Breaking Bad Habits

Breaking bad habits is not an easy thing to do. Changing habits is difficult in general, because habits are something that we do on autopilot. And we have very little conscious control over what our autopilot does. Once it is programmed to do a certain thing, it just keeps doing it over and over again.

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Habits in and of themselves are neither good nor bad – they just perform some kind of function in our life and make performing certain tasks easier. There are many good habits to have and to cultivate that help us to navigate through life better. And these of course should not be changed, so that is no problem at all. However, stopping bad habits is the challenge.

One thing you can do is to simply find out what you gain from a bad habit. Bad habits are never only bad – they always have also a positive aspect to them, a “reward” that makes you want to do them again and again. If for example you have the habit of skipping breakfast – what benefit do you gain from that?

Studies have already shown that skipping breakfast does not help to lose weight, because it slows down the metabolism. But skipping breakfast saves you some time that you can use for other things – maybe just sleeping a bit longer, or doing another thing. Whatever your bad habit is, take some time to figure out what the positive side-effects of this habit are, and write them down.

Then, make a second list in which you write down all the negative side-effects of your bad habit. Write down all the ways how these habits have a negative impact on your life. Once you have written this down, try to come up with ways how you could gain these benefits in alternative ways, without your bad habits.

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And next time when you notice that you are about to engage in a bad habit – or maybe even have done so already – stop and think: this is what I gain from doing this, this is what I lose when I do this. Is it worth it? Isn’t there a better way to gain the thing that I’m after? This is a much better basis for making a conscious decision about your own life.

However, habits often “happen” by themselves – that means we are so used to doing them, that we often do them automatically, and we only notice after it is too late already. That is why hypnosis is so effective when it comes to breaking bad habits. Because with hypnosis, you can communicate directly with your subconscious mind and tell it to stop that bad habit.

Your unconscious mind will do all the necessary steps to replace the bad habit with another behaviour that helps you to gain the benefit, without having to pay the price of the bad habit.

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In October 2011 the BBC reported about new research on the subject of breaking bad habits.The researches define a habit as something that we a) do very frequently, and b) do it in the same environment/setting.

The researcher did an experiment. They recruited some volunteers to watch a movie in the cinema. These were people that habitually ate popcorn when they went to the cinema. And they gave these people some very old, stale, bad-tasting popcorn. The volunteers agreed that it was really bad popcorn that tasted like styroform. Yet, when they sat in the cinema and watched the movies, they still ate it -simply because it is a habit.

But then he told some of the volunteers to eat the popcorn with their non-dominant hand. (So if they were right-handed, they should eat the popcorn with their left hand, and if they were left-handed, they should eat it with their right hand).

Interestingly, just doing this caused them to stop eating popcorn. The researchers concluded that the reason for this is that by using the non-dominant hand, they engaged in an unusual activity, which broke the habit pattern, it’s disrupting that unconscious action-sequence in the brain. And then what happens is that people consciously reflect: am I actually getting anything from engaging in this action? So in the case of the popcorn: WTF am I eating this terrible tasting popcorn? Do I gain any pleasure from this? Does it provide me with any kind of nourishment? Do I even feel hungry? And when the answer is no, they just don’t eat it. It allows for more conscious reflection.

Now you can’t always do this kind of stuff, because let’s face it – in our everyday lives, we already have lots of things on our plates, and we won’t think of changing our physical actions all the time. But with the help of hypnosis, you can kind of automate this process and install a unconscious action sequence pattern interrupt.

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