Last week we were looking at the conditioned response and how without us even trying to do this, our minds and bodies are already behaving and responding to what it believes is about to happen. Which of course is great for walking, talking, driving the car etc., unless it’s a new car and you end up turning the corner with the window screen wipers instead of the indicators. You know you’re in the new car but the conditioned response still happens for a while, but after a few weeks, this, as you know, will change and if you drive lots then this will change even quicker. This is how you need to start looking at any bad habit you’re in from fears, phobias, unhealthy eating, excess drinking etc., we do know on a certain level we don’t want that chocolate bar as we really want to lose weight, but your body knows that when you have that stress at work you end up heading straight to the vending machine. So, what is happening then is it the full desire to have the chocolate bar? Or is it just the conditioned response and when it happens you get stuck with the thought, your mouth salivates and then you can just give in to it. It is the latter and it’s time to change what’s happening to help break the habit more easily means changing things up so the conditioned response isn’t as strong or even not there at all.
Let’s look a bit more at associations, habits, and patterns. This is a well-known fact that when a person suffering from OCD goes on holiday they don’t spend ages checking the lock on their room. Even though this may be the case at home and they could be spending ages checking to see if it’s locked and even going back to it and in some cases many times over. So, why not on holiday then? Well, it’s simply the fact that the door is different, the setting is different, the experience is different and so, in turn, its harder for the mind to make that same association to it. To help you break away from these conditioned responses which are keeping you stuck in these bad habits, it’s time to start taking advantage of the fact that if it’s different then the mind won’t have the same response. Here’s another example of this if say you’re struggling to stop eating late at night, then try cleaning your teeth and getting ready for bed earlier. Your mind has lots of habits and patterns from the past that all show your mind that when you have done this you don’t eat anything else. So, once you do this your mind will be switching on that no eating pattern and habit for you. Of course, if you are a sleepwalking eater then this may not work for you, but there will be something that will help, what you need to do is start looking at what will.
If you mess with habit then it is so much harder for your mind to continue to send the same response to you. If you over drink wine, then ban wine from the house and just have beers that you won’t drink anywhere near as much, as that’s not the habit your mind has set to excessive its wine. Maybe you have gone to a new class at the gym that you’ve never been to before and find people look at you a bit funny as you get onto a certain bike. This may be the fact that someone who goes to that class every week sits on that bike and people have associated that person with that bike. Also, the person who normally sits there can feel a bit put out by the fact that you’re on their bike, even though we all know it’s not their bike it’s a first come first served basis. This is happening all the time so if you sit and overeat at lunch in the same place, restaurant or canteen try moving to another one, the pull to follow the old habits will be less. The same happens at home, we can often have our place on the sofa and if this is a food eating or excess drinking seat, just change where you sit and then distract yourself with a new hobby. What you’re doing is forming new conditioned responses and habits, which are more healthy and positive for you, over time the old ones will get switched off.
Maybe you have anxiety about doing something, again on many levels this is a conditioned response, if you get anxious walking to school or work, choose a different route, change the side of the road you walk on. Then add something else, like a talking book, chat with someone on the phone or listen to music this will help create a new habit of being more relaxed on the way to work or school. As I often say it’s practice, practice and more practice that will help this become natural for you, as you are rewriting new habits and patterns. Because you’re doing something different you’re not even having to write over the old ones which is a much easier way for you. The old habits are very ingrained within you and when we write over them the old habits are just below and can seep through into the new habits your trying to form. This will make it much harder to change, but when you are working on a blank canvas those new or different patterns aren’t sitting on top of the old ones, so there’s nothing to seep through and hinder you changing how you behave and feel.
If you wake with anxiety then don’t do the same thing, if you lay in bed then don’t get up and change the order of the day confusing the conditioned response, play a comedy station, talking books, eat before the shower, run around the block, do press ups, chat to a friend, whatever just makes it different. These are just examples and you can use this in any situation you have a habit you want to break, just try and make it as different as you can and then remember to add something else in that helps keep your mind occupied and busy so it can’t be filled with those old thoughts and habits.
It’s time to get your mind on your side and outsmart it with your new-found knowledge and ways to help break those pesky habits that are getting in your way. This is the first time in the history of our socialised species, except if we were a king or queen, that we have the options to choose what we really want. Don’t let the old habit stop you from this, it’s time to embrace being the best version of yourself and living your life to the full.
Thanks for dropping by Sara x