 10% conscious. What is not disputed is that the subconscious mind is stronger than the conscious mind.

The percentages show that conscious willpower, for most people, don’t stand a chance against the more powerful unconscious habit.

Willpower is more effective when used in conjunction with other tools to overcome bad habits.

4. Hypnosis

Hypnosis is a powerful tool for eliminating bad habits, where it’s most effective, in the subconscious mind.

How does it work?

Your mind is made up of the subconscious and conscious mind and critical faculty. The critical faculty is the door way between the subconscious and conscious mind. Its job is to prevent anything that isn’t familiar from accessing your subconscious mind.

Giving up your bad habit is a conscious desire but not a subconscious reality. The critical faculty isn’t going to let it through.

Hypnosis to the rescue

Hypnosis is the key that opens the door. It shuts down the critical faculty and makes it possible for you to access your subconscious mind where habits are made and eliminated. Hypnosis interrupts the pattern of your bad habit; this makes it easy for you to let it go.

More people are successful using hypnosis (and other such modalities) to break a bad habit than with willpower alone.

Read more about hypnosis at hypnosistarzana.com

5. Self-compassion

Self-compassion is self-acceptance. It’s important to accept and forgive yourself if you fail to give up your bad habit, or if you give it up and have a setback. This makes it easier for you to try again.

Practice self-compassion – treat yourself the way you would treat a friend who failed at giving up a bad habit. Re-frame your negative self-talk and speak to yourself as you would speak to that friend.

It’s a wrap

There are numerous studies about habits by psychologists and neurobiologists. Some of the components of habit formation are new to me. However, it didn’t stop me from successfully helping others to give up their bad habits and form new ones with hypnosis.

Life lesson – don’t wait for it to be perfect, don’t wait until you know everything, before you take action for your dreams.  You’ll never know everything and it will never be perfect.

Your turn

What have you done in the past to eliminate a bad habit?

Do you have a bad habit that’s coming between you and the life you’ve envisioned? Are you ready for a change? You’ll benefit from my FREE strategy session. Contact me today. You’ll be glad you did.

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