Six Steps To Making A Change – Step 5 Working the Habit Formula

Yield sign

Step 5 Working the Habit Formula
The goal of this program is to help you manage your habits. As you consider what habits you have, you will want to extinguish some. You may want to add different habits in their place. Replacing habits that you wish to terminate with a better choice, is by far the best approach. If you want to stop over-eating sugar enriched foods, then the best thing to do is to replace them with a healthier alternative. There are other things you could do as well. We want to look at how habits work so we can effectively make the changes we desire.

To change our habits, we must consider the three parts of the habit formula

The Habit Formula
For some time, it has been taught that our behavior is due to a stimulus which then elicits a response that results in a reward.

A Habit
1. There is a cue, (trigger) that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use
2. There is the routine, (behavior) which can be physical or mental or emotional
3. There is a reward, (benefit) which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. If it is, you will keep repeating it and over time, this loop becomes more and more automatic.

The trouble comes in when the cue elicits an urge that is so strong we cannot ignore it and even when we know better, we go ahead with the behavior. We can’t seem to break the habit. The good news is that we do not have to be slaves to our habits or cravings. Habits and even addictions can be extinguished, ignored, obeyed or replaced. We do this by playing with the three components.

There are various ways to describe this phenomenon that I call the “Habit Formula.”

The Habit Formula is basically:

• Cue or Stimulus
• Behavior or Response
• Reward or Gain (Benefit)
The following are some ways of dealing with habits and cravings

1. Try Changing the Cue (Trigger)
A cue or trigger is what gets us going with our habit. It can be in our environment, our body or in our mind. It could be something we see, hear, smell or feel; something we sense or something we perceive or think. Whatever it is, it causes a reaction or behavior and seeks a reward or end result. There are different ways we can affect the cue in order to change our behavior.

2. Deny the legitimacy of the cue
For the purposes of this step, we will consider how one should sometimes deny the legitimacy of the cue. For, example with addictions, many times the cue is false even though it feels so real. I call this a “false alarm due to faulty wiring.” This is a brain thing. Something comes into our perception and the striatum starts pumping dopamine giving us the excitation or agitation that says, “I have to have it.” It is a false alarm or faulty wiring because there is no legitimate reason we cannot say, “No, I do not have to have it!” But our brain has made it such an imperative based on some sort of belief that is terrorizing. We feel like we are going to die if we do not indulge. Now, most of us have never felt that strongly simply because we automatically go into our habit. But when we first start to resist and say “no” our brain will continue pumping dopamine thus fighting us, making us feel we must do it. Remember the brain’s job is to protect us and it feels that we are in imminent danger because of the false alarm. It is like standing in front of a coming truck. You don’t resist the urge to move. You move out of the way.
However in most of our habits and addictions, here is the ironic thing. This imperative is based on a lie! We are not going to die! We are not in trouble. We are not going to fall apart if we ignore the urge. It is a lie. The brain is giving you a faulty signal! No different than you thinking there was a monster in the basement when you were a child! The alarm goes off. It seems like a real danger. It feels like panic and you feel the urge to react. It is as if your hand is approaching a hot stove. YOU MUST move your hand. However, in this case, THE STOVE IS COLD! So, when the bogus cue emerges we need to divert our attention to something else.

3. Change any or all three, CUE, BEHAVIOR, and REWARD

It is easier than you think! (No really!)
There are 5 steps that you can use to change the dynamics of a habit.

A. Recognize the CUE (sensation)
Most urges are accompanied by a physical sensation. It helps to be aware of these and recognize them. So, go through this mental exercise and sense it in your body – Where is it? What shape and size? Is it hot or cold? Does it tingle or vibrate? Is it dull or sharp? This is the root of emotion. The original meaning of emotion was “to move”. Emotions are really sensations that get us to move, it was later that we began to call these sensations, “feelings.”
You need to recognize this trigger in your body. You cannot ignore it–chances are that it has already tricked you into action. You want to identify it NOW (first) so you can choose NOT to react to it. This is one of our basic principles in Emotional Resilience that we call, “Emotional Recognition!”

