How to Change an Unhealthy Habit
Have you ever had a habit that you just couldn’t kick?
The neural pathways in our brains are responsible for maintaining all of our habits.
The more-practiced a habit is, the stronger its neural pathways are that underlie it.
Imagine a luge barreling down a high-speed track – your habit the luge, your neural pathways the track. And you’ve just realized that there is a massive puddle of mud at the end of the track you are on that you’d like to avoid.
Now, at 1,000 miles per hour, you have to figure out how to stop your luge and change tracks… All before crashing into the mud.
When you’re actively trying to change an unhealthy habit, that’s what you’re up against.
It’s not impossible, but it’s still pretty intimidating!
But what if there was a way to alert your brain that you need to change course? That your luge needs to switch tracks?
Thankfully, that tool already exists! We here at The Stress Reset call it a Circuit Breaker.
It’s exactly what it sounds like – a small, simple action that allows you to weaken and eventually break the neural “circuit” of a habit.
The best Circuit Breakers are actions that are easy to remember and easy to do.
It could be as simple as closing your eyes and checking in with yourself. Or even doing some deep breathing or stretching.
Or, maybe, it is simply stopping what you are doing, which is a great place to start when it comes to forming new habits.
The goal is to redirect yourself away from a destructive habit, and toward an enhanced alternative.
Every single time you are able to stop and not do the old habit, you are changing the architecture of your brain. Bit by bit, you are weakening the neural pathways that underlie the old habit and forming and strengthening new neural pathways that empower a healthier behavior.
Everyone is going to have different circuit breakers that work best for them. Try experimenting with different things and see what helps you.
Mine is taking a “time out” to self-reflect. I’ve got a friend who counts her breaths up to 10.
Once you’ve done your Circuit Breaker, make sure to follow it up with a healthy habit that’ll replace the old habit. If you’re trying to stop mindlessly eating, you could eat a piece of fruit instead. Or if you’re trying to be less self-critical, you could do something kind for yourself.
We talk a lot about this concept with our clients here at Stress Reset – our goal being to equip you with all of the tools you need to form healthy habits and feel supported in doing so.