Updated: Jan 14
It’s been said that it takes around two months for a habit to become automatic. For some, it can happen sooner. For others, it can take much longer. It depends on the habit itself, and your personality and behaviors. But, once that habit is formed and becomes a part of your daily life, changing it or breaking it can be extremely difficult to do.
Habits actually become something that need to be satisfied within the brain. Your neurons will “fire,” and keep reminding you to do that particular thing until it’s done. Then, they will subside. It’s like an itch that needs to be scratched, which explains why it’s hard to drop a habit, entirely. But, there’s even more to it than that.
If you’re having a hard time changing your habits, you’re not alone. Yes, it’s just as difficult as you think it is. Let’s talk more about why that’s the case.
Bad Habits Often Make You Feel Good
Many habits can be a good thing, like exercising every day or writing in a journal every night. Some might not be so great, like eating a pint of ice cream when you’re stressed. Some people take it further than that and turn to drugs or alcohol out of habit when difficult situations arise.
While most people can see that some of those are good and others aren’t, they all serve the same purpose – they make you feel good.
That’s why certain habits can be so hard to break. When you’re used to doing something that releases dopamine in the brain, you’re not going to want to let it go easily.
One of the best things you can do is to change a negative habit into a positive one to achieve the same “feel good” results. But, when you’re already used to getting satisfaction from the bad habit, that’s easier said than done.
Over time, habits can feel like they are a core part of who you are. Even if the habit is relatively new, it can start to feel engrained in your memory. That can create conditioning, like learning through association.
Most people have heard about the classic experiment with Pavlov’s dogs. Habits aren’t much different. After a while, things can trigger your habitual behaviors so you do them naturally – often without even realizing what you’re doing.
Because habits become part of your memory system, you probably do most of them below a certain level of conscious awareness.
When you don’t fully realize what you’re doing (or why it might not be helpful), you’ll be less motivated to make a change. Getting people to recognize that they need to break or change a habit is the first step in actually doing it, but it can also be the most difficult step.
Is it Possible to Change a Habit?
It’s possible to change or let go of a habit if you really want to. First, as stated above, you have to have the motivation to do it. You have to understand why you want to change, so you can stick with it and not fall back into familiar patterns.
Once you’re willing to make that change, you can identify the triggers that contribute to your habits. Most behaviors are the result of certain stimuli. Determining what your habit is a response to will make it easier to actively change.
You don’t have to go through any of those changes on your own. If you know you want/need to change your habits but aren’t sure you have the discipline to do it, feel free to contact me. Together, we’ll work on uncovering why you want to change, and how you can use that as motivation to move forward.