Why are habits so deeply engrained?

Have you ever wondered why it is so hard to change something you really want to? Maybe you haven’t yet achieved to do so? Perhaps its losing weight, giving up sugar, to stop drinking alcohol, stop smoking, or any other habit or behaviour change you want so desperately to change. Perhaps its something you’ve been thinking about for years, but you are yet to reach that target goal. Ever wondered why it is so hard to make these changes?

First of all, old behaviours, or ‘habits’ as they are often referred, can be deeply engrained. When you keep doing the same thing over and over. Often for many years. It becomes part of who you are, part of your makeup.

All of a sudden you make a firm decision that you want to change. You may have even been threatening yourself for years, making some veiled attempt to change that old habit or something you wanted to shift. It may have even worked well in the past. Perhaps you made that change you wanted to. Did you avoid some of the stuff that was bad for us and lasted a few days, maybe even a week or two? And then soon enough, before you know it, you are back firmly in the same comfortable old routine and behaviour, you know perhaps on a conscious level isn’t too good for you. Like popping back on a pair of old comfy slippers. Ahhh.

Have you ever wondered why that might be?

Well firstly if you have often performed a routine, or habitual behaviour for many years and then suddenly decide you want to change, this can feel unfamiliar, uncomfortable or unsafe. You are in the unknown, out of your comfort zone. Secondly, you are getting some kind of benefit or payoff from it, or enjoyment of some sort. But at the same time, you know its not good for you, but carry on doing it anyway! It also goes back to hardwired programmes that keep you stuck.

Our conscious mind only represents around 5% of who we are. We want to consciously be in charge, but often your subconscious mind has other agendas. So, that 5%, (or even less as modern researchers would suggest) guess whats in there – will-power.

So when you decide to make that big change, something you’ve been talking about and threatening for years, to yourself and others. It’s easier to carry on repeating the old patterns of behaviour because that is the known. When we repeat behaviours, routines, habits etc, we become some familiar with this established pattern of events. Circuits are actually hardwired in our brains to allow us to continue to perform the same actions as we always have done. When we learn any new behaviour or skill, this can seem hard at first. Upon regular repetition, it can become like second nature. We end up on autopilot, a record of the past. And when our brains circuits hardwire that information, (throughout learning and upon completion of said learning) it instructs our body to do something.

What therefore happens then is the body becomes the mind.

We become so familiar with the behaviours, our body knows where its going before it even gets there! I’ll give you an example. How often do you get up in the morning and before you know it, you’re in the shower and are washing yourself and getting ready for work the exact same way you do every other day, in that same familiar way. Or you dial a familiar number and your finger knows exactly where the digits are on the keypad.

You might be thinking behaviour change is so hard! Yes, it can be, especially if we keep repeating the same behaviours and expecting a different outcome. But change can often occur much quicker than you might think.

In order to make changes, I would suggest you do the following. Notice what your old patterns are. How can you start getting off auto-pilot and start becoming more conscious of your actions? Rather than walking round in a hypnotic daze, wondering when things are going to change?

Firstly, see if you can make small steps to moving away from blaming others, or situations outside of yourself. For example – “he/she/they/their/them have made me angry/sad/upset/annoyed/indifferent/guilty/resentful”. Once you start doing that, you will begin to make big changes.

Secondly, stop those old excuses that keep popping up within the internal chatter “todays not a good day”, “I’ll start tomorrow” – thats just the subconscious mind trying to unseat you, and in its own perhaps unhelpful way. This is merely in attempt to keep you safe.

Trust me, if you apply some of these small changes, you will start to notice bigger shifts.

If you want to know more about how change can be made, and often much easier than you might think, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Or have a check at what others have said on my website.


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