B. Change the meaning of the CUE by renaming it as a false alarm
You need to say to yourself, “This is not real! It is a false alarm!” This is harder than you think. We are wired to react to an internal alarm. But remember, it really is faulty wiring! We are only acknowledging what our prefrontal cortex should have done in the first place. The pre-frontal cortex should have canceled it–but it did not get a chance. Over time the signals between the amygdala and cortex have become weakened. The good news is that you can correct that. By ignoring the alarm now, you are retraining your brain to treat this false alarm as an actual false alarm. You do this by calming down and taking a deep breath or two. You are going from the sympathetic nervous system (gas pedal) to parasympathetic nervous system (the brakes). There are many different ways to calm oneself.
· Systematic relaxing (see MindSkills)
· Slowly breathe out and in three times deep breaths (count of 5 in 5 out)
· Go to an imaginary peaceful place that you have practiced with and relax
· Think of a time of appreciation with someone
· Focus on the presence of God and His love for you – Give it to Him

C. Change the BEHAVIOR by affirming that you do not have to obey the false alarm
This is important. You need to say out loud, “I do not have to obey you! You are a false alarm!” Not only does this help you think rationally—it gets busy training the prefrontal cortex while separating you from the cue. This buys precious time during those reactionary milliseconds after the alarm goes off!
Other things you can say:
· “I am not going to die if I ignore this!”
· “I have done this before (if you have) and can do it now!” (If you haven’t then say, “Others have ignored this, so can I!”)
· “I don’t want to be that person!”

D. Change the BEHAVIOR by distracting yourself – Ride the wave
The power of an urge or craving is hard to ignore, especially when you feel the urge is serious and you must obey it. So now that you know that the urge is a false alarm, even though it feels strong, you can give yourself permission to ignore it. Unfortunately, most people are not successful. Why? Because when we focus on “not thinking about something” we only increase our ability to think about it. Add to this the fact that we can also develop a “resistance fatigue” which weakens our resolve, and we give in! We see this in studies on willpower. Our willpower is far less at night when we are tired and have resisted temptation all day. Of course, this is often when we need it the most.

So how do you “ignore” or “resist” this strong craving? You do it by focusing on something else. You need to distract yourself. It is like riding a wave. Once you are on the wave you don’t focus on the wave anymore. You focus on the shore and “ride the wave.” That big wave soon dissipates onto the shore. This is how your urge will act. Twenty minutes is about the length of time an average urge lasts. You can ignore it by distracting yourself on something you like for that long. Chances are after a few minutes of distraction you will forget all about it.

The distracting of yourself, however, MUST be deliberate. Get something that excites you. Perhaps a book you have been wanting to read or some favorite music. Get up and move around. Jump into a hobby, tend a garden, take a walk! The opportunities are endless. And don’t forget outside support! Call a friend and talk. Going to a support meeting is always a good idea.

E. Relive™ – Change the REWARD by visualization of better behavior and outcome
When you succeed you should immediately replay what just happened in your mind. Then visualize how good it felt to achieve your goal! Feel it in your body. Let a rewarding excitement wash over you. Do it again a couple hours later. Why? Because you want to retrain your brain not to react negatively to that cue again. Learning comes from experience. You want to tell the brain that there is a new satisfying reward if we continue this new behavior. Why should you succeed only once? When you relive what you just did through visualization, it is as if you actually just did it again. The more sensory-rich your visualization is the more the brain takes it in as if it were real. Why not get three or four experiences out of your one success? It will help you learn this new way of behaving to the cue. With time the old response to the cue will be ignored.

By working with the cue, behavior and reward you will see your new habit challenge become a reality.

Advertisements

Six Steps To Making A Change – Step 4 Do’s, Don’ts and Desires

2014-11-19-dodontWhen you consider habits, whether it is one that you are adding or one that you are taking away there are always behaviors that are more important than others. These key behaviors influence others and if not taken seriously can ruin your whole effort. In this step, we will consider some of the behaviors that you don’t want to do, some that you do want to do and how to keep the desire and motivation strong so you can accomplish your goal.

Don’t
This is the easiest place to start. What are some of the things that you don’t want to do that if eliminated, will help you move forward? Think in terms of certain behaviors, triggers or thoughts that you need to avoid at all costs, especially early on in the program. For example, if your habit goal is to stop eating sugar, there are some other things you may need to stop in order to be successful. Ask yourself, “What things do I want to stop?” For example, “Stop going to the donut shop for coffee.” “Stop grocery shopping without a specific list of what you are buying.” “Stop going on coffee break without a healthy alternative.” For each habit, you are trying to eliminate or acquire, fill out the following.

