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Three steps to get you ready for change

Habit – Webster’s New World Dictionary (1991) defines a habit as, “a) a thing done often and hence, usually done easily; practice; custom; b) pattern of action that is acquired and has become so automatic that it is difficult to break.”

Thinking Habits – If we had to consciously think about every step of our every task, we would be significantly slowed down, and let’s be honest, we wouldn’t get much done.  In order to function, we develop automatic thoughts – thinking habits – that help us handle most situations effectively without much work.  Some of these automatic thoughts can be destructive and result in bad habits.  Cognitive-Behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you to identify those automatic thoughts that are resulting in your unwanted behaviours, and help you to change your behaviour.

As thoughts happen quickly and automatically, CBT strategies can slow down the thought process by creating a heightened awareness of them.  Changing thoughts and behaviours also produces a change in our emotions.  When it comes to changing the thoughts in these areas of our lives that are causing problems, slow thinking has proven to be valuable: If you simply change your behaviour and do not change the way you think, you run a significantly greater risk of relapsing.  CBT can help to slow thoughts and examine them prior to choosing a course of action.

Now that you’ve got a bit of information as to where we’re headed, let’s get to work on your habits.  This is the part where you grab a journal or notebook, sit down in a comfortable space, and get ready for change.  I’ll wait.  Go ahead.  I’ll be right here when you get back.  Seriously.  I’ll wait.

You’re back.  Great!  Let’s get started. 

Step 1: The effects of your behaviours.  Ask yourself this question.  Do any of your habits (behaviours or thoughts) interfere with your family or social life?  What are the effects?   Write them down on your notebook.

Step 2: Next, do any of your habit(s) (behaviours or thoughts) interfere with your work performance?  What are the effects?  Again, use your journal to describe the effects.

Step 3: Would you be happier without your habits?  In what way?  Describe in your journal how your life would be different without some of your habits?

This is just the beginning of your journey toward habit change.  Now that you have described your habits, can you see how they have been affecting your life?  Next time we’ll continue with getting you ready for change by looking at the ‘Pros and Cons of Changing’, which will help you understand your motivation to change and what purpose your habits have been serving.  Pros are the advantages or benefits of making the change, where Cons are the disadvantages or negative consequences of making the change.  Increasing your understanding of why you engage in the habits will help you understand how they can be change.

By Jaime Saibil, Psychotherapist

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