Why Old Habits Are So Hard To Break

People like to talk about how it takes 21 days…27 days?…22 days?…I don’t know…twenty-some days to establish a new habit.

They like to talk about getting rid of old habits that are “unhealthy”.

And they like to talk about the new habits they are forming.

But you know what people don’t like to talk about? Why habits that seem to actively work against your goals are there in the first place.

I think people don’t talk about it, because they don’t really know.

Here’s a hard truth about habits.

(This graphic might look familiar since I posted it on my social media accounts last week.)

The things you do, you do for a reason.

Your habits aren’t accidental, or meaningless.

Just like the incredibly smart person (haha) says in the quote above, the habits you have fix a problem that you need fixed.

Most people go about habit change in the wrong way. They just try to quit a habit cold turkey, or randomly do something else that they’ve decided is healthier.

They fail to look at why that habit exists in the first place, and how they can fix the problem in a healthier way.

If you don’t do this, the problem still exists, because you’re not addressing it. It will continue to exist until you do. This is why we so often start new habits, but after a few days or weeks, we fall back into old ones.

We are not addressing the problems or needs that our old habits fixed.

For example, let’s say you have a habit of eating snack foods late in the evening, even when you’re not hungry, and you often eat until you’re uncomfortably full. A common “fix” to that habit is to tell yourself you won’t eat anything after a certain time, say 7 pm. This definitely addresses the issue of eating late, but it completely fails to address the issue of why you are eating late, eating when you’re not hungry, and eating until you’re stuffed.

If you don’t address that, then your strict rule of no eating after 7 pm, most likely wont hold up for long.

When people eat far too much in the evenings, it’s typically because they are using food to cope with an emotion. The most common ones are frustration, sadness, loneliness, and stress. We feel these emotions, don’t recognize them for what they are, and default to our typical way of dealing with them – snacking. And that works, at least in the short-term.

The problem with a strategy like not eating after 7 pm, is that people still feel the emotions they typically feel, they just don’t have a way to handle them now.

Doing some work to recognize what problems our current unhealthy habits fix is critical to changing those unhealthy habits. Otherwise, we have the challenge of a need going unmet, and unaddressed. This will inevitably lead to falling back into old patterns that are working against you and your goals.

Do the work to figure out what problems need fixing. Create new habits that are healthier, but also fix the problem. Habits that are designed in this way will be much easier to keep.

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