We’re all in this together. The long days and longer nights without any real structure, the heavy dependance on social media to feel as if we are connecting with others and the overwhelming desire to be anywhere but home. This quiet time can make us or break us. Why not take advantage of it and tackle the biggest and most challenging goal of all? Breaking a bad habit. There’s an old adage that says it takes 21 days to break one (good or bad), but is it really true? Well- there are about 21 days left of quarantine, so why not try?
The Results Are In
Psychology researchers from University College London decided to test the theory that bad habits can be broken in 21 days. This study revealed a couple things: First, it generally takes over two months of daily repetitions before a behavior becomes a habit. Second, while this research suggests skipping single days isn’t detrimental in the long-term, what matters most is those early repetitions, since they give us the greatest boost in making a behavior an automatic response.
Though habits aren’t addictions, bad habits share traits of addictive behaviors and can ultimately lead to addictions. One of the ways to tackle habit-breaking, experts say is to practice mindfulness, the mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. Staying aware of your thoughts and behaviors – as well as determining what triggers you to use – can help break the habit of reaching for that drink or drug. As we get better at recognizing that space between the stimulus and the response, refraining from using becomes more natural.
Other effective methods are either willfully inhibiting the habit once it’s been cued (resisting that jelly donut) or avoiding the cues that lead to habitual behavior (not walking by the donut shop). Some even say the answer lies in changing context – moving houses or changing jobs in order to break a habit.
A Lifelong Journey
Last January I decided to break my habit/addiction to carbs and sugar. I can say it took me a good 6 weeks to no longer feel the urge to indulge. Going cold turkey is the only way to start- but after the body gets used to going without its “fix”, the urges start to dissipate. I still cheat sometimes- but its not triggered but he old feeling that I “have” to have that cookie or bowl of ice cream, it’s more of an urge to revisit an old friend I haven’t seen in awhile. Once that itch is scratched, I’m good not revisiting it again for awhile. I have control instead pot things being the other way around. Recovery is a lifelong journey, but just because our brains have been altered by our compulsive behaviors doesn’t mean we’re destined to always fall into the same destructive habits. By being mindful of our thinking and/or practicing inhibition and avoidance, we can learn how to break out of a detrimental routine and into the life we’ve always wanted free of temptations that email us.
What habits do you want to break? Tell us in the comments!