What is the habit goal ? _________________________________________________________

What behaviors do you need to eliminate in order to succeed?

__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

What triggers (Places, people or things that would cause you to begin the behavior that you are trying to eliminate or cause you to veer from the habit you are starting.) do you need to negate from your life?
__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

What thoughts would cause you to sway from your habit challenge?
__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

Do
List some of the things you need to do to succeed at your goal.

If your goal is to run 30 minutes a day–it is easy to write down “run 30 minutes a day.” That is obvious. However, we are looking for those other things that will make it possible. For instance;
• Set my alarm on the phone for 6:00 a.m.
• Go to bed at 10:00.
• Get a good pair of shoes.
• Plan a great route. Etc.

If your goal is to begin eating low carb meals—then it might mean substituting what you normally eat with something else.

List those things that you want to start doing.

What behaviors

__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

What meetings, social groups, activities should you start to attend

__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

Desire
Desire is what makes it all happen. What are the desires you are really seeking after? What emotional payback would there be from accomplishing you goal? What pleasure, confidence, emotions would accompany the reaching of your goals? What physical rewards might there be? Is there a monetary potential that would be the result of making your goal? Are there any Spiritual benefits that would be the result of you achieving your goal?

Five elements that work together to make the desire to come true
1. You know in your heart you need a change
2. Others have confirmed that you need a change and are pressuring you
3. Circumstances have shown you that it is better to change than to stay doing what you are doing
4. Your desire for change is strong and motivated from inside you, not outside
5. There is a new plan, program, tool, something that is novel that speaks to you and says, “This is it! This could work!”

Desires are usually associated with some kind of reward. We are wired for reward so it makes sense to use the anticipated reward as an incentive when your discipline is weaning or you become discouraged. Rewards vary. They can be of an emotional, physical, monetary and/or spiritual nature. Take a few moments and think of the rewards that you will benefit from when you accomplish your habit challenge.

Emotional reward

__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

Physical reward

__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

Monetary rewards

__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

Spiritual benefits

__________________________ _______________________ _______________________

With this in mind, spend a moment visualizing yourself succeeding and reaping the various rewards. Let it sink into your heart and bring you real joy. Keep this list in front of you. Perhaps there is a picture, drawing, a song or something symbolic that will be reminded of your desire and hopefully reignite it. If so keep it somewhere that you can encounter it often.

With this deep desire in your heart recommit yourself to accomplishing your habit goals.

 

6 Steps To Changing A Habit – Step 3 Aquire Tools and Knowledge

1 (2)Changing a habit or adding a new one is a large undertaking. We are looking at 6 steps that will help in this process. This is Step 3

Tools and knowledge – start learning now
There is a learning curve in any worthwhile endeavor. Adding a new habit or changing an existing one is no exception.

Adding or dropping a habit – Habits are made up of a stimulus, a response, and a reward. When it comes to the habit you are trying to change there is no doubt a strong trigger or you would not be reading this article. There is a continuum of craving that exists with any habit. The stronger the urge, the more the craving, the more support, tools, and knowledge you will need to overcome it.

When you think of the habit you are trying to drop, rate the strength of the urge to participate in the habit on a scale 1-5

1——2—–3—–4—–5 The stronger the urge the more you will need knowledge and tools.

Knowledge – There are many books and other materials that you can find that talk about habits. There are also many books, videos, and articles that you can study. Of course, it is easy to become overwhelmed by all the knowledge. Unfortunately, it can get confusing when you are studying various opinions at the same time. You can also get what is called, “Paralysis of analysis.” This is where you have information overload and never get about making changes.

What do you need to learn in order to be successful?

Tools – There are many tools that can assist with many different kinds of habits. Computer software, apps for your phone, workbooks, groups and various meetings are tools that you can use to maintain your new goal. Depending on the habit there may be equipment that can make a difference in your success or not. How often we approach a project and become discouraged because it is taking too long where the right kind of tool could reduce the time spent and be more encouraging to you as you attempt to succeed at your habit challenge. Like knowledge, you can distract from your goal by having to learn new tools or to try out different ones. There is a time for research and experimenting to stop and move on to the habit challenge.

What tools are you going to use?

What are you going to read, listen to, attend or watch that will help you in accomplishing your new habit?

Changing a habit or adding a new one just doesn’t happen by itself. Prepare yourself and get the knowledge and tools that will give you a great chance at success.

