Why are habits helpful, but hard to change? (Healthy Habits Part 2)

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Last week we started exploring what healthy habits are and how they can be a much easier long term option for living an intentionally healthy, happy and more productive lifestyle. This week we're looking at why habits are helpful and why they can be hard to change...

Why are habits helpful?

When habits are established, we don’t have to use limited will power and energy to think and make decisions all the time about ‘what we do’ or ‘our behaviours' in a day.

Habits are usually subconscious behaviours that make up an average of 40% of our ‘actions’

If we are in the habit of; - putting the cup straight in the dishwasher, - reading and reflecting first thing in the morning, - putting our clothes in the laundry room basket instead of leaving them on the floor, - taking shoes off when we come into the house, - flossing when we go to bed, - or putting fruit on our cereal we just do it - we don’t need to think about whether we should or not, in fact - we do many of those things without even noticing or thinking ..

Which is exactly the point of habitual behaviours!

All this is great - if the habits are helpful and healthy….

But what about if those habits instead are leading to… - just one more biscuit, - skipping breakfast in the morning, - choosing chips instead of jacket potato, - tea AND cake, - driving short journeys, - fizzy drinks and coffee instead of water, - negative and destructive thought patterns, - feeling like we’re not as good as them, - saying ‘yes’ when we really should have said ‘no’ - Going to bed later.… you get the picture -

before long 40% of our unconscious behaviours could be leading us obliviously towards to an unhealthy and unhelpful life, rather than a healthy happy life in all its fullness. Which is why being intentional about identifying our habits is essential.

Why can changing habits be difficult?

There are many reasons changing habits may be difficult. We've listed some of these reasons below because understanding what these are may be helpful in making changes;

Habits are subconscious - They happen without us realising. We need to be aware of them consciously before we can even think about changing them! There is rarely one size fits all - we look at others or listen to their suggestions and get disheartened when they don’t work for us! Far better to realise that if we find something that works for us in one area of life, there is every chance that will transfer into other areas. We can get discouraged - when we compare what works for someone else, and that doesn’t work for us we can feel even more disheartened. •We are often too hard on ourselves - Sometimes we need to cut ourselves some slack when we don’t behave in the way we would like because we didn’t keep the habit in the forefront of our minds. Habits are comforting - When we make ourselves feel bad, we tend to revert to the things we are often trying to change! reminding myself that tomorrow is another day. After all, that’s what I’d tell my best friend!! We don’t know ourselves - (or we ignore and don’t admit the bits that we don’t like about ourselves!) well enough. As mentioned earlier, being self aware of our habits is essential if we want to change them! There are not usually many quick wins - Therefore we don’t get encouraged by successes and early progresses. Changing habits requires resilience - and not giving up - short term pain leads to long term gain! Changing habits may require support - and accountability to start off until they become established - a bit like scaffolding while a building is being built. •Changing habits requires energy - Keeping healthy habits front and centre requires a conscious awareness, and that requires effort - this can come from inside or external support. •Change one habit at a time - Because habits need time to embed, the most successful habit change usually occurs when we don't try and do it all at once!

I'm sure we can all identify with some of these reasons when we've tried to change habits in the past - please let us know if you've found any helpful tips and we'll look to include some of them in next week's post.

Understanding what habits are, and why changing habits can be difficult, helps us recognise that whilst it might be as simple as 1-2-3 to change habits, it’s not always easy! The good news is that it IS possible, come back next week where we’ll be exploring in more detail how we can have more healthy habitual behaviours.


The content from these short posts are taken from our Intentional Health Programme. Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about joining one of these community programmes.

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