Habits Shape Our Lives
We are who we are and where we are because of our choices
Our daily actions develop over time out of the learning and experiences we have. When we learn to tie our shoes it takes several days to learn the steps, then we’re assisted and with practice eventually we become skilled at it.
Today, you don’t need to think how to tie your shoes, you just tie them! This is because our brain has neurotransmitters that send signals to receptors that create memories so when we encounter the experience again, we can recall it. We store the learning in memory and recall the steps when needed.
These habits formed from memory serve us a lot in our lives. Could you imagine having to sit and think about how to tie your shoe each morning or how to brush your teeth, style your hair or drive a car? Our whole lives would be burdened with re-learning. So, this learning is good and generally supports us.
The same way we use the memory to recall skills we’ve learned, like tying our shoes, that make our lives easier, unfortunately we also develop habits that are not serving us. Non-supportive habits are the things we do that keep us from being happy, healthy and prosperous.
Habits, or repetitive actions, can be things we take action to do, but our habits can also be things we don’t do. For example, not saving money or spending beyond your means will create debt, anxiety and eventually could leave you homeless.
Your bulimia self help plan involves becoming aware of the habits that you are not supporting you. Recognizing these habits and then replacing them will empower you in your recovery.
Changing the Course
In order to have a different reality – a life that’s filled with joy, love and abundance – there are often a few bad habits we must release and a few good habits we must embrace that allow recovery to take place. Here are my suggestions for how to get started:
Recognize a bad habit – spend a few minutes looking at what actions, that if you stopped, could change your life. This is awareness. Take a good look at yourself and see how you’re on autopilot and are actually creating the reality you don’t want.
Adopt on a new, supportive habit – find a new supportive habit you could replace this non-supportive habit with. If you’re constantly avoiding being with people, make it a new habit to spend a few hours a week with friends or loved ones to break up your pattern.
Practice, practice, practice – whatever supports you in practicing your new habit whether it’s notes around your house, alarms on your phone, rubber bands on your wrist or anything that reminds you to practice your new habits. Perhaps it’s working with an accountability partner until you develop the strength of habit that will keep you on track. Do it again and again until, like tying your shoes, the activity becomes second nature.
Commit awareness of non-supportive habits – build upon your new habits by committing to your growth through awareness of non-supportive habits. Remind yourself that you’re a creature of habit and be on the lookout for your default patterns that aren’t serving you and decide you’ll turn over a new leaf.
Rinse and repeat – you can literally change the course of your life and the everyday reality you know by changing your habits.
Now that you know what to do, keep looking for patterns to replace, commit to a new habit and strengthen your mind and your will with practice..
30 Days to Change – researchers say it takes 21 days to create a habit, but 30 days is what I recommend for more lasting change to really sink in. After 30 days, the new activity (or lack of activity) has been sufficiently conditioned to become a habit. The idea is you’re retraining the subconscious in new patterns and it requires repetition to build new associations in your brain.
Promise Yourself – There’s great power in connecting with your subconscious when you write down your new habits by hand. You become clear and your subconscious knows exactly what you want. Also, look at your habits as a promise to yourself.
There’s great energy created when we promise something – more so than a habit, a goal or a wish. A promise is something you keep.
Use a Trigger – come up with a short ritual you perform before your new habit. If you’re committed to getting up earlier to meditate, for instance, this might mean jumping out of bed as soon as you hear the alarm. If you want to follow a structured meal plan, you could have an alarm on your phone that goes off every 2-3 hours to remind you eat. Use a trigger to condition your new pattern and create consistency.
One at a Time – A month may seem like a long time to focus on only one change, but my experience is it can be stressful enough to create one change at a time and stay motivated. With just one new habit at a time you can keep your focus. Multitasking habits does not work. Trust me on this one.
Listen to Intuition – The difference between lasting changes you want and giving up on day 31 comes from within. If your change creates more pain in your life than joy, it is going to be hard to stick to. Don’t go to the gym if you hate it. Find nutritional plans, exercise schedules and routines, and even financial plans that are fun to follow and support you.
Think Optimistically – Our mind defaults to a fear based, survival, negative animal instinct if we let it. Anytime you catch yourself talking negatively to yourself, say the word “but” to yourself and point out your positive aspects. “I’m not good at this”…”but if I keep at it I will improve.”
Replace Not Remove – Your present habits are like the road you travel each morning to get to school or work. It’s your routine or autopilot mode. You still need to get to work or school, but you now recognize you need to find a new route because the one you’re using is littered with potholes. Habits fulfill a need. It’s best to replace them with new habits in order to replace the needs they fulfill. Giving up binging means you will need to find a new way to relax and cope with life.
Get Reinforcements – Give a friend a hundred dollars and tell them to give it back to you only when you’ve completed 30 days of practicing your new habit. Maybe make a public commitment to everyone you know that you’re establishing a new habit so they can support you and keep you on track. You can also ask a friend to join you in your new habit so you can be accountability partners. Whatever you think will give you that support to make it through the first 30 days.
Keep it Simple – the easier the habit statement is to remember, the better. Saying you will eat 3 balanced meals a day and 2 snacks between is simple for you to remember. The nuts and bolts of what you eat each day can be planned in advance, but make the habit that you will stick to your plan and that plan has 5 meals a day. Simple creates habits, complex creates headaches.
Consistency is Key – The point of a habit is that it doesn’t require thought. Variety may be the spice of life, but it doesn’t create habits. Practice makes permanent. Make sure your habit is as consistent as possible and is repeated every day for at least the first 30 days. This will ensure a new habit is drilled into your subconscious instead of working with several habits that get loosely conditioned.
Please be sure to read my blog post about 5 Tips for Bulimia Self Help with a few recommendations for supportive habits to get you started.