“What you are is what you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now.” – Buddha
Any habit acquired that is labeled bad is called such because it is understood to detract from the quality of life we wish to live. As 2014 began, I shared three things I have resolved to do at some point throughout the year and share here on the blog.
While two of the items on my list are still in progress, one is complete. And I will be completely forthright, I wasn’t sure I was going to be successful in my attempt as I have had false starts on breaking this bad habit in the past.
However, after two months without a television in my bedroom, I am grateful for the change. Indeed, for me, this was a bad habit, and it needed to be broken.
As with any habit, we practice it without thought as the behavior is embedded into our muscle memory freeing our minds to think, create, and solve other matters. So when we try to extricate a habit that has become our routine, part of what makes it so difficult is that our brains are being asked to adapt to something new which requires energy we weren’t previously expending.
Keys to Successfully Breaking a Habit:
- Have patience. While numerous studies have been done on how long it takes to acquire a new habit – 7 days, 11 days, 21 days – the lesson is to know it won’t happen immediately. You will become frustrated, agitated, and question whether you should continue on, but once you realize it is less the new habit and more the change itself that you are battling, you will be able to move forward and in time create a new habit that becomes second nature.
- Clarity about your reasons for desiring the change. My primary reason for removing my television from the bedroom was to provide a deep, restful sleep for my brain and body. Studies have shown that if our brains don’t reach a full REM sleep, or don’t get enough REM sleep, we actually are causing harm to ourselves: memory and thought processes decline, decreased immune response, more susceptible to depression and increased fatigue. So with my health as a motivator, I struggled most of January adjusting the cues my body needed to fall asleep. So long as your motivator is for you, for the betterment of the life you wish to live, you will be most likely to trudge forward.
- Consistency. With consistency, your mind and muscle memory become accustomed to what is expected to happen when certain cues occur. For example, working out after work, as you begin to feel the benefits of regular exercise and the stress-reducing effects it has on your thoughts as you dive into your 3-mile run, you will begin to want to work out and not want to deprive yourself of the benefits seen throughout the rest of your day.
By refusing to bring my television back into my bedroom and discovering what I had done my entire childhood and during college to fall asleep and sleep soundly, February proved to be full of deep, restorative sleep and more books and articles were finally read that have been patiently waiting for my time.
“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” – Jim Rohn
If you too have recently broken a bad habit during the first two months of 2014, please do share your experience. And if you are contemplating or in the middle of welcoming a new habit that will enliven the quality of your life, dive in and strive through those moments of frustration. If my experience is any indication, it will be well worth the shift.
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