I’ve said it time and time again, it’s not willpower that will get you healthier and slimmer, it’s the little habits repeated again and again that make ALL the difference. All of us need repetition and reinforcement to get our best results. You only need to look at your habits to see what your health and waistline will look like in the future and in fact If someone just looked at you without spending any time in your company, they could probably guess your habits and rituals – your body is a visual representation of many of your habits.
Habits and behaviours are what sculpts your brain. Your thoughts literally create the delicate infrastructure when you repeat the same neurological activity.
Imagine walking through a meadow where the grass is knee high, it would take some effort to create a pathway, but once you have done it, the second time it’s slightly easier, and the more often you do it the easier it gets. Eventually the path becomes so trodden that it actually becomes part of the meadow and grass no longer grows there. Your footsteps change the landscape. In the same way when you repeat thoughts, they have the same effect and you create a brain “map”.
Your habits literally define you and the more that you do something, i.e. have a sugary snack before bedtime, then the more it is ingrained in you and becomes almost an automatic action, as time goes on the more difficult it feels to change it. In reality, every time you put off changing something, and do it ‘one more time’ the old way, you are strengthening that pathway and making it harder to create a new one.
When you have a choice to make, your unconscious mind immediately searches its neurological database to see if it has a map for that same situation and if it does, it will use that map rather than create a new one. Airline pilots spend a few days every six months in a simulator dealing with crisis, so that if it ever happens in real life they already have the neurology in place to act in the best possible way.
This is great news if you are creating healthy habits!!! If you have cut out high sugar foods and swapped your daily muffin for a few squares of quality dark chocolate for example, you will come to look forward to that chocolate and even prefer it over the sickly tasteless muffin.
The problem is many of us have habits that don’t serve us and that were created without us even realising it.
It is very important to understand that repetition is a key factor when installing a habit, and the wonderful news is that when you actually visualise something in your minds eye you create and use exactly the same neurological maps as if you are “really” doing it. That means you can mentally rehearse something and get the same benefits as if you were actually in the situation.
There are three steps through which a habit is created. The first is the cue. This is something that triggers a particular automatic behaviour. In smokers it may be always having a cigarette with the first coffee of the day. Or it may be that when you hear the theme tune of your favourite TV show you automatically put the kettle on and settle down with a cup of tea and a biscuit. Cues come in many forms, from a particular time of day to a smell. The next step is the behaviour. This is what you do in response to a cue, for example ordering a slice of cake with your coffee. The third is the reward, which associates pleasure with the behaviour. A reward may be an emotion, feeling or a taste – savouring the chocolate icing for example. This confirms in your mind that you made the right choice.
So, are you creating healthy habits each day or are you creating bad habits that are making you feel fat and unhappy? Take some time to think about this. In terms of looking after your body have you practiced / perfected getting the body and level of health you want and deserve? Or are you doing the exact opposite?
Changing behaviour for good is about believing that you are worth the effort, that your spirit deserves to live in a home that honours it. That takes intention and desire, and it takes practice.
It might seem impossible to break a habit if you are constantly exposed to the same cues BUT you can change your response to the cue. You may not be able to remove a vending machine from your office – but you can change your reaction to it.
Make a list of the habits that are making you unhealthy and fat. List all the cues and then your responses to the cues…
Remember you do not have to do what your internal voice tells you – STOP for a moment and choose a better option. When you hear it say, “have the cake”, pause for a second and give yourself a different option so that you learn to associate more pleasure with not having the cake than having it. Choose a different reward that pleases you and is a healthier option. Feel the control of not going down the same road to ill health. Feel the pleasure of the new habit – pretty soon the new habit will have totally replaced the old one.