Nobody likes change. Even when we are behaving in a way that we know is unhealthy or even dangerous, it is extremely difficult to make long-lasting positive changes. Humans are creatures of habit, often bad ones. We can all point to negative vices in our lives that we know are not good for us, and yet we struggle greatly to change our bad habits.
As it turns out, part of the problem is our efforts to resist our bad behavior. When we try to resist the urge to eat that piece of cake, smoke that cigarette, or bite our nails, we increase our focus on that urge. This is what makes it so difficult to resist, because now that’s all we can think about! What may be helpful is to develop a replacement behavior to conquer that urge, so that any time we want to go back into our bad habits, we know immediately to engage in our replacement behavior instead. Over time, this will help to break the pattern of our bad habit and turn it into a good one.
Let’s say your bad habit is biting your nails. To replace that behavior, you decide that every time you have an urge to bite your nails, you bring out a coloring book instead. Not only might this help to decrease the nail-biting, but it also might help to decrease the anxiety that is at the root of the urge to bite your nails. So rather than focusing on resisting the urge, you have now replaced it with something more positive. Also, the more positive activity will help to manage the underlying cause of the bad habit. This idea can work just as well with other bad habits like smoking, overeating, or even self-harm.
If you are interested in learning more about resistance vs. replacement, check out the link below. As always, reach out to Main St. Psychiatry for further support in conquering your bad habits and improving your mental health!
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