6 Steps To Changing a Habit – Step 2 Pick Your Team

Supportive-community

We are looking at the 6 Steps to Changing a Habit. Today it is Step 2 – PICK YOUR TEAM – Get the support you need

You have your habits listed and have set your goals. Now you need to get a support team around you.

Commitment is important and there is nothing better for accountability than to tell some of your friends and relatives about your goal! There are usually three types of people that will be involved with you.

Group 1 – Those that will support you and encourage you.

Group 2 – Those for whatever reason will hinder you, are a trigger, will discourage you or ridicule and get in your way.

Group 3 – Those that are in between

Let’s look at the groups again and see what you can do.

Group 1 – This is a group of people that you feel will be encouragers and supporters of what you are trying to do. Look at your list and let those you feel comfortable with know what is going on and solicit their encouragement. They can help create an environment that will help you succeed. Perhaps one of them can be an accountability partner and check in on you. Perhaps someone has been down the same road and could be a mentor. Make a list and get them on your team.

Group 2 – The second list is made up of people who could potentially hinder your progress. Try to avoid them if possible. This is important. Avoid them if possible at least until you have the new habit change well established.  However, your list may include people that you cannot avoid. They are heavily involved in your life. If so, are there any of those persons that you could win over as support for you? If not support would they agree at least not to hinder you? If so, that would be wonderful. However, there is a strong chance that some just might not be willing (or don’t know how) to help you. Take eating sugary treats for instance. If your best friend is in the same boat, they may not be at a mindset where they want to quit. However, they may be willing not tempt you and allow you to eat the new kinds of food you are enjoying without giving you a hassle.

Others that you don’t think you can win over will need to be handled in a way that you are not hindered in your goal. It may be changing schedules, lovingly take a stand and keep to your commitment or if needed (if possible) avoid them as much as you can until your new behavior is solidly in place.

Group 3 – This is a group of people that are in between. They are not a supporter or a hindrance. This could be due to the fact that your life doesn’t intersect with them in that area you are trying to change so you should be able to move ahead without much interruption. Others, since they are in the middle, you should try to talk them into being your ally in this endeavor. Still, others do not need to know what you are doing. After all, not everyone needs to know about the habits you are breaking or ones that you are adding to your life.

Others that should be on your team – When you think of a support team, depending on the severity of your habit challenge, there are others that you should solicit help from. Here are some suggestions.

Support groups – There are support groups for almost any kind of habit. Of course, the most well-known are the Twelve Step groups. There are Twelve Step groups for all kinds of situations. Most weight loss programs have support groups. There is also a whole online support system for many different issues. Start with a google search and see if there are any in your area. A support group could be a huge help to you in accomplishing your goal.

 Sponsor/mentor/coach – There are many people who have succeeded at what you are trying to do. Perhaps one of them would be a great fit for you and they could be a source of motivation, encouragement, and wisdom as you move forward.

Don’t try to do a difficult habit challenge on your own. Solicit all the help you can and create a team that will encourage and support you during this journey.

6 Steps To Changing a Habit – Step 1 Start With A Goal

goal-setting-feature

6 Step Habit Challenge SOLID Start
Notice I didn’t say, “fast start”. That would be easy to do. I could give you an inspiration article and say, “Here you go, GOOD LUCK” and if you fail, well that is your fault. But I don’t believe in luck, I believe in strategy and sticking to it. That is why I call this a solid start. I want to make sure that you are planted on the solid ground ready to go after the 6 Steps and accomplish your goal. You will do that by preparing first and getting off to a right start.

The 6 Step Solid Start is based on my Habit Change Blueprint. There are 6 steps to the Blueprint. They are:
Habit Goals
Your team
Tools
Do’s, Don’ts and Desires
Habit Formula
Trigger Management

There are 5 elements that work together to make a successful habit change.

They are:
1. You know in your heart you need a change
2. Others have confirmed that you need a change and are pressuring you
3. Circumstances have shown you that it is better to change than to stay doing what you are doing
4. Your desire for change is strong and motivated from inside you, not outside
5. There is a new plan, program, tool, something that is novel that speaks to you and says, “This is it! This could work!”

