NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS!!
Everybody is talking about it; whether your turn on the TV, open up a magazine or browse through your inbox. People are concerned about bringing positive changes into their lives. It might be diet or exercise, quitting smoking or drinking, going to church more and having a better attitude. All of these things are good, even necessary for healthy living. We think about making these changes throughout the year, but it is at this time that we feel the most hopeful that the changes that we desire will actually happen. The heart of the issue of New Year’s Resolutions is breaking old negative habits and forming new and productive ones.
“Habit is either the best of servants or the worst of masters.” Nate Emmons
According to a research study done at Massachusetts of Technology (Grohol, John; PSYD) habits form “neural pathways” in our brain which reinforce our patterns of behavior. Habits such as smoking, eating fatty foods, gambling, etc. affect the “neural activity” patterns in a specific area of the brain when habits are formed. These “neural patterns” created by habit can indeed be changed. But when a memory from the past (person, place, taste, smell, emotion etc) the mind automatically recalls the old habit pattern and brings about a “neural state” like that of being on autopilot.
“It is as though, somehow, the brain retains a memory of the habit context, and this pattern can be triggered if the right habit cues come back,” Ann Graybiel, Professor of Neuroscience in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, said: “This situation is familiar to anyone who is trying to lose weight or to control a well-engrained habit. Just the sight of a piece of chocolate can reset all those good intentions.”
Diligence is needed to break from the old negative patterns! My experience has told me that the single most contributing factor to positive change is the presence of personal faith in God. The Biblical writer stated: “…I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).
According to popular authors and commentators, it takes 21 days to break a habit. That’s an even 3 weeks. Seems like a short time but it can feel like an eternity when trying to break away from a self-destructive habit. Faith will carry you to places that you cannot go on your own strength. The Bible can dramatically impact your life: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Corinthians 12)
Tips for Changing Habits
Change starts when you make a decision: When you make that decision you have to take a good hard look at any resistance you may toward changing your habits. It might entail changing your daily routine or perhaps your immediate circle of friends.
Be committed to the change: This is the challenging part – making a commitment. In other words you will do whatever it takes to let go of your old behavior and to introduce new positive behaviors. You’ve already looked at your old habit and you now know that it’s time to do something different.
Continue to take daily action: Habits are with you every minute of every day, even when you aren’t thinking about them or doing them. This is because when you’re not thinking, when the time comes, you will act out your old habit unless you have vowed to take consistent conscience daily action to change.
Reward yourself: Every time you take a step toward breaking the habit, give yourself a small reward. As you take your daily actions to your new habit, remember that consistency is critical.
Don’t ever give up: You may think that changing habits is too hard or that you don’t have the strength to change. Break through your resistance! When you are committed it will pass. This is where personal faith will carry you. Prayer and mediation is a powerful tool that cannot be overstated.
Sometimes we are faced with habits that are very difficult to break by ourselves alone. When this is the case it is important that you reach out to your friends and family members for encouragement and support. At the Crossroads Counseling Center our team of professional counselors is trained to help in the change process. Whether it be an addiction or a self-destructive habit we are here to empower you to meet your goal. Our 12 step group called “Celebrate Recovery” has successfully helped hundreds of people change from negative self-destructive habits to lead more productive lives.
Contact us if you would like more information on Celebrate Recovery or would like to talk to a counselor about changes that you are working on in your life.
I would love to read your comments about this article. What are your New Year’s resolutions? How does your faith empower you in the transformation process?