Is something getting in the way?

Hands up if you’ve ever tried to make positive changes to your lifestyle, such as losing weight, getting more active or stopping smoking and soon found yourself slipping back into your old ways again!

Why is that?

During our lifetime, our experiences have helped up develop patterns in our behaviour, often referred to as habits. These habits maybe positive and help keep us safe and well, such as the habit of brushing your teeth, checking for traffic before crossing the road or eating when you’re hungry.

We can also develop unhealthy habits we may want to change, but these habits are often hardwired in our brain and finding the willpower to change isn’t easy. Understanding how these habits form can help you understand how to break down barriers and stop these habits getting in the way.

Habits are formed by a cue, a routine and a reward, this is called a habit loop. For example;

The Cue: you feel thirsty

The Behaviour: you drink some water

The Reward: you feel relief from quenching your thirst.

Repeating the same behaviour, over and over, trains your brain to recognise this as ‘normal’ and it becomes a habit. If you want to change a habit you have to rewire the circuit, by changing the behaviour and repeating it over and over, at least 21 times, until it becomes a new habit.

Start by observing any patterns in the behaviour you want to change. Can you identify what the cue is? Can you find ways to change the behaviour that follows the cue? Or find a new reward that makes you want to repeat the new behaviour again and again?

For example:

The Cue: You are feeling bored

The Behaviour: You decide to eat some chocolate

The Reward: The release of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins help you feel happier but only in the short-term, as later you may feel guilt.

Rewire this to:

The Cue: You are feeling bored

The Behaviour: You decide to go for a brisk walk outdoors

The Reward: The release of dopamine,serotonin and endorphins helps you feel happier, this time in the long-term, as this has also helped you feel in control.

Everyone will have their own habits and the desire to change a habit is personal to each individual, here is how you can get results:

  1. Once you’ve decided what you want to change and why (see last weeks blog), write down what barriers may get in your way. Consider:
    • Your habits,beliefs and barriers that you’ve come across before.
    • What environmental factors may affect you i.e. work, day to day life and social obligations.
    • Family commitments and expectations.
  2. From your list, pick one or two things you think you can tackle.
  3. Consider how to overcome these barriers.
  4. Make a plan to help you get results.

Join us next week to discuss five lifestyle keys

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