My story
I have always been fascinated with behavior. Perhaps it was because I was busy trying to figure out my own life. We all have our own normal. For me, it was full of anxiety. It was as if I was always on trial. I was in a pass/fail situation every day. I was a phobic child and had to deal with overcoming many different fears. Phobias, IBS, dissociation, chronic worry, OCD were part of my experience. Even as I started the ministry at the age of twenty I was functional but full of anxiety and depression. This created a strong empathy in me for those hurting. It seemed that I was drawn to many people that were suffering much like I was. My own issues and those of the people I was helping drove me to find answers to the complex questions behind emotional difficulties. I have spent a lifetime studying Christian spirituality as well as both undergraduate and graduate classes in psychology. I’ve studied 100’s of books and attending many seminars.
For the last fifteen years, I have been working with people who are suffering from addictions, Anxiety Disorders, OCD, Misophonia, PTSD, fetishes and many different psychological disorders. This led me to create Emotional Resilience, a year-long program teaching about the root causes of anxiety, depression, and addictions. Personally, not only has this program helped many people quit their addictions and obsessive behavior but I overcame many of my own long-term fears and phobias during the process myself.

I have yet to meet people struggling with addiction that did not have childhood trauma or shame and fear-based beliefs like I struggled with. The old saying goes, “We medicate to regulate our emotions!” Emotional Recovery is what I have spent a lifetime learning about. I know this program works because it has worked with me and so many others throughout my ministry.

Habits are at the base of everything we do. During my own journey, I have changed many of my own lifelong habits.
• When I was in my early twenties I started a daily routine of running and lifting weights that lasted 30 years. Due to a lower back issue, I stopped for ten years. However, after working in addictions and studying the principles of habits, that you will find in this study, I was able to start a new daily habit of cardio and strength training program again.
• A friend of my joined weight watchers. I had gained 30 pounds and had a noticeable “belly.” I saw a low carb/low sugar program that I liked and decided to do it. I was able to severely reduce my sugar and carb intake lost the 30 pounds and have kept it off for years.
• After decades of caffeine consumption drinking Mountain Dew (later Diet Dew and Diet Coke), I stopped drinking caffeine altogether.
• After a life-long habit of biting my nails, I was able to stop in one day.

Between helping myself and working with so many with life crippling habits it has given me the confidence to bring this program to you. This is more than an academic exercise, although you are going to learn a lot about the brain, trauma, emotions, and spirituality, it is something that works in real life. It has been taught, learned and tested by hundreds of others in our program.

I Am A Change Agent
In December of 1995 Fast Company magazine came out with their second issue. Right from the start, I loved the magazine. It was an innovative, cutting-edge and was all about the new paradigm shifts that were happening in the business world. The issue had an article about a man who was what they called a “Change Agent.” It was the first time I had heard of the term. When I read the article I had an epiphany. I knew that the article was talking about me. All my life I had been involved in change. I had been used as a catalyst in many corporate visioning’s, ministry start-ups and ministry development. For the last twenty years, I have studied the process of change and how it happens. I have led successful programs on addictions and emotional illness for the last fifteen years. My goal has been to help people BYOCA. (Be Your Own Change Agent!)

Be Your Own Change Agent (BYOCA)
The purpose of this series is to help you become your own change agent. No one can force you to take the principles in this study seriously. That is your own choice. Even God will not force you to do something against your own will. You must be willing to change. It takes faith. Change is scary, difficult and hard, but necessary. We will equip you with the knowledge, tools, and skills needed to make the changes. God will give you the strength, power, and love needed to make the changes, but you must be willing to participate. This program is interactive. You need to read the material and answer all the questions. You may think, “You have to be kidding me, that is a lot of work!” I know but we are not dealing with an easy issue! It has taken time to get to where you are and it will take time to make permanent changes. You must get engaged. There is an old saying in the AA realm that says, “If nothing changes, nothing changes!” and nothing will change if you do not dig in and get involved.

Let’s Get Started! What Is Your Goal?

It is surprising how many people try to stop or start a habit and never stop to think strategically about the goal they are setting before them. Let’s see if we can zero in on what you want to change.

1. Be specific – What is the actual Habit you want to add or take away?

Many times, our goal is too general, for instance, “I want to start healthy habits.” Okay, what does that mean? What habits does that effect? Exercise, eating, sleeping, reducing stress or nutrition? Be specific and write down your goal. Include the important details like, what, when, where and how long.

