Removing VS Replacing old habits
And a happy Friday to you, you lovely human, you!
How many of us have tried (and failed) to change an old habit over and over again? Each time promising ourselves that "this time will be different!". Starting a diet, quitting smoking, stopping to bite our nails, going to the gym, even disconnecting from social media (I'm guilty of them all). Each of these things are tricky habits to change, but each time we make the decision to "be better this time", we end up falling right back into the same hole we had dug ourselves into. Let's just take some responsibility as well as remove the judgement here for a moment.
Firstly, we dig ourselves into a million holes on a regular basis. The ones I mentioned above (smoking, dieting, etc) but also some we may not have considered, like the way we take our coffees, the words we use to express ourselves, even the way we handle our finances, are all ways we dig a little hole. Or, as I like to call it, the way we've conditioned ourselves. The first step to changing a habit, if that's truly what you want to do, is taking responsibility for that habit. Owning it for what it is, without judgement. For example: I used to smoke. Not a lot, but still. For the longest time, I was in denial about it. Claiming that I only smoked 1 or 2 cigarettes a day and that it wasn't that big a deal. One day, I went to see a doctor who had me fill up a questionnaire. Question number 3 was "Are you a smoker?". Since I didn't have the option of saying "Yes, but only 1 cigarette a day so it's not a big deal" (there wasn't enough room on the paper for my justification, you see) I had no choice but to answer a heavy-hearted yes. At that moment I took responsibility for my actions; I was a smoker and I didn't like how it made me feel. I didn't want to be smoker, let alone be classified as one on an official medical record. It didn't feel aligned with the Real Me. So, I made the decision that I was going to quit. It took a slap in my medical face to force me to see a part of me I really wanted to change.
How many have you reached a point where you made decisions like this one?
I was quickly made aware of an important truth:
Habits (or conditionings) are difficult to change.
We get used to things being a certain way. Even if we know for a fact that these conditionings don't serve us, and are even bad for us in the long run, we still hold onto them.
At this point, this article can branch off into many directions:
"Why should we change our habits; aligning with our Real Selves"
"How to change our habits: And why it's so hard to do"
"Removing VS Replacing a habit"
I chose the last branch to continue with this article, but if any of you are interested in the other two, please leave a comment and I will be happy to elaborate on those points!
I chose the third branch, "Removing VS Replacing a habit", because it recently came in a conversation which inspired this article.
The problem with quitting smoking, or starting a diet, or any other habit we want to change, is that we are removing something from ourselves on a mental, emotional, and even energetic level. When we remove something, like "I'm gonna quit smoking", we inadvertently create a void where that habit or behavior used to live. Now there is an emptiness which won't stay empty for long. It will be filled with something. And most of the time, since we are not consciously and actively filling it with a new habit, we end up falling right back into the old one.
It's safe the assume, at this point, what needs to come next. We must replace old habits with new ones.
If you want to quit smoking, replace it with something of equal energy. If it takes you an effort of 3 (on a 1-10 scale where 1 is breathing normally), then replace it with something else that takes an effort of 3. For example, I replaced my smoking habit with drinking a glass of water. Every time I craved a smoke, I drank. Was it hard? Abso-freaking-lutely! But I transferred the energy it took me to smoke to drinking water. I haven't smoked in years. In fact, today, I can't stand the smell of cigarettes at all.
Same holds true with picking up a new habit. If we want to pick up something new, we need to make room for it in our energy space. Which means, we will be letting go of whatever is presently occupying that space. For example: I wanted to start journaling, but would just forget. If I'm being completely honest, I still forget sometimes. But to help myself remember, I replace the energy of complaining to my friends and family, with the energy it takes to write things to myself. Remove one; replace with the other.
When it comes to going to the gym, or starting a diet, same concept applies: Removing one (sleeping in or eating sweets); replacing with the other (moving my body, eating fruit). I can't just stop eating sweets and call it a day, so I replace. And this way, I stopped eating sweets significantly!
All in all, my lovely human friends, if you want to make a change, remember: don't Remove; Replace!
And, as always, if you need support with this transition, if you're feeling stuck, or are holding onto your hold habit (or if your old habit is holding onto you), I can help! Just ask me about Access Bars and see how easy your shift can be!
As always, with love and kindness,
Photo Credit: 7 Bad Habits To Quit That Can Make You Feel Healthier Within Weeks - Health (chiangraitimes.com)