Habits are what we do and how we think
Habits can be great, or not so great. We may want to change a habit, or build on it.
Habits include the things we regularly do and the things we think, including our self-talk. Self talk is our powerful internal dialogue, which we can be unaware of. Do you have certain thoughts that are repeated during a day? Are you giving yourself toxic messages like ‘this is awful, I’m not good enough, I look horrible’? Are you worrying about things all the time that may never come to pass?
We have to also be careful what we watch, because what we watch and what quality it is programmes what we believe and builds the habits of a lifetime. Do you workout regularly and make time for catch ups with friends, or work late and collapse on the couch to watch Netflix with wine until you fall asleep? Do you lift yourself and others up with motivation or crush your willpower with nasty self-talk?
It is very important that we realise all these things are habits, which we can choose to keep; or not.
Some people roll out of bed, go straight to Suna and do a morning workout, and that’s their exercise done for the day – they leap into it while their brain is a bit sleepy to protest and get it smashed out – that’s their habit and they know that they feel better during the day because of it.
This is a habit that usually started with motivation and creates a belief that yes, I do feel better if I do exercise in the morning, I don’t snack as much, my posture is better and I have more energy - it’s fantastic!
Other people have a habit of not exercising – which often starts with a belief that “I’ve tried this and tried that and nothing ever works” – (even though they may have only tried one or two things, for one or two weeks).
What are our beliefs and how do they create our habits?
Beliefs a lens that we view our life through. Everything seems the way it does to you because you have shaped a certain set of beliefs over your lifetime. But they aren’t set in stone!
With beliefs it is really important that we know what we can control. Worrying about things outside our control is based on a deep-seated and normally unconscious belief that somehow you should be able to control things. “If I’m a good person and I do the right things, everything will work out right.” We know that’s not quite true, but it can cause a lot of stress if it isn’t identified.
Sometimes clients will say “Oh something terrible happened at work, so many people are affected, and I am so upset about it!” They will have a belief that everything will affect them, and even sometimes, that they should be able to influence or fix everything.
We can control how we react to something, and our beliefs about the event. We can control our ‘story’ about something that happens. We can work on altering our filters and our programming.
We can’t control the weather, government decisions, what our family and friends decide to do, or whether there is a war - or a global pandemic.
You can decide to make a habit of not letting external situations affect you – and being able to choose your own emotions around them. Watch out for ‘busy thoughts’ and take note of which circumstances or events you can and can’t control. Make a list if you need to. Once we identify what we can and can’t control, suddenly we have more ‘time’ and can work on the things we can influence.
If someone makes a comment (kind or unkind) we can choose whether we take that on board – and it really is a choice.
Some people are really affected by things happening to other people - “ Oh, my heart goes out to them, I feel for them” which is a beautiful thing! It is a beautiful thing to be caring – but it isn’t a beautiful thing if it’s affecting you, affecting your health and your mentality and causing you to feel stressed, anxious or depressed.
On the other hand, some people endure terrible experiences outside their control, but decide that overall it was a valuable experience as it taught them so much, gave them so much resilience, and gratitude. This is them controlling the story they tell which in turn shapes their belief, and drives their habits.
Our life experience really depends on what filters we have, our perceptions and the story we tell ourselves. And the story is really, really important – because all of our beliefs are just stories that we tell ourselves, and the more we tell them the more we programme ourselves to believe them.
It’s really useful to understand that behind every good habit or poor habit, is a particular set of beliefs, and that these beliefs are stories we tell ourselves.
If we repeat a story enough, it becomes the programme. If people say “Oh, that must have been terrible!” and we come to agree that yes it was terrible – our body lives through the impact of a terrible experience each time we relive or retell that story.
Programming can come from simply hanging out with people, talking, self talk, what we watch and read, social expectations or how we were raised.
Shaping our beliefs about Covid 19
At the moment the programming is very clear – we have a lot of people that are in a lot of fear. And fear puts the accelerator on the central nervous system, placing us in a state of sympathetic dominance. Sympathetic dominance really challenges the immune system - so the more worry we have the more our immune system is compromised.
Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but it doesn’t take you anywhere. Telling yourself fearful stories doesn’t help the situation; and can actually make it worse.
What we watch is a big part of how we form our beliefs so with the current situation, be very aware of what you watch on social media, where most posts are about the virus right now. Depending on your friends and the pages you follow, there can be a lot of controversy or a lot of fear. Make sure you don’t spend hours every day scrolling through things that may be very fear provoking. Going to the supermarket reinforces this fear programming, with crosses on the floor and dividers between people. Everything we see at the moment reinforces this programming.
Regardless of what’s going on out there, its okay to be okay within yourself – but your state will depend on what story you tell yourself, what filters you use, how you programme yourself - and this can regulate the effect on your physical and mental state.
Spend some of your time online looking at beautiful things! Browse Instagram or pinterest, read a happy book, watch a funny movie, do something that makes you laugh. Walk outside with your family, workout, draw something.
Be physical, creative and kind.
