So, you want to make a New Year's resolution. Well, some habits are easier to change than others. If you'd like to make a change in a "simple habit," it can be relatively easy -- unlike "complex habits." What I mean by a "simple habit" is a habit that is not motivated or sustained because of some emotion.
Overeating is often a common "complex habit" -- one that is emotionally linked. You feel tired, bored or upset and you start eating. The eating is not about the desire to feed the body or just because eating is enjoyable (which it is). The eating occurs as a mechanism to minimize the unpleasant feelings being experienced. In a way, it's the drug of choice in order to feel better.
Nail-biting can be a simple or a complex habit. Sometimes people bite their fingernails as a method of grooming and removing irritating imperfections on their nails. When this is the case, a concerted effort over several days will break the habit easily.
If the nail-biting is emotionally linked, every time the distressing emotion arises, such as stress or anxiety, the person starts biting their nails. Trying to stop biting the nails at this point (or change any behaviour) becomes much more difficult as the emotion drives the person to continue the habit. If you have the symptom (nail-biting), so to speak, you have the disease (the distressing emotion). Do not just try to eliminate the symptom.
We have all met someone who smoked three packs a day for 20 years and quit easily, while another person who has been smoking only a few years and smokes ten cigarettes a day is struggling to quit. We would expect the heavy smoker to have more difficulty quitting. The difference is in how motivated the person is to quit and whether or not the habit is connected to various emotional activities.
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If you attempt to make a change but find yourself continually backsliding, look at which emotions are occurring at the time of the backsliding and you will have found your culprit. Minimize the intensity, duration and frequency of the associated distressing emotion and making the desired change will become easier.
When you are feeling happier, stronger and more in control, making a change becomes easier. Read on for six keys to successful change.
Six secrets to keeping your resolutions
1. Be 100 per cent committed to making the change. No exceptions. You will succeed! Magic seems to occur when commitment is made.
2. Make a change in your lifestyle that supports the change you wish to make (e.g. don't buy junk to bring home if you wish to lose weight and park at the far end of the parking lot to encourage walking).
3. Focus on the benefits of being a non-smoker (i.e. save money, feel healthier, sleep better, longer life, smell better) and the hassles of smoking (i.e. the cost, smell, rejection, illness, etc.). This can be applied to any habit.
4. If you find that you get "blocked" in some fashion, find a solution. Keep moving forward and do not give up.
5. Confucius said, "A journey of a thousand leagues begins with a single step." Take small steps. Start today. Then praise and reward yourself for each step along the way. Nothing succeeds like success, so celebrate each small success until complete success is obtained.
6. Make sure that the change you wish to make is personal to you and then focus on the benefits you will receive in making the change. Enlist others to support you, to cheer you on in tough times. However, more than anything, be your own best cheerleader and coach.
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