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Are Bad Habits Running Your Schedule?
How to Break the Cycle 

By Jacqueline Sidman Ph.D.

Does this sound like a typical day to you? The alarm goes off and you hit the snooze button, knowing from experience that doing so will make you late for work again. On your way to work, you light up your morning cigarette, putting it out as you stop off at Starbucks for the espresso you know you will need in order to get through the morning. In the office, the way you tap your pen against your teeth drives your co-workers nuts, but you can’t think properly if you don’t do it. After work, you visit your favorite fast food joint for a burger and fries (that diet will just have to wait until Monday). After sitting at your usual bar stool in a drinking establishment where the staff know you by name, you go home and surf the net into the wee hours of the morning, using your credit card to buy stuff you really can’t afford.

Even if you don’t recognize yourself in that portrait, chances are you have some negative behavior patterns with harmful consequences for you and the people around you. After taking action to break these patterns, many people find themselves slipping back into their old habits after a short time, because they made no real change on the inside. Regardless of what your bad habit is, below are some strategies to help you break them:

1. Recognize the root cause: The first step towards breaking bad habits is to recognize their roots in your childhood. This is not always easy, as the mind sometimes suppresses unpleasant memories, or the connections can be obscure. Some forms of hypnotherapy, such as The Sidman Solution, can help here, as they unlock memories from the subconscious that the conscious mind has blocked. Some patterns, though, are easy to recognize, even without hypnotherapy. For example, overeating may be a result of not having enough food as a child. The overeating adult’s subconscious is seeking to ensure that he or she will never go hungry again. Or, smokers may have had role models who smoked, which caused them to see it as something that grown-ups do.

2. Want to change your ways: Once you have identified the causes of your bad habits, the next step is to want to change. Focus on the positive benefits to you of changing your habits. Use your imagination to picture yourself free of the habit, and the improvements that breaking it will bring to your life. Even if you don’t really want to change and are only doing it for health reasons, you can succeed in breaking your bad habits if you raise your awareness of their negative consequences and your consciousness of the advantages of being free of the habits. Most hospitals offer classes on common causes of preventable illness. You can also find information in public libraries and on the internet.

3. Don’t resist the change: Once you make the decision to change, resistance will start to set in. Breaking bad habits involves coming out of your comfort zone, and your mind will start to resist the change. This can take many forms, either psychological or physical. All sorts of fears will start to set in, and physical ailments can start to develop, ranging from tension headaches to potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Resistance means that outdated or false information remains imprinted in your mind and is preventing you from getting what you want. Feelings are more powerful than thoughts, so even when your rational mind knows what you want and how to get it, feelings of resistance can prevent you from taking the actions you know you need to take in order to achieve your goals. These inappropriate fears are a defense mechanism against what you might call a “phantom foe.” They mean that the mind is hanging on to previously needed defenses that guarded against real dangers, and is using them against an imaginary enemy.

Some people even convince themselves that they like their bad habits and don’t need to change. Such people need to educate themselves about the negative consequences of their habits, and if necessary, seek outside help

4. Overcome your fears: Overcoming your fears means coming out of the comfort zone that you created for yourself in childhood. Our subconscious minds operate in predictable, pre-programmed ways, responding to stimuli in the same way they did when we were children, even if the response is no longer appropriate. Our conscious minds, on the other hand, are far more capable of adapting to changing circumstances and creating appropriate responses to external stimuli.

Overcoming inappropriate fears involves using your conscious mind to reprogram your subconscious. This does not mean that we let go of all emotions. Emotions, when appropriate, are a beautiful thing. Human beings were born to feel; it is what separates us from machines. But we need to learn to recognize inappropriate emotions and train ourselves to release the unwanted baggage that, if unchecked, could lead to those emotions taking over our lives.

5. Manage your emotions: How do you tell the difference between an appropriate and an inappropriate emotion? Simply put, responding to a situation is appropriate, automatically over-reacting is inappropriate. If a person is in harmony with his or her subconscious, even feelings of disappointment are temporary and manageable. If the conscious and subconscious minds are out of harmony, appropriate feelings turn into ones of stress, anxiety, and depression.

So, what does this have to do with bad habits? Well, bad habits are rooted in fear. We are afraid of the mostly imaginary negative consequences of breaking our habit. For example, a person’s subconscious mind might tell them that if they don’t super-size their fries at a fast food restaurant, they will go hungry, just like when they were a child and had to accept smaller portions at mealtimes so there was enough food for their brothers and sisters. That person’s rational, conscious mind knows full well that a regular portion of fries is enough to fill them up, but the subconscious is far stronger than the conscious mind, meaning that feelings will trump logic every time. The fear is a response to a circumstance that was true in their childhood, but not now as an adult.

The Glow from Within: Once you conquer your fear about what can happen, you will begin to feel peaceful, more in control, less over-emotional, and more joyful. Negative emotions will not have a hold on you; the negative chatter will stop repeating in your brain. How long does change usually take? It takes a heartbeat if you do it right. If you really get to where your subconscious formed the bad habit and you can reprogram that moment, you can be different from then on. You will be happier, more confident, more creative, and more successful in all areas of your life.

Read other articles and learn more about Jacqueline Sidman, PhD.

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