Humans are creatures of habit: a large part of our daily behaviour consists of small rituals and habits that we perform quite automatically. These include the good and the bad. Have you perhaps developed one or two habits over the course of time that you would actually like to do without? We'll tell you how you can get rid of them.
Why do we have so many habits?
Habits often make our lives easier: they run as an automated programme and we do not think about them. This relieves the burden on our brains; for example, while brushing our teeth in the morning, we can think about all the things we want to do during the day. Without habits, we would be quite overwhelmed by the complexity these days. But alongside these helpful automations, some less beneficial habits can also creep into our actions.
Habits are triggered by a certain situation, this is also called a "stimulus-response scheme". An example of a negative habit is the bar of chocolate on the coffee table that we keep ready as a little dessert after dinner. At first, we may only reach for chocolate when we really feel like it, but at some point, just sitting on the couch triggers us to reach for chocolate. So conditioning takes place. Once such a habit has been stored, it is not so easy to change it, because it happens automatically and our brain also "rewards" us with happiness hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. Especially in difficult times, we like to fall back on such behaviour.
How can we change habits?
The first step to improvement is insight: become aware of your bad habits and also think about which situations trigger the automatic action patterns. Do you eat more sweets when you are under stress? Do you reach for your mobile phone when you are bored? Do you crave a cigarette when you have been criticised by your boss?
Once you have made a list of habits that bother you, don't start trying to change them all at once: Setting concrete and achievable goals is a better option.
- Choose one habit that you want to change first.
- Be aware of your goal and motivation: Why do you want to change this habit? For example: I want to give up that piece of chocolate in the evening because I want to get closer to my desired figure.
- Think about how you can replace the bad habit with a good one: For example, instead of chocolate, you could do a short breathing exercise, drink a cup of tea or, if you really need something to snack on, for example a piece of puffed mango or puffed pineapple eat.
- Start with simpler behavioural changes and carry them out regularly. Only then can the conscious behaviour turn into an automatic, healthy habit.
- Remind yourself each time why you want to change the old habit and don't let setbacks get you down.
On average, it takes 66 days to change a habit. However, it also depends on the habit, some behaviours are easier to change than others. Character and external conditions also have an influence. It is important to start small, not to want too much at once and to keep at it. Habits creep in and are not part of our daily routine overnight. But as they come, they can also go again. It is entirely up to us.
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