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  • Writer's pictureAlexander James

Why Do We Form Habits?

Habits are defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as ‘something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it.’ Everybody has habits, even if they are not aware of them. They help us perform our daily tasks without undue effort, saving time and energy.


Some habits are beneficial and they can help us maintain good health, positive relationships, or achieve our goals. For example, most of us automatically brush our teeth in the morning and before going to bed without having to rely on external prompts. We naturally look both ways before crossing a road, or thank someone for helping us with a task.


However, some habits are harmful, such as smoking a cigarette after work, or snacking on sugary foods and drinks. We can also develop poor mental habits, such as ruminating on the past, scrolling for hours on social media sites, or talking to ourselves with a critical inner voice.


Unfortunately, some of the most damaging habits, such as smoking or comfort eating, are the hardest to break, because they trigger neurochemicals in the brain that temporarily make us feel happy and reduce stress. However, this high creates a corresponding low that can leave us feeling worse than before, and prompts us to repeat the habit more often.


The good news is that it is possible to break bad habits and replace them with positive ones. However, it does take some effort and the process can take several months. It is often achieved most easily by replacing the bad habit with a new more positive habit, because the brain naturally seeks rewards, and you will have somewhere to redirect this instinct.


For example, if you are tempted to reach for the biscuit tin for a sugar hit after a busy day try replacing it with a cupful of dried fruit and nuts or another nutritious snack. Removing the trigger for your bad habit, in this case the stocked up biscuit tin, will help you to maintain your progress and lead you from temptation in weaker moments.


Some people find that mindfulness techniques are very helpful when it comes to breaking bad habits. This is because being mindful involves paying attention to your thoughts and emotions to a much greater degree than you usually would throughout the course of your day.


When you are consciously focused on your emotions and mental processes, you are in a much stronger position to challenge any unwanted thoughts or impulses.


For example, if you are prone to self criticism, being in a heightened state of awareness can give you the opportunity to step back from a negative thought and look at it in a more neutral and detached light. This can help you to put a problem into perspective, or see that you are treating yourself unfairly.


Sometimes, a bad habit may have a deeper psychological cause, and in this case it might be beneficial to work through the issues with a professional therapist.


If you are looking for hypnotherapy in Kensington, please get in touch with us today.

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