Have you ever noticed that when you fall out of a bad habit, it’s really easy to get back into? But if you fall out of a good habit, it can be hard to start again? What’s up with that? Why aren’t the good ones easy to start again? Well, I’ve got a couple of ideas.
First, many bad habits we have aren’t just habits, but coping mechanisms. Like, maybe your bad habit of munching between meals is coping for boredom. Maybe your bad habit of staying up late to watch TV is coping with loneliness. Even if you get rid of the habit, if you haven’t found better ways to cope with the boredom or loneliness, you risk ending up right where you were when you began.
The first step is to identify the emotion you’re trying to escape from. Then, develop healthier coping mechanisms in place of the bad habit. Are you bored? Read a book or work on a hobby. Are you lonely? Call a friend or talk to your dog. (I don’t know about you, but my dog is a great listener and totally non-judgmental.)
The second reason I think it is easier to get back to bad habits is our agency. God will support us in the endeavors we ask him to, but will not drag us kicking and screaming back to our best self. That would be a breach of our agency. On the other hand, Satan has no problem supporting us in all of our bad habits without us even asking!!
So, how do we form and support habits? I found a lovely article on medium.com. The author Sinem Gunel says that to build a habit, either good or bad, you follow a cycle: reminder, routine, and reward. For a bad habit, the reminder might be an uncomfortable feeling you don’t want to feel. For a good habit, it might be an alarm on your phone or associating it with another good habit.
The routine is the actual habit: smoking a cigarette or drinking your water, for example. It might be a morning stretch after brushing your teeth.
The reward is what you get at the end. Be it a break from your stress, a check in a box, or a sense of accomplishment, there should be a reward tied to your habit. I have found that sometimes, the reward needs to be disproportionate to the habit to motivate me.
I encourage you to find ways to support those good habits that will bring you happiness and peace and help you be your best self. If you need help setting a vision of the habits you’d like to have and/or get rid of in your life, reach out to me on my contact page. I’d love to set up a session and help walk you through.