Example: I want to start walking 30 minutes a day, Mon-Fri before 8:00 a.m.
Example: I want to eat a low-calorie salad for lunch M, W, F.

__________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________

IMPORTANT! You may be thinking, “How many habits should I try to change at once?” I would recommend that you start slow. You want to succeed. You may have five habits that you either want to add or take away. That is great. However, I would start with one or two just to build your confidence. In a few days you can add more. Then in a little while add more. You will be succeeding in all five before you know it. The goal is to enjoy the process and succeed for a long duration, not feel good because you start off with an aggressive program and then struggle to succeed. Get use to the system first then add more.

2. What reasons do you want to drop this habit or start a new one?
This is key. It will help you when the going gets tough. Write down why you want to pursue this goal. What are the rewards you will get from it?

Habit?____________________________________________________________________

Reason?___________________________________________________________________

Habit?____________________________________________________________________

Reason?___________________________________________________________________

Habit?____________________________________________________________________

Reason?___________________________________________________________________
3. Be realistic – How difficult will it be?
Is this your first time? Have you tried before and relapsed? Either way, as you think of this habit you are going to break or new one you are going to add–rate the difficulty on a scale 1-5 (1 = should be a snap, 5 = It will be a very difficult challenge).

Circle the level of difficulty 1…2…3…4…5

4. CONSIDER THIS – Do you need to start with a mini-goal?
A mini-goal can help you get going. Here is my rule of thumb. If you are stopping a habit, jump all in! If you are adding a new habit, consider a mini-goal.

Stopping a habit, jump all in
It is difficult to wean yourself from a habit. If you drag it out over an extended period*, it only continues the habit longer and keeps the craving coming. Your habit may be the exception, but most people are better off going cold turkey.

*If you want to progressively wean yourself, then go into it with a schedule and stick to it. Don’t fool yourself. For example, although I recommend going cold turkey on quitting smoking, some people want to progressively wean themselves from smoking. In that case I would say take your consumption and wean off a little at a time for the first week. Then become more aggressive. Make out a schedule and stick to it.

Adding a new habit consider a mini-goal!
Where a mini-goal really works is when you are adding a new habit.
When I first started running, my goal was to eventually run 3-4 miles a day. However, I started with a ½ mile the first day (after all, how far do you need to run to be a runner?). In my mind the first ½ mile qualified me. So, I began! The first few days, I ran ¼ mile in one direction, rested for a few minutes and then ran back a ¼ mile! I got stronger every day and since that humble beginning, I have logged over 20,000 miles, either running or walking!

What is the goal you want to add? Start off with a small, achievable increments, then increase until you get to your goal.

Here are some of the ways I approached my habits
Running – mini goal and worked up
Lifting weights – mini-goal – light weight, low reps, built my way up.
Quit caffeine – Cold turkey
Quit sugar and carbs- Cold turkey
Quit biting nails – Cold turkey
Daily devotions – Mini-goal, read one chapter of the Bible a day, worked my way up

What is your goal? ____________________________________________________________

What would be a great starting mini-goal? _________________________________________

How long will you give yourself to get up to your goal? _______________________________

5. PreLive it.
PreLive™ is an exercise where we imagine accomplishing the task at hand. We use all our senses. We visualize it, hear it, taste it, feel it, touch it. Whatever senses we can incorporate–we use them to create a vivid and realistic vision of accomplishing the goal.

STOP! Take 3 minutes and visualize yourself accomplishing your goal. See it, feel it.
Feel the excitement and satisfaction of accomplishing it!

Don’t forget your secondary habits!
Consider any secondary habits
Creating a new habit or extinguishing an old one is not an easy task. It just doesn’t happen by itself. It takes planning and preparation.

Now that you know what your goal is–what could get in your way? There are many saboteurs waiting to trip you up. Many come in the form of what I call secondary habits.

Secondary Habits – Most of the time a habit doesn’t sit in isolation. It is surrounded with other habits that work in harmony with it. Consider the case of eating sugary treats. Ask yourself…
When do you eat them?
Where do you eat them?
Who do you eat them with?
What kind do you eat?
What mood are you in when you crave them?
What are you thinking when the craving hits?
What are you believing when you try to resist?

If you look over your answers to the questions above, you will note that some of the answers are predictable and consistent, they are habits! Therefore, it makes sense that if you can change some of these secondary habits, it will help you resist and overcome the habit you are seeking to change or add.