Habit is overcome by habit
Sometimes we feel stuck and stagnant and find it hard to break habits. It may be eating sweet treats before bed, drinking alcohol every day – whatever you do that you don’t feel comfortable with, and think ‘I shouldn’t be doing that’. Rather than going cold turkey, and leaving what has become your comfort zone by trying to change instantly, replace a habit with a new, better habit.
To avoid drinking alcohol at night - which will keep you awake, prevent your body from its repair processes, impact your immune system, and cause your body to hold onto weight – try getting a wine glass and filling it with something delicious, alcohol free and low in sugar to enjoy. You’ll have something in your hand, and something to do. This way you won’t be thinking “I used to drink a bottle of wine every night, and now my habit is sitting there wishing I was!”
Change can be a scary word
Our bodies have a whole bunch of systems that make it challenging for us to make big changes. These are designed to stop us doing new silly things that might damage us. Its key to remind ourselves that we do want to change this habit, and look for ways to replace the habit, or do things differently.
Changing habits requires reprogramming to changing the beliefs that drive them
You probably know what habit you want to change. Identifying the beliefs that drive that habit can be a little trickier, but you can often catch them in your self talk when you do the thing you want to change. If you’re in the habit of deciding not to do that workout after all, what are the things you say to yourself when you do that? Do you say “Oh I’m too tired to workout.” “Agh I hate the way I look so fat in leggings.” “Noone can see me at home anyway so what does it matter how I look?”
Once you start paying attention to your beliefs this becomes really easy to do. And once you can identify the belief that drives the habit, you can pretty quickly find one that will serve you better!
“Oh I’m too tired to workout.” can become “Working out leaves me so energised!”
“Agh I hate the way I look so fat in leggings.” can become “I love the way my body looks when I do regular exercise.”
“Noone can see me at home anyway so what does it matter how I look?” can become “I value my health and enjoy a healthy, fit body.”
These new beliefs can become part of your self-programming and drive a habit of regular exercise. This process is tricky at first, but becomes easy with practise, until it becomes a habit in itself!
So many people are saying that they have a habit of snacking and eating unhealthy food during quarantine. The beliefs that drive snacking and over eating are often being out of routine or feeling out of control. A worldwide pandemic is a massive event, like a war. It makes us feel uncertain, when in more normal times we are used to just going through the motions of a daily routine on autopilot - which keeps us busy but doesn’t leave us time to feel, or think about how we feel. What a lot of people are doing during lockdown is feeling unsatisfied, unsatiated. We’re feeling like we’re not getting enough done, or doing what we should. These kind of things can be very difficult to find the beliefs behind – why would I feel I’m not doing enough, why would I feel unsatisfied?
Food is something that delivers instant satisfaction by triggering hormone responses that make us feel better. If we are feeling unfulfilled in our daily life, then stop doing all the things that keep us so busy that we are unaware of this, then we are suddenly at home without the normal routine and a fridge right there. It’s easy to transfer our general dissatisfaction with life into an urge for satiation; and eat.
Habit: Snacking more than you want in quarantine
Belief: I’m snacking for the instant hormonal gratification because I am dissatisfied / haven’t found my passion
Find a Better Belief: That feeling of angst and unsatisfaction may be stopped for a while by eating, but what if I decide to sit with that feeling and get to the bottom of it.
Practice New Habit: Breakfast at nine with protein to stabilise my blood sugar and keep me feeling satiated, then lunch at one, and dinner at 5.30
Often people believe that exercise doesn’t work for them, believe they need to punish themselves to lose weight, or feel they can’t be bothered exercising.
Habit: Talks about losing weight, tries diets, doesn’t exercise regularly
Belief: I’m not worthwhile because I am heavier than I want to be.
Find a Better Belief: Regardless of my weight I am worthwhile.
Practice New Habit: Do exercise and enjoy the results.
Habit: Doesn’t exercise because nothing works and I have tried everything
Belief: Exercise doesn’t work for me.
Find a Better Belief: Regardless of if I lose weight or get fit, I do want I want to be taller with better posture, sleep better, have a more functional and pain free body, be stronger, more flexible and more mobile.
Practice New Habit: Do exercise and enjoy the results.
Habit: Not motivated to exercise
Beliefs: I can’t commit to exercising – it won’t change anything and anyway I don’t have time
Find a Better Belief: Focus on the reasons you do want to exercise, and you can change. I like being toned, I want to lose weight, I feel better and my back stops hurting, I like the way I look, I have more energy and don’t feel down.
Practice New Habit: Do exercise each week and see the results – which will help build on your new better beliefs and increase your motivation to exercise.
Habit: Not doing Pilates on Demand workouts during lockdown
Beliefs: Too stressed over the pandemic. (Note: an epic global event is outside your control.)
Find a Better Belief: I can’t control a global event, but I can improve my wellbeing
Practice New Habit: Do the Pilates on Demand exercises each week, enjoy a stronger immune system and feel less stressed.
Questions? Reach out! We are here to help and explain.
You can watch the video of Susie talking about changing habits here: