break a habit

Make a Habit, Break a Habit: Here's How:

Make a habit, break a habit. Are addictions treatable habits? Yes, but it's just a little more complicated than that. If you're wondering if you have a drinking problem, do you remember when you first started drinking, what it was you were really going for? Some of my clients report everyone else was doing it - these are usually teens.  For many the drinking provides temporary relief from stress or anxiety, a way to shed the days worries. Or, just to relax and have fun socially. Over time, a habit forms and gets bigger because it creates a craving which can become an obsession.  The habit of self-treating anxiety or stress with a few glasses of wine or a 6 pack of beer. That's when people start to feel really out of control of the addictive habit.

Is it possible to shift drinking behaviors and other addictive habits by developing new routines which become new habits?  Of course. AA members know the truth of this. Sceptical new members attend meetings where they see that seasoned members are staying sober because they've developed the "habit" of attending meetings rather than drinking.  Group support becomes part of the new habit.

What's the process to change a habit?  Let's say you have a slight drinking issue you'd like to adjust. You come home and drink a glass of wine each night with a meal and you're not happy about the weight gain. How do you begin? First of all identify the "cue" or what's driving the craving. For this wine drinking woman, the cue is stress relief. She comes home stressed, tired and a glass of wine relaxes her. The "routine" is getting the bottle out and pouring a glass of wine. The reward is the "relief" as the stress and anxiety melts away as she drinks her wine with her meal.

To change this habit she needs to look at other more positive ways to relieve stress and anxiety. New behaviors which turn into routines could be stopping at the gym and working out for an hour between work and home. Here the cue is the still the stress, but the routine is different and leads to the reward of relaxation AND weight loss. Practicing this change over 90 days will cement in the new habit. The reward of stress reduction with exercise and weight loss helps to keep the new habit in place.  (For more:  read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg)

 

Make a Spending Habit, Break a Spending Habit!

Feel like a hamster on a never-ending-habit treadmill?  Losing weight and keeping it off has always been tough. But bad spending habits can be just as challenging and destructive. Now there are Apps like Urge or Make a Habit, Break a Habit to make it easier to stay on track.

What kind of bad money habits do you have?  Are you an unconscious spender? Do you go to the mall and two hours later have bags of purchases and you can’t really remember what exactly you paid for them?  Are you an unconscious spender or secret shopper? And, I don’t mean the kind that’s hired by Safeway to check up on their customer service. I mean, do you sneak your purchases home when your husband is busy and hide them so you don’t feel guilty, or get grilled? Do you struggle to maintain a budget or is budget a behavior you resist with all your might?

Changing our habits is not easy, but with practice certainly achievable. We need repetition to build awareness. Like poor spending habits or money management, food, weight and exercise habits have been particularly tough to change long term.  Behavorial Modification programs are getting positive attention again and are based on making small incremental changes that build progress over time. You may be surprised to know that Weight Watchers is basically a behavorial modification program and it’s one of the most effective.

For those of you that have a money problem, try Urge which “prompts users to hold off on impulse purchases to hit budgeting goals.”

As an addiction counselor for over 20 years I love the new Apps. Check out NY Daily News Addictions & Answers for Lynn's tips on Compulsive Shopping. They make paying attention and taking a pause from cravings and impulses so much easier than will power alone and they work because they improve on the principles of good ol’ 12 Step Programs – support, feedback, slow steady changes and the good feelings that come with healthy change.  (The Perfected Self by David H Freedman, The Atlantic June 2012)