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Learning new habits is different to shedding old ones

Stopping an old habit can be very different from starting a new one.  

When we want to learn a new habit, we need to do it on a regular basis. If we want to get into habit of positive self talk, we need to make sure we do it several times a day and preferably at a regular time. We can use a timer or keep a notebook to act as reminders. Over time, this new habit becomes something we do with little conscious thought.

Ending old habits is a different process. If we wish to get rid of a habit which is no longer working for us, making it sustainable has a lot to do with how we define ourselves. If we say, '"I don't eat cake"  rather than "I can't eat cake" such new thinking can become part of our new identity.

Some clients come to therapy expecting big changes to happen quickly, but some things are just too big and ingrained within us to change in one go.  

We may discover in therapy, for example, that we want to remove negative people from our life because we feel they are holding us back. Doing so at once is likely to be too big a challenge and can set us back.  

So we need to develop new habits in manageable, bite size chunks.

For example, we may discover that a friend is not allowing us to grow. If we feel we are not going to miss them, then this change is likely to be permanent. If the commitment to change seems too much, then we can choose something which is more manageable. In this case we may decide to stop seeing the person within our own home and arrange to meet them in town. This allows us to have more control over the situation and this is a change in habit.

If change is to last it needs to feel effortless and done without too much thought. Our thinking needs to shift from "I can't" to "I don't". In this way we build a new identity and feel proud of our achievements as we notch up our new, healthy habits.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Walsall, Staffordshire, WS6

Written by Lyn Reed

Walsall, Staffordshire, WS6

I offer a professional, confidential counselling service especially for those living with anxiety and stress.

I have acquired considerable expertise and knowledge having worked in the social care field for many years. Having experienced ups and downs myself I understand life's road can be rocky and therapy often helps us to discover a new way.

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