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  • Writer's pictureEvi Donevan

The Struggle with Changing Habits: A Comprehensive Guide to Overcoming Challenges

Everyone faces challenges when trying to change their habits, and starting and maintaining new behaviors can be challenging. But why is it so hard? This article will delve into why changing habits is a struggle, discuss how to start changing them, provide tips for making the process easier, and answer common questions about the time it takes to change or form habits. By the end, you'll have a clearer understanding of overcoming challenges and building new habits that will lead to a happier, healthier you.

Why Changing Habits is Difficult

Changing habits can be daunting and complex, primarily because our brains are wired to resist change. Several factors contribute to the difficulty of altering habits, and understanding these challenges is crucial for making lasting changes.

  1. Familiarity and Routine: Human beings naturally gravitate towards routine and familiarity. Our brains seek patterns and predictability, making breaking free from the cycle of ingrained habits difficult. When we attempt to change, our brain may resist, creating an internal struggle.

  2. Neural Pathways: Habits are formed through neural pathways, connections between neurons that become stronger and more efficient with repetition. Over time, these pathways become deeply ingrained, making altering or replacing them increasingly challenging. Changing a habit requires forging new neural pathways, which takes time, effort, and persistence.

  3. Emotional Attachment: Many habits are linked to emotional states or feelings of comfort, which can create a sense of attachment. This emotional connection to a habit can make it especially difficult to change, as it may feel like giving up something that provides a sense of security or pleasure.

  4. Fear of Failure: The fear of failure can be a significant obstacle to changing habits. It's common to worry that we won't succeed in making lasting changes, leading to feelings of anxiety and self-doubt. This fear can cause individuals to avoid taking steps toward change or to give up prematurely when faced with challenges.

  5. Lack of Motivation: Changing habits often requires a high level of motivation and determination; without a strong "why" behind the change, it's easy to lose focus and revert to old habits. Finding a compelling reason to change, such as improving one's health or well-being, can make the process more manageable.

  6. Environmental Triggers: Our environments often contain cues and triggers that reinforce our habits. For instance, spending time with friends who share a bad habit can make breaking free from that behaviour difficult. Altering these environmental factors can be challenging but is often necessary to support lasting change.

By understanding these challenges, you can better prepare for the difficulties that arise when attempting to change habits. Overcoming these obstacles will require patience, determination, and self-awareness. Still, the rewards of adopting healthier habits make the journey worthwhile.

How to Start Changing Habits

Taking the first step towards changing habits can be intimidating, but it's essential to remember that lasting change is a gradual process. The following will help you embark on your journey toward habit change by providing practical tips and insights.

  1. Identify the habits you want to change: Before you can change your habits, you need to clearly understand what they are. Take the time to reflect on your daily routine and identify the habits that you'd like to modify. Be honest with yourself and consider how these habits are impacting your life, both positively and negatively.

  2. Understand the reasons behind those habits: It's crucial to comprehend the underlying reasons for your habits. Are they stress-related, a form of comfort, or simply ingrained routines? Understanding the causes can help you recognize potential triggers and better equip you to address them when implementing change.

  3. Break the goal into smaller, manageable steps: Changing habits can be overwhelming, so breaking the process down into smaller, achievable steps is essential. Focusing on one aspect at a time can create a more manageable path towards your overall goal. This approach also allows you to celebrate small victories along the way, providing motivation and a sense of accomplishment.

  4. Replace bad habits with healthier alternatives: Instead of merely eliminating a bad habit, try replacing it with a healthier option. This approach provides your brain with a new pattern to follow, making it easier to adjust to the change. For example, if you want to quit smoking, consider taking up a healthier activity like exercise or meditation to help manage cravings and stress.

  5. Create a plan and set realistic expectations: A clear plan for changing habits is crucial for success. Outline the steps you'll take to achieve your goals, including any necessary resources or support systems. Set realistic expectations, recognizing that change takes time and setbacks are a natural part of the process. A flexible and adaptable plan can help you stay committed to your goals, even when challenges arise.

  6. Monitor your progress: Keeping track of your progress is an effective way to stay motivated and accountable. Regularly assess your achievements and setbacks, adjusting your plan to continue moving forward. Consider using a journal, habit-tracking app, or another tool to help you monitor your progress and stay focused on your goals.

  7. Build a support network: Changing habits can be challenging, and having a support network can make the process more manageable. Share your goals with friends, family members, or colleagues who can provide encouragement, guidance, and accountability. You might also consider joining a group or community focused on habit change, where you can connect with others facing similar challenges.

How Long Will It Take to Change and Form New Habits?

The time it takes to change a habit varies from person to person and depends on factors such as the habit itself, personal motivation, and the individual's environment. However, studies suggest that, on average, it takes about 66 days to change a habit. Recognizing that setbacks are normal and remaining committed to the process is essential.

Similar to changing habits, forming new habits also depends on various factors. On average, it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit, with 66 days being a standard benchmark. Consistency, motivation, and repetition play crucial roles in developing new habits.

The Advantages of Counseling for Habit Change

Counselling plays a crucial role in habit change by offering valuable support, expert guidance, and personalized strategies tailored to individual needs and circumstances. Engaging in counselling helps individuals navigate the emotional challenges that arise during habit change, increasing self-awareness and fostering the development of healthy coping skills to manage emotional triggers. Working with a counsellor also adds a layer of accountability, ensuring commitment to habit change goals. Group counselling or support groups may be available for additional insights, encouragement, and a sense of community, further enhancing the chances of success.

Incorporating counselling into your habit change journey empowers you to overcome obstacles and paves the way for lasting, positive transformations in your life. By seeking the assistance of a counsellor, you'll be better equipped to face challenges and maintain motivation throughout the process, ultimately achieving your habit change goals.

Final Thoughts on Changing Habits

Changing habits is arduous, but understanding why it's difficult and knowing how to tackle the challenges can help. By focusing on one habit at a time, setting realistic goals, and staying persistent, you can successfully change your habits and form new ones. Remember, patience and perseverance are key, as it can take a few weeks to several months to change or form habits. Stay committed to the process and enjoy the transformation that comes with adopting healthier habits.



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