We are all creatures of habit. Habits that we have developed over the years represent subconscious mechanism, a rewarding system that compensates and bridges our anxieties, of which we may or may not be aware. Every each one of us holds inside enough amount of accumulated stress, whether recent or long forgotten, that shapes who we are and how we cope with it. Our habits, especially bad ones, are a mere manifestation of processes that run beneath our conscious mind, shape our perception and our attitude toward life. To be aware of our bad habits and wanting to change them means that our true nature is awakening and wishes to break free.
Awareness is the word that I’ve often used, and, oh boy, did I use it lightly. I wasn’t aware of my bad habits, I noticed them instead. Noticing goes hand in hand with judging, so the years of noticing and self-judgment did additional harm to my already wounded self. Being aware means heaving profound knowledge and deep understanding of self in the present moment that continues. It goes beyond rational thinking and stretches further to the realm of emotions and intuition. Being aware means knowing yourself and your flaws, with a feeling of love and acceptance, yet with a terrible urge to save you from you.
Only when I became aware of myself and the rut I got into, I was ready to perceive my behavior and habits with a fresh pair of eyes. I became a silent observer of all my doings. My days were a stream of practicing bad habits, starting from skipping the breakfast and having a strong coffee in a cloud of cigarette smoke to eating junk during the day. Evenings weren’t much better since it was all about more unhealthy food, perhaps a few drinks or simply being lazy in front of the TV, all spiced up with constantly being online on social networks. It became clear that being overweight, exhausted and somewhat depressed has everything to do with what I regularly do.
Good thing and probably the best possible approach to tackling habit change is not to hurry. I knew myself too well to know that I am not the ‘’cold turkey’’ type, so I took my time. The wish to rebuild me in a completely colossal and fantastic way was strong, but I have decided to take one step at the time. It takes a lot of energy to deal with your weaknesses so don’t take it all at once. First thing on my mind was to change my diet or to include a healthy breakfast, at least. Natural and organic whole food products for the start of the day seemed like a good idea, plus, I had less time to indulge my passion for smoking before work. Once you feel the benefits of a healthy meal early in the morning, it becomes easier to be watchful during the day.
Easier said than done, but it is achievable with a plan and discipline. Next thing on my mind was to change the way I look. Although going to the gym was the perfectly rational thing to do, I have managed to avoid it for some time. I took long walks instead, used my car as little as possible and moved around more than I usually do. Miraculously, I’ve begun to spend less time in front of the tv, less time online and less time smoking. Imagine that. What happened is, I have begun replacing my multiple bad habits with a single good one. Later on, when I felt ready for the challenge, I’ve started going to the gym. Challenge is the right word when changing habits. That is when willpower and hacking life patterns come into play.
Although this may seem as steady progress, there was ups and downs. Some days were stressful enough to get me back on old tracks, but remember there is always the next day. Next day is the day when you look back, but you don’t judge. Next day you gather all your strength and continue doing the right thing. The big secret to changing habits is that it gets easier in time. Days of struggle pass by and you continue to change your ways with less effort and better results. Do not punish yourself for bad days, but reward yourself for the good ones.
Breaking bad habits liberated me from the self-imposed captivity of walking in circles and getting nowhere. Changing one thing at the time starts this domino effect that manifests itself in being more positive and being ready to claim your life back.