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4 Steps to Kicking Those Bad Habits for Good

Master the Art of Saying No

Don’t jinx yourself by setting negative goals or resolutions.

If you say to yourself ‘I’m not going to eat a chocolate biscuit every time I drink a cup of tea’, you are setting yourself up for failure because you have created a negative goal.

Setting this kind of goal means you must first create a picture of a lovely chocolate biscuit in your mind and then mentally try to cross it out. It’s like saying to yourself ‘I will not eat sweets’ and then going and sitting in a sweet shop!

As soon as I say ‘don’t think about a pink elephant with green spots, the first thing that comes to mind is a pink elephant with green spots!

Make things much easier for yourself by setting a positive goal such as ‘when I drink tea, I will drink it mindfully, from a beautiful china cup. I will really savour the taste of the tea, notice the colour, enjoy the aroma and the feel the warmth of the cup in my hand.’

This is a positive image and much more helpful for your goal setting success.

The stages of quitting

Of course when it comes to giving up bad habits, you may not have even reached the action stage yet. There are some definite phases in giving up behaviours, habits or addiction.

You might, for instance, be in the pre-contemplation phase. ‘Problem? What problem? There is no problem. I love chocolate biscuits and they love me.’

Or you might be in the contemplation phase where you are weighing up the pros and cons, for instance, of drinking wine every evening and dealing with the hangovers the next day.

Having weighed things up, you might decide you are going to take action in which case you need a plan. But be ready for lapse or relapse phase on the road to quitting for good.

The large majority of us will not make progress in a straight line but will often take two steps forward and one step back on our journey to the top of the mountain.

But, once you have those new behaviours in place for 21-28 days, you can give yourself a pat on the back in recognition that a pattern has been established. By now, new neural pathways in the brain have formed which should make it easier for you to stay on track and maintain your resolution.

If you’re giving up something like cigarettes, it is useful to use something practical like the 4D approach. When your feel the familiar urge to light up:

  • The urge will pass after a few minutes. Learn to ride the waves of desire.
  • Think about something else….anything else. Make a mental list of all your favourite songs for instance. Or try the 5,4,3,2,1 approach by thinking about 5 things you can see right now, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can feel and 1 thing you can taste.
  • Deep breathe. Slowing the breathing rate and counting the breath will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, keep you calm and prevent emotional hijacks.
  • Drink water. Fill the emotional ‘hole’ with something healthy that is actually good for you. Many of us do not drink enough water.
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It was the famous psychiatrist and hypnotherapistDr Milton Erickson who advised his patients when they were trying to give up smoking to put their cigarettes in the attic and their lighter in the basement. He certainly knew what he was doing.

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.

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