If you want to change a habit but feel pushed and pulled back to the old pattern, there is a reason for this tug-of-war. No, it’s not because you’re lazy.
The power habits have over you are felt in three ways:
- when you realize their effect on you,
- when you attempt to change them, and
- when you feel helpless and overpowered by them.
Otherwise, habits function automatically.
They cause weight gain, relationship stress, unsightly fingernails, health issues, depression, anger, frustration, and death, to name a few.
Many resign and give in to the driving force of the habit because the effort required to stop it is relentless, the rising angst of unmet needs is draining, and the failure that occurs becomes emotional.
Here are evidence-based facts to ease the stress of the habit:
All habits have value, are not all bad, and, at one time, were clearly intentioned, perhaps, a way to cope or survive.
Some habits started in childhood to manage tension in the home environment or cope with trauma. Many childhood habits become coping mechanisms for adult stress, even though they were helpful during childhood.
The different aspects of habits sync and develop a neuro-signature or imprint wired in the heart, brain, and body.
Habits become imprinted in this way because they carry a high emotional charge associated with specific mental and behavioral components and body-feeling states, all seeking pain relief.
The subconscious mind resides and is expressed in the body and does not distinguish between past, present, and future. Everything you think and feel is in the moment, whether a childhood experience, unconscious transgenerational trauma, or a long-time habit.
The body becomes the vehicle of past expressions of old hurts and trauma.
In the body, emotions are a cascading release of hormones, chemicals, and cellular changes that are the signature of a particular emotion, such as anger. The body becomes familiar with each emotional (chemical) signature, especially frequently created ones.
For example, if you feel angry a lot, the subconscious body will create anger when there is no external need for it and becomes addicted to the ‘anger neuro-signature.’
The body’s emotional feeling state of anger AND the habit become an addition. So you are attempting to manage a habit’s behavior but must be aware of what is happening internally.
Habits have four aspects in common:
- Repetition (which creates the neuro-signature)
- High Breadth of Emotion (that enables the brain to stack and store every time you engage in the habit, making it more and more automatic, a.k.a. increasing its value.)
- Associated Body Feelings (emotions of the past)
- Clear Intention (needs, decisions, and beliefs that support the habit)
This helps you understand and broadens your awareness of how easy it is to get stuck on the hamster wheel of habits and change. The next time you want to change a habit, consider a more holistic approach. Approaching it solely from a behavioral perspective may lead to frustration.
Pay attention to the thinking-feeling loop of your habits:
- What is the trigger or movement that ignites or cues the habit?
- What is your mind saying just before you engage in the habit?
- How does the body feel? Where do you feel urges or sensations? (emotion)
- What pain are you trying to relieve? You may not know.
- What happened to the habit when you became an observer?
If you have questions, email me! In the following article, I will offer some ways you can help yourself navigate the hamster wheel look of breaking a habit.