How To Break A Habit Without Breaking Yourself


Robert Grey writes on how to create power behind new habits.

We’ve all got something about ourself that we’d like to change.

Whether it’s procrastination, the way we relate to food, our boundaries, the amount of time we spend on devices. For most people, there’s often a persistent awareness of how we might do better for ourselves. Well, I’ve got some decent news; it doesn’t have to be so gruelling.

Habits are well worn pathways of the mind and body. These familiar trails are often linked to a sudden and short lived dopamine reward, such as scrolling on social media.

From this we can become beholden to them. I know you’re aware that willpower, restraint, toughening up and cold turkey techniques are all possible, but I want to offer you something with a little less resistance, perhaps less suffering?

The foundations of making or breaking a habit are the same: do something on repeat (for some kind of reward) until it becomes so familiar it’s almost automatic. The rule of thumb states that it takes roughly 21 days of complete consistency to do this.* ‘So where is the easy part?’ I hear you ask. Well, it’s in the habit you choose to address.

Imagine for a moment the thing you really, really want to change. Now, please picture it being carried off by a strong gust of wind. It has no purpose here. What I want to offer you instead is a chance to prove to yourself that you can make good choices and make them consistently.

Instead, choose something small and easier to access; something that will nourish and reward you. Maybe its a short meditation practice, a quiet moment with tea, reading a couple of pages of a new book, dancing to your favourite trac or taking a daily walk outside. To improve your chances of keeping it up, best to make it 15 minutes or less. Choose something you will enjoy yet will require some effort. Now practice this for 21 days instead.

For three weeks commit to this small daily practice. Forget your original plan of dashing yourself against the thing you really want to change (and may have all sorts of reasonable resistance too, or might need support with). For this, enjoy the power in forming a new habit.

The benefits of realising you in fact do possess consistency, along with a new addition to your wellbeing routines, can then offer fuel and inspiration to tackle something larger.

You’ll have decreased resistance to forming new habits, and perhaps be motivated to keep the change rolling.

Like any practice, we need to learn how to walk before we attempt to run. If you can form a small beneficial habit for yourself, you’ve just made a precedent in this kind of work. Let consistency be your guide and your teacher, and practice loving discipline. Start small, stay the course, your liberation awaits

*Please bear in mind, pending the topic, it may well take longer for some habits to form or fold than others. Be kind to yourself in this knowledge.

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