For example…
If you know when you are most likely to go for that sugary treat, plan a substitute treat for that time.
If you know who you meet and eat with, try to get them on your team (See Step 3).
If you know where you eat, you can change the location to somewhere less tempting.
If you know what you are thinking or what kind of mood you are in before you indulge, you can find a better way to overcome those thoughts and feelings.

So, what secondary habits might you need to work on?

Who________________________________________________________________________

What will you do about this? ____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

What _______________________________________________________________________

What will you do about this? ____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

When _______________________________________________________________________

What will you do about this? ____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________
Why ________________________________________________________________________

What will you do about this? ____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

Where _______________________________________________________________________

What will you do about this? ____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

Other ________________________________________________________________________

What will you do about this? ____________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

If you need to stop a secondary habit or add a substitute habit–then make sure that you set this up as one of your goals!

PLEASE NOTE: Don’t hurry through this steps! Please take the time to answer each question. It will help you be ready when you start your Habit Challenge.

Next time – Choosing a TEAM to help you!

What to Do about Night Time Temptations

When it comes to addiction and compulsive behavior night time can be a nightmare

For many of us, night time can play havoc on our discipline, temptations, habit control, and triggers. Why is this? There are a few reasons

  1. Night in when a lot of us fall to temptation. Why is this? Because nighttime is when our willpower is at it’s lowest. Willpower is more like a muscle than constant energy flow. It gets fatigued and needs rest.
  2. At night we away from our routine. Often alone and undistracted our mind naturally fills us with an awareness of inadequacy, anxiety, discontentment. Csikszentmihalyi, who wrote the acclaimed book Flow, did a study with thousands of people finding out what their minds were doing at various random times. He concludes, “When we are left alone, with no demands on attention, the basic disorder of the mind reveals itself. With nothing to do, it begins to follow random patterns, usually stopping to consider something painful or disturbing. To avoid this condition, people are naturally eager to fill their minds with whatever information is readily available, as long as it distracts attention from turning inward and dwelling on negative feelings.”
  3. We have trained our self to use our addiction at night. We are like a dog that gets excited when you shake the box of dog treats. They know a treat is coming. It is as if they are enjoying it already. That is why they call the dopamine a pleasure hormone. But the dog is not exhibiting PLEASURE but rather ANTICIPATION. Think of smoking. The excitement leads up to the lighting the cigarette. I don’t hear anyone on the third puff saying, “Man that is the best thing I have ever tasted!” Rather it was in the early days of smoking that our brain got wired and learned that cigarette smoking did something for us. It is those early experiences that primed the striatum to excrete Dopamine in order to get us excited to pursue the next fit. Our brains have learned that night time is when we get that reward and the dopamine is pushing us to get it.
  4. Two key neurotransmitters that our brain uses to send messages back and forth are dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine excites us and moves us into action like the gas pedal in our car. Serotonin calms us down like the brakes. These both are key when it comes to addiction. Dopamine starts pushing us to get our evening reward when it was triggered earlier in the day. The trouble with nighttime is that serotonin is naturally lower at night. This helps us sleep. The trouble is that a high dopamine and low serotonin state is the perfect craving environment. Under normal circumstances serotonin tells the body and brain, “I have it!” versus the dopamine’s “I must have it!” message. However, when dopamine is high, and serotonin is very low, the result is an irritation coming from the desire for food, a safe place, sex, drugs, whatever our body and brain say it needs. This lack of SATISFACTION causes our serotonin to drop. It is this HIGH DOPAMINE – LOW SEROTONIN state that causes us to become obsessional in our “I MUST HAVE IT” mode. We just can’t let the thought go. THIS IS A CRAVING! It is an extremely uncomfortable, painful state. THIS HIGH DOPAMINE AND LOW SEROTONIN “STATE” CAUSES US TO SEEK A SOLUTION.

What gets our opiate circuit going?

Excitement – video games, gambling

Sexual content on tv, video, or more erotic Sex and porn

Our own sex night.

Rich foods and sweets

Drugs and alcohol

Adrenaline activities

We have trained ourself to have an opiate fix at night. Like an entitlement.

Think about our day. We keep busy; we have routines to help us cope. How much of our childhood was emotionally surviving and coping. Trouble is nighttime comes and there is no more coping unless we are a workaholic.

