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Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Headshot

One Good Way to Kick a Bad Habit

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Most of us have some kind of habit in our lives that we're either trying to change or want to change. Throughout the days of our lives, most of us have experienced moments of clarity that for a moment help us break free from these habitual cycles and also give us insight into what actually matters in that moment.

At first, we often hear the words of change as whispers. They come very lightly, causing us to pause for a second with a little information about what needs to change or how we need to change it. These whispers are not that sticky for the majority of us, as our auto-pilot takes over and we fall back into our habits.

As time goes on, the whisper starts to get a little louder; maybe we get in trouble at work, a friend stops returning calls, we get a ticket for speeding, or maybe we gain eight pounds from eating cookies as Charles Duhigg did in The Power of Habit.

Then, if these aren't heeded, the whispers turn into shouting, where the wall comes down, we get fired, lose the friend, have a serious car accident or maybe develop heart disease.

Who's whispering and how can we help ourselves more deeply listen to break free from the power of habit?

You can think of this in many ways, if you're religious, you might think it is God whispering to you, if you're not religious, you might think it is your higher self or intuition, that inner wisdom that knows what's right for you. Either way, the messages get delivered.

In my experience, mindfulness is a tremendous way to start priming the mind to be more aware of these messages earlier. In mindfulness you are practicing attuning more to what is happening in the present moment, where the whispers appear. You get more connected with your body that is constantly sending you signals of being balanced or imbalanced. You get better at not getting so caught up in the storms of the mind that can toss you into states of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Mindfulness teaches us to listen deeply to our lives and get some space from the triggers, cravings and urges associated with the habit. As Viktor Frankl said, "in that space lies our power to choose our response and in our response lies our growth and our freedom."

One thing you might do in that space of awareness is try experimenting with replacing the "bad" habit for a "good" one. You're doing this just to see what you notice when you do this. Perhaps what you find is that underneath the engagement with the "bad" habit was a desire to be social, feel a sense of love, or perhaps just to get away from something uncomfortable.

When we listen to our lives, we get connected to what really matters to us and open up to possibilities and opportunities to develop new healthier habits to take action with. This space of clarity and choice is The Now Effect.

But first we have to train ourselves to tap into the spaces of awareness and hear the whispers. Why not start today?

Take a moment right now to practice mindfully checking in to your experience. Ask yourself, "Where am I starting from right now mentally, physically and emotionally?"

Or give yourself the gift of 10 minutes:

Stop, take a seat and indulge in this fundamental practice called The Body Scan. This can help your brain become more aware of the cues your body is sending when habits are starting to take action (there are many more of these instructional videos woven throughout The Now Effect to give you direct access to the practice in your daily life):

Bring this practice into the moments of your life at home and at work where you notice the habits occurring. Allow it to widen the space of awareness and choose a different response. As you practice and repeat this over time, the habit is more likely to fall away as you move into more growth and freedom.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

For more by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

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