Bad Habits: Breaking Them vs. “Braking” Them

Sometimes there’s a habit that has been so damaging, so annoying, or frankly, so unsavory that we simply need to cut it out of our lives. Like mold on cheese. Other times we’re not ready, or able, to slice it off completely. Or maybe it has been with us so long, it’s just hard to imagine life without it. And there are certain habits that are useful once in a blue moon, for particular situations, and we need to have them available on an as-needed basis, though not all the time. You’ll understand what I mean in a moment, and you might be able to identify a few of your own that fall into this category. For example, the husband of a client needed to step away from the habit of zoning out when someone was talking to him, particularly his wife. He came to me for hypnosis to help him stay present, conscious and engaged. Fair enough. We were set to begin the induction (the stage when the hypnotist/hypnotherapist leads the client into the hypnotic state), when he suddenly stopped the process. “Wait! I need to be able to zone out once in a while,” he said, “Is that do-able? Because when my uncle starts giving me statistics on all his favorite baseball players….” So we did hypnosis to make “zoning out” a choice rather than something that just “happened” to him and was beyond his control. It worked perfectly. The incident made me realize that we all need to know we have choices. We don’t need to go all the way in everything we do. *We don’t have to like all our relatives, we can like some more than others, and spend less time with those who chew our ear off with tales of their brilliant dog. Or toddler. *We don’t have to become the top salesperson in the company by next month. We can work to increase our quota by, say, 5-10% next month and 15% the following month. And so on. Even the smallest increase can add to our confidence and build momentum. *We don’t have to be married by next year. It’s okay to just start dating and see where it gets us. And who it gets us. *We don’t have to eliminate all sugar (unless a doctor instructs us to), we can eat less of it. Same for fat, caffeine, etc. “Putting the brakes” on certain negative habits without completely eliminating them may bring satisfaction and improved health with less pain. It may become easier to let go of a habit if we simply don’t tell ourselves “You can never, ever have/do/be this ever again!” Certainly, dropping the number of times you partake in a negative habit, per day or per week, is better than not decreasing it at all. Nicotine is a little different. For most people, cutting back on smoking little-by-little doesn’t work as well as complete elimination. Unfortunately, but the secrets of smoking cessation is another article, for another time. Which habits of yours would you like to eliminate? (Write your answers down for best results.) And which of these would be more comfortably eliminated bit-by-bit and which in one gigantic swoop? (Write.) Which habits would you like to create or reinstate in your life? (Write.) Which of these should be introduced into your routine little by little? And which enforced frequently? (Write.) Note: for some people, creating or starting a habit gradually works best, while a harmful habit is best eliminated in one cut. For others, the process varies. On a personal note, I eliminated artificial sweeteners in one day because I needed to cut out the craving for that particular taste. But bringing exercise back into my life was on a one-day-at-a-time basis and is still ongoing. Check how it works best for you. But whether you break or brake your habit, know that every useful and positive change you make in your life creates a flow of more useful and positive changes. Enjoy the process along with the rewards. ©2007 by Wendy Lapidus-Saltz. All rights reserved.