How do you break bad mind habits?
That is essentially the question that Jim Ryan asked last week on the post "Change Your Mind." Here is his exact question:
I’ve been thinking a lot about Mind Habits lately and this relates. To break our bad mind habits takes effort. Any suggestions on techniques that people use?
|By definition, habit-changing is forced. It’s hard work to replace the familiar with the unfamiliar. (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook|
Here are five proven ways to change bad mind habits:
- Change your terminology. To this point, I have used the phrase "breaking bad mind habits" because it is familiar. But from now on, it is important that you change your terminology and your mindset. You are not breaking a habit, you are changing (or replacing) a habit. Habits do not go away. They are replaced. Just like you don’t stop eating altogether to lose weight, but rather you replace bad foods with good foods, our mission is to replace bad ones with good ones.
- Fake it until you make it. As I mention in my reply to Jim, changing a habit is an active process. By definition, habit-changing is forced. You are taking something that is subconscious and familiar and replacing it with something that is conscious and unfamiliar. It takes a lot of hard work. My father used the example of someone who has always used his right hand to turn a doorknob. This person has "practiced" that potentially hundreds of thousands of times. If he tries to switch to his left hand, he must force himself for approximately 28,000 repetitions to use his left hand. The ensuing months will be full of slip-ups and near slip-ups, reminders, and over time the development of a new, ingrained habit. At any point, especially early in the process, if pressure is applied (i.e. a fire in the house), odds are he will use his right hand to open a door. But eventually, using his left hand becomes the new norm and subconscious habit.
- Convince Yourself. I’ve gotten flak from some for my belief in the power of visualization and self-talk. Some think that they are too "new-agey" and nothing more than pop-psychology. But I know that they work. I have written about visualization here, here, and here. I have written about choosing to be happy here. These things work. There are two ways to convince yourself of something: to see it and say it. There are two ways to change bad mind habits: to see the right ones and say the right ones. Just like you must fake it at first and act in a manner that may not be consistent with your feelings, you must visualize and say things that are contrary to what you feel at the time. If you are constantly seeing the cloud in every silver lining, practice seeing yourself being positive and say to yourself, "I am a positive, upbeat, happy person" (Or better yet, write your own script).