TRUTHFULLY WE HAVE DEVELOPED A LOT OF CUES

Where we sit, seeing the tv remote, our chair in front of a computer, the driveway when we pull up, the corner where we turn right in order to get to our house. All of these can be triggers turning on the dopamine. When it does the cravings begin!

If we are going to win we must know about these triggers and try to do everything we can to prevent them from happening. We can do this by working on our environment, making changes to our routines and setting up good boundaries.

Night time maintenance

So what can I do about nighttime temptations, triggers and cravings?

How do we fight this?

  1. Believe, that we don’t need this!

We don’t need this opiate fix to survive, to be happy, to feel fulfilled. (It feels that way, but we are not going to die!!!)

  1. Feel the anticipation and tell it is faulty wiring and you DO NOT NEED IT. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE!!!
  2. Substitute satisfaction and comfort for excitement

We think it is comfort but it is not. It is short lived excitement that leaves us wanting more.

What really satisfies and excites you? What do you like to watch or read? What kind of games do you like? What hobbies would you like to start? The best way to beat an addiction is to find something that can distract you long enough for any urge to dissipate.

What good substitute brings comfort. Comfort comes from the other hormone, oxytocin. This comes from intimacy, play, hobbies, from reading a good book, learning new things, things that interest us, or fulfill us.

  1. Ask the Holy Spirit for help

The Holy Spirit is the true Comforter. Remember the fruit of the Spirit is SELF-CONTROL!

  1. Become more social

Isolation is a bad idea. There are many kinds of groups or places you could go. Health club, church function, meetings, dancing, reading groups, hobby groups.

You could be deliberate in making a list of people you want to call and see how they are doing and call some of them.

  1. Call someone who can listen

Do you have a sponsor or someone who could take a phone call from you? Someone who you can tell about your boredom and they will listen? Communicating will help it pass. Being heard will comfort you and cause the uneasiness to go away.

  1. Extinguish its power

Each day you resist it gets easier, you habit loses its power.

  1. Systematically win the race

Do it in baby steps. Start a new habit for 3 days. Think of it as a fast. You can do it. Then go to  10 days. Call this a detox. Then go for 60 days, call this your new lifestyle.

Fast – Cut out your bad habit or add a new one for only three days – This is doing it sacrificially for a limited time

Detox – This is the next 7 days. It is a deliberate choice to purge your system. You want to plan the evenings and have things around you that will help you change. Good book, listen to our program.

  1. Go to meetings – Support groups can really help when you are starting out. Don’t do this alone.
  2. Reset your environment -take away the temptations. Substitute a better way. You want to clean out your mind.
  3. Remember this craving is faulty wiring

It is hard to believe because it is your normal. But the fact is it is nothing more than a false signal that you need to ignore.

  1. Practice emotional motivational

Say to yourself, “I don’t want to be that guy”, “I want to be that guy.” “I’m not going to die!

Nighttime doesn’t have to be a losing battle. Follow these steps and free yourself from the nighttime nightmare!

If You Are Going To Change You Have To Manage Your Relationships

One of the hardest things to do is make a change if your friends and family are not on board. It’s like trying to canoe upstream! What can you do? Here are three ideas.

1. Sit down and ask them for help – Share with them how sincere you are about making a change. Explain to them that you need help with triggers and temptation. Hopefully, they will cooperate with you and not trip you up in your effort to overcome your habit. If they seem cooperative perhaps you could enlist them to be an accountability partner, an encourager or even a participant in the same program with you.

2. Change your patterns – Sometimes it is hard for our friends and family to change. For example, you may be trying to stay away from drinking, yet going out with your family and/or friends on Friday nights to the bar is a long time tradition. The best solution is to keep the friendships tight but see them a different place or time. If you have stopped sugar and processed flour and everyone is eating your Aunt’s favorite pie she baked for you, thank her for her kindness and respectfully decline. Hopefully, they will understand. Remember this is your survival and it must come first!

3. Be prepared for fallout – You are an adult and as one, you may have to make choices that have unpleasant consequences. Every home has some dysfunction and your family and friends just may not understand why you are making such a drastic habit change. That is their problem. You have resolved to make this change and it must come first. You can love them without giving into to behavior that activities that will cause you to relapse. As you change and your new habits stick you will find that your loving attitude will allow a continued relationship.

What do you think? Have you struggled to try to change and have had friends or family become a hindrance? What did you do?