How to Start Changing Problematic and Unhealthy Behaviours

When it comes to changing problematic and unhealthy behaviours it can be difficult to know exactly where to begin. Maybe you’ve tried many times before but find yourself defaulting back to where you began only a little wiser and feeling somewhat defeated.

A good place to start is by simply learning to listen to yourself. Is your gut instinct trying to tell you something? Listen to your intuition, that gut feeling that is telling you subtly and consistently that something feels wrong or right. Many clients when they attend counselling say I’ve been thinking about getting help for years or I’ve felt for a long time that something isn’t right. 

The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.‘  Socrates

Write a list of all those reoccurring or conflicting thoughts you have had over the past year. Often expressing and writing thoughts on to paper allows your to be more objective rather than subjective, helping you to identify visually what is taking up your valuable head space. This simple task is often the first step to taking control of a situation. You have begun to really listen to yourself.

Make simple, clear and achievable goals followed by plans and actions. While time is a great healer its also important to set clear timelines. If you keep moving the goal posts, it might be a good idea to redefine your goals or start afresh with more realistic goals but remember to challenge yourself at the same time. Often pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone empowers your to reach further and think bigger while also building confidence in yourself and your ability to succeed.
Take a pen and paper and a few minutes solitude and focus on the problematic behaviour you are struggling with. It may be food, smoking, alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, masturbation etc.
Listening to yourself and identify with the below. Here is a short simple example of how you can start addressing a problematic behaviour using a common addiction in Ireland today which is Smoking & Tobacco Addiction. 
Intuition Something about smoking makes me feel uncomfortable or uneasy these days.
ThoughtI really want to stop smoking. I’m always saying I will quit some day. Some day I will give them up. I don’t want to smoke anymore.
Feeling I feel like my smoking is effecting my health. I feel bad when I smoke. I feel nervous about smoking all the time. I feel like this is effecting me long-term.
Conflicting Thoughts I enjoy smoking but I know its bad for my health. I want to quit smoking but I don’t think I can. I need cigarettes every day but I can’t really afford to keep smoking.
Reoccurring Thoughts I need to stop smoking. Everyone is giving up smoking. I can’t seem to stop smoking. Smoking is not good for my health. Everyone around me is smoking so it’s OK.
FearI’m afraid I won’t be able to quit. I’m afraid I will fail. I’m worried I don’t have the commitment it will take. I’m afraid I can’t do it. I don’t think I can leave without smoking.
Motivations I will feel healthier.  I will feel free from this addiction. I will have more money in my pocket. My skin and health will improve. I will feel better about myself. My family are supporting me.   
GoalI will focus on quitting smoking completely and becoming healthier.
PlansI will reduce how much I smoke every day. I will talk to my GP about quitting smoking. I will buy a book or read online how to quit smoking. I will talk to my friends about quitting. I will book an appointment with an addiction counsellor and learn more about my own smoking addiction. I will talk to my pharmacist. I will think positively about my efforts.
TimelineI want to stop smoking completely in i.e 7 days, 6 weeks or 3 months.
 
Changing behaviour is a process which takes time. You are changing through this course of time how you think, feel, act and how your relate to your environment and those around you. Mostly you are shifting how you associate with that particular problematic behaviour and are learning to re-associate with the behaviour in a new healthier way.
Changing behaviour is not an easy task, it can be mentally, physically and emotionally challenging at the best of times but it is also rewarding. If you have proved to yourself time and time again that sheer willpower, mental commitments or promises alone are not enough to change and you find yourself stuck in the same behavioural patterns with the same problems then your experiences strongly suggests that that’s unlikely to change.
Its time to do something different, try something new and feel inspired and motivated to change and grow.
You deserve it and you can do it.
 
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