It’s so easy to become stuck in certain routines and habits. We may have complete awareness what we are doing is against our values or taking us away from living a life which is meaningful and enjoyable however, it can be so challenging to break away and unhook from these habits which have become custom to our day or week.

What’s the cost?

By continuing to engage in negative habits we are taking away opportunities to immerse in more meaningful or positive activities or experiences. This can result in negative outcomes from a physical, emotional or psychological perspective. The longer we remain in these negative ‘loops’ the harder it can be to break away or unhook from them. GOOD NEWS – it is never too late to create new habits which are more conducive to support better mental and physical health, so what’s stopping you?!

Does any of this sound familiar: working late into the evening, excessive time spent on digital devices, avoiding down time, putting off self-care, not prioritizing sleep/not achieving enough rest, excessive consumption of alcohol, suppressing your voice or opinion, mindless or binge eating, saying YES despite feeling overworked, inactivity, actively listening and responding to your inner critic, eating lunch at your desk or avoiding taking breaks during the work day and/or living in chaos/a messy environment.

Taking the time to stop and reflect is so important and can help you shift towards a space of change. Asking yourself “is this habit supportive or destructive to my wellbeing? Is this taking me towards the person I want to be, is it taking me where I want to get to, in terms of living a life which is balanced and meaningful?”

Often, we engage in negative habits as we live in an ‘autopilot’ mode – engaging in things without brining awareness to the moment and only acknowledging or recognizing

we’ve done something after the fact.

Unhooking from negative habits

1. Map out your bad habit loops.

What’s going on? What’s happening? What are the triggers? What is driving the habit? What is maintaining the habit?

2. Bring more awareness to the moment – what are you gaining?

What do you notice? What does your mind tell you in these moments? What does your body tell you in these moments? What’s the outcome after engaging in the habit?

3. Find a better option.

What could replace the habit? What would result in a better experience or outcome? Cultivate curiosity and ask yourself what other options are available and what is needed to achieve this.

Certain key things are required when it comes to unhooking successfully from a negative habit. Here are some of my reflections:

Accountability: write it down, use an agenda, tell someone your new habits/goals.

Consistency: engage in the new habit regularly, set yourself a target and stick to it, create new rituals and routines to honour the new habit.

Be Realistic: what else is going on in your life, what might influence or impact engagement in the new habit, who can help/support you, observe your other commitments or external factors.

Commitment: is the new habit in line with your values, how important is this to you and what positive difference will this make to your life.

Self-compassion: show yourself loving kindness and patience, not every day/week will be easy when implementing change.

What can help you further to unhook from negative habits?

I’m sharing below some of my favourite tools to adopt when looking at breaking away from these negative loops and making space for positive change:

1) Scaling – using a numerical scale to help you to objectively rank or measure how important something is and what impact (positive or negative) it might have. Scaling helps us to stop and reflect before automatically engaging in a habit.

2) The Choice Point (a tool developed by Dr Russ Harris, Therapist and Trainer of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). Watch this short YouTube clip to get a clearer understanding of how to use this tool.

1) Get a different perspective – step back, picture yourself in a helicopter so you can see the ‘whole picture’ – not just what’s in front of you. Ask yourself: “What would I tell a friend of mine, would my advice be different?”

2) Use visual imagery as a way of ‘seeing yourself’ engaging in a healthier, more positive habit or experience.

3) Journal about your experience – use this as a tool to help boost motivation and accountability. Journaling can assist us to bring more awareness and mindfulness to the process of change.

What might some of the benefits be after unhooking from a negative habit?

– Start living a life which is more in line with your values

– Living a healthier life, improve your wellness

– Experience more balance

– Embracing more mindful moments, slowing down, and turning inwards

– Learning to challenge that inner critic or negative self-talk

– Rediscover your voice and boost your levels of confidence

– Make space for positive opportunities and change

– Live a more meaningful life

– Improve important relationships

Wishing you success as you navigate through the process of unhooking from your negative habit/s. Be kind to yourself and imagine the possibilities!

Yours in wellness,

Libby McLean

EAP, Coach and Trainer

Positive MIND Consulting