All of us have unhealthy habits in life we wish we could change. We often think, “One day when I gather enough motivation I’ll change.” But the reality is, nothing will change unless we actually do something about it.
“Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your character, and your character determines your destiny.”
Our habits are that powerful, and so are our thoughts and feelings!
The Engine of Habit
Where does a habit originate from? Do our habits really begin with our thoughts? How about our feelings? What do our emotions have to do with our habits?
Here’s a scenario: Today I’m feeling bored, so I pick up my phone and turn on my favourite app, whether it’s a game, social media, or the news. My boredom disappears and I am stimulated for a while, maybe I’m even excited and happy.
The more I go to my app in moments of boredom, the stronger my habit becomes. Before I know it, I’m on my app longer and longer every day.
And it gets worse! Now I start using my app when I’m feeling anxious and sad, avoiding and numbing difficult feelings with a quick fix.
My app’s reach into my internal world has deepened. I’m starting to use my app any time I feel off, anytime I crave some distraction from how I feel, anytime I want to feel excited.
So, how can we course-correct to create habits that positively benefit us?
Feelings and Emotions
Learning to be with internal discomfort is a superpower that allows a healthy relationship with emotional and relational pain. Sitting with our emotions and moving through them, as uncomfortable as it may be, is what will bring us insight and a deeper connection with ourselves.
The cure for boredom is not in self-distraction, but in learning to be with and explore boredom deeply. I might discover fear in my boredom, or perhaps even depression or numbness.
Emotions are not what we think they are.
Changing Unhealthy Habits
Change your unhealthy habits by learning to be with yourself in moments when you don’t like what you’re feeling.
As you no longer use your unhealthy habits to compensate for not feeling good, you can discover that feeling great all the time is overrated.
We as humans are not meant to feel amazing or excited all the time. Feelings and emotions come and go and we cannot avoid the suffering. It is essential to let them come and let them go without resisting or “curing” them.
Creating Healthy Habits
Ask yourself, “How can I best honour myself at this moment?” Then do what comes naturally. If you’re hungry, eat a healthy meal. If you’re tired, rest. If you’re feeling lonely, call a friend.
Find groups of people who can support you in sticking to a healthy lifestyle.
Creating healthy habits takes effort and consistency. If there is something in your life you want to change, it’s going to take a bit of elbow grease. But you’re fully capable and have the power within! It’s all about accessing the right resources.
Let’s go back to when you go on your phone when you’re bored. There are ways to change this habit. Most phones now have features where you can set time limits on certain apps. There is also a grayscale feature on iPhones that changes your phone to black and white, making your phone less enticing to your brain. Committing to these small and simple changes is what it takes to create a healthy habit, but we have to actually do them!
Change Your Habits, Change Your Life!
When we aren’t trying to “fix” our discomfort, we discover our sense of wholeness and natural ease within. This is a great discovery. A sense of peacefulness is already here and available when we are not struggling against how we feel at any given moment.
Such resistance creates more suffering. Try to stay open to how you feel and learn to work through your emotions instead of trying to distract yourself from them.
At Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic, our approach includes individualized care and a range of therapeutic methods. We offer CBT, Somatic Therapy, Hakomi, DBT, Hypnotherapy, and EMDR along with a variety of workshops. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and/or addiction, please contact us to learn more about our services.