Changing or Terminating Old Habits

Gretchen Heuring | 11.01.08


The first step toward changing a habit is awareness.  How do we do it, exactly?  What is going on inside when you are craving sweet food?  Developing awareness of those feelings takes some thought and can be very worthwhile.  You could be feeling lonely, or that someone you care about does not understand you.  You probably do not really feel hungry!


Once you are aware of your own feelings, you will be able to choose what you do about them.  You might eat, but you could also choose to take a walk or go to a coffee shop or read a book.  You will be making a choice about how you handle yourself.  You will be in charge.


You can begin to develop new habits, but remember, new habits require consistent practice over time.




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Strange Problems In Changing Habits


When we think about habits, we tend to consider overeating, nail biting, smoking, or irritating gestures like throat clearing.  Then we think about will power and we are sure that any bad habit can be overcome by persons who are emotionally stable and strong-minded.

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Some habits are things we do want such as using a turn signal or brushing our teeth at bedtime.  Good and bad habits have one important thing in common.  We do not really think about them.  We just do them.


Failures Can Be Valuable Experiences


Improving ourselves involves learning new ways of doing things. Changing habits isn't easy and most people have had the experience of trying something and failing.


In "Simple Zen Habits" Leo Babauta says that after failure, we should not give up, but must reset our resolve.


So if I decide to lose some pounds after the new year, and I give in to temptation and eat something bad for me, I should just start over again with new determination. Building new eating habits is truly difficult for anyone because we get hungry several times a day.


Change Means Creating A New Part of Ourselves


Others may be surprised by our change and unprepared. A friend might offer me food she knows I love because she wants to please me, and she would certainly not be ready for me to set her gift aside rather than eat it right away. She will have to adjust to the new me and I will have to give her time.


I have to adjust to a new me too. I need to be kind to myself, patient, and very very strong.