a) Do you remember driving to the supermarket?
b) Did you brush your teeth today?
The answer to A is likely no and B is likely yes.
You probably remember learning to drive took all the concentration you had, having to do something with your legs and arms whilst trying not to run over any old ladies or children!
But now we just do it without thinking because our brains and bodies know what to do, the subconscious part of our brain works to make it happen, similar as breathing and pumping the blood around our body. We don’t have to consciously think of these things to make them happen.
That is what happens with something new becomes a habit.
We weren’t born reaching for a glass of wine or chocolate after a stressful day, they became habits.
Many habits serve us well, like brushing our teeth each morning but many don’t and we can change them.
The key is understanding how they work.
Imagine you go for a walk in the countryside and you see a field with what looks like a pathway through it where people have walked before. You are likely to take that path, as are most people. What happens is the pathway eventually gets more pronounced until the grass disappears and it is well worn in so no one misses it.
One day the farmer decides he wants to grow the grass back and lead people along a different route so he fences off the original path so people have to use the new one. Eventually the grass grows back and a new pathway is created.
This is pretty much how the neural pathways in our brain work which shows how you can break a habit and create a new one, it just takes time and effort for at least 21 days. Each time you go back to the old habit (or pathway) you actually have to start again, a pain I know but it’s just the way it is!
Sometimes the key is to find something that releases the same brain chemicals as the thing you normally have. Having an apple instead of huge piece of chocolate cake might not do it for you!
Also just changing one habit at a time can often work better than doing a whole bunch of new things and giving up as you just can’t do them all.
That’s why one of the first things I ask people to do is to add more water into their diet before they start taking things away.
One of my bad habits is sometimes being late – I always think I have time to do just one more thing before I have to go somewhere but often I don’t so end up running late. In order to correct this I have to think about 10 minutes before I normally would to head to stop what I am doing and get going. I really have to think about it as it doesn’t come naturally at the moment, but if I can do it consistently every day for at least 3 weeks it should start to be a subconscious action so that it becomes a habit and before I know it I am never late!
But if I am late one day because I don’t think about stopping 5 – 10 minutes before I normally would, I will need to start again and treat it like day 1.
Energy goes where focus goes so if I’ve not achieved it then I have not been focusing on it, which truth is I haven’t as much as I’d like to. Infact writing this makes me realise that I should put up some sticky notes to remind me (as I am a visual person), or a reminder on my phone.
So – what will you do to break a bad habit and start a healthier one?
Got to fly now and get ready for the 9.30 bootcamp crew, the early morning crew worked hard today – most of them have been coming for many months or years so turning up at 6.30am every Mon, Wed and Fri is a habit and when we don’t run classes for 2 weeks Dec and Aug they really miss it …. that only happens when a habit has become subconscious.
A big part of my online Shape up Plan is about creating healthy habits and if you’d like read a very honest review of how one of our participants has been getting over during her first 3 weeks you can click here
have a great weekend everyone – I’m hoping to use some of my birthday present …. restaurant vouchers. Clearly my family know I love to eat!!
Zita “food & fitness” Alves
ps It made me smile when we were warming up at bootcamp and nearly everyone noticed I had some new trainers – even at 6.30am Zest Bootcampers are on the ball! If you are Instagram and want to see my trainers go to https://www.instagram.com/fitnesszita/