Understanding Habit - from the Health and Healing Series at SupportNet.ca - Resources for Your Recovery.

Recovery is learning to enjoy life - without the use of alcohol or drugs that alter mind or mood.

It is treatment for the condition of addiction - an approach to the challenges of life - and a path to personal growth.

Recovery requires us to learn - about the true nature of addiction.

It may be personalized - but it has its necessary Principles and its Ways.

The Principles of Recovery provide direction - to the choices that we face each day.

The Ways of Recovery provide us with tools - that help us to heal - and to enjoy life on life’s terms.

This Learning Seminar helps us in Understanding Habit -

What you need to know about habits - and the ways to change your life for the better.

About Habit

Habit refers to something that we have done many times before - and that we can now do routinely - without needing to think through each of its steps.

It is an over learned behavior that has printed its pattern within our body and brain - like typing on a keyboard - riding a bicycle or driving a car.

When we first learned to ride a bike - it was all new.

Our mind jumped to each piece of what we were doing - our balance - keeping the handlebars straight - and peddling our feet.

But once we had learned to ride - it all came together.

Our body then knew its job - and we could look to the road ahead.

Bicycle riding is an example of how habit can serve us well.

The activity is routine - but it would be dangerous if we always had to keep track of our feet and hands - and to not be watching where we are going.

Habit is useful when it frees our mind from routine detail.

And there are many things that our body can do better - when our mind gets out of the way.

We can learn a new habit with practice.

But a habit can also develop on its own - just by our doing the same thing over and again.

We may not even notice a habit - until we need to do something differently than our usual.

And it is then that we realize that habit is not always to our advantage.

Problematic Habits

Habits develop for the sole reason that we do the same thing over and again.

They do not distinguish between behaviors that are healthy, correct or effective - from those that are not.

And therefore a habit can serve us well - or it can cause us a great deal of difficulty.

We learn our deepest habits as children - when our families show us how to relate to one another.

We may be taught healthy ways or not. But regardless - these habits become a part of our adult personality.

And it is these habits we are least likely to see - and have the greatest difficulty to change.

It is important to remember that the purpose of habit is to free our mind from repetitive detail.

Once a habit has formed - we do not see the many parts hidden within it.

And once we have become accustomed to the habit - we don’t even pay much attention to it.

It is like a building that is made from bricks and wires and plumbing tube.

Once the building is completed - we do not look at it and see all of these pieces - we just see the building.

And once we have passed by the building every day - we don’t give it much more notice.

Sometimes habits develop in reaction to stress - snacking on junk food, smoking or overeating.

We do these things because they can calm us during a stressed or pressured day.

But as these behaviors develop to a habit - other problems may eventually arise.

Many stress related habits are not healthy for us - particularly if allowed to continue for years of our life.

And when we are stuck in responding by habit - we may not see the cause of our stress - or learn to face its feelings.

We don’t learn better ways to deal with the issues of our life - and we don’t make change - except to eat or to smoke more.

Saying yes to others - Care taking - Avoiding our feeling - Staying up too late at night - Avoiding conflict - or Rushing through the day.

We develop all sorts of habits in our relations with others - in our daily activities and patterns of sleep

But whether healthy, adaptive, useful or not - habits take on a life of their own.

They bury our feelings within them - fade from our attention - and become another part of the mindless routine of our day.

Changing Habit

The first step to change any habit is to see it for what it is - and to notice the many ways that we justify its ongoing presence in our life.

Rushing through the day is a common habit. We tell our selves that there is no other way - and that there is so much to be done.

But it is just another habit that we have grown accustomed to - believing that life is all about doing - and not about being.

Take a break from your habit. Stop for a quiet lunch on your own - an entire hour out of the day.

Notice the stuff that comes to your mind. Things that you had been too busy to think of - thoughts of all the things that you should be doing - instead of just sitting here - and feelings - of pleasure - or guilt that you are taking this time for your self.

The only way to know the thoughts and feelings buried within your habit - is to step out of its routine - and to do something different today.

It is then that you notice the pull to do things the same way - just one more time - or feelings of impatience, guilt or fear.

Take time to explore these feelings - to sit with them - and to not let them push you about.

Journal Write - Talk with others in recovery - Listen to how they have made changes in their life - and what feelings they had to face.

It is by learning to sit with the feelings that follow change - that we retrieve the power that we had given over to habit.

Understand that it takes time to change a habit.

The old way feels comfortable - a new way awkward - for a few days or weeks.

It takes about three months for a new way to feel natural. But a new and healthy habit - will eventually come to feel as comfortable - as a previous habit left behind.

And always remember the traditional saying - If you want to go east - don’t go west. The way to find a new way - is to let the old one go.

Learn all that you can about stress and stress management.

Consider new ways to care for, calm and express your self.

Learn your triggers to the old habit - and prepare your self with a plan.

Remember HALT - and don’t let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. These will weaken your resolve to persist on your new path.

Ask for help for the courage to change.

Ask for help in your prayer, from your recovery supports - or from a doctor if a medical aid may be helpful.

Place reminders to your self where you will see them during your day - a post it note to reassure your self of your goal.

In Summary

Habit is an over learned behavior that has printed its pattern within our body and brain

The way to break a habit is to take a different way today - and to learn how to sit with the feelings that come up from inside you.

It is when we say No to habit - that we learn what is hidden underneath - and that we learn a bit more about our self today.

You have now reached the end of Understanding Habit.

Look for this and other Learning Seminars at www.SupportNet.ca - Resources for Your Recovery.