The five daily habits that are holding you back

A habit is something you do on autopilot. Habits only occur when there’s a trigger and there has to be a reward, otherwise your brain won’t store the information, as it’s of no benefit.

You can’t just stop a habit if your brain thinks it’s giving you a reward – you have to do something else instead that also gives you a reward, but that isn’t just swapping one long term pain for another.

Here are the key habits that hold you back – and how to dump them for good:


ThinkstockPhotos-178999061The cue is a desire or urge to do something, but the reward for not taking action is that you don’t risk failure, or have to do anything outside of your comfort zone.

Break the habit: You must find a strong benefit associating with taking action. Making it time phased will help – e.g. “if I take action and start looking for a new better paid job now, I will be able to afford to go on holiday this year!”

Apologising when it’s not appropriate

ThinkstockPhotos-484746029A common habit if you lack confidence. The cue is when you say or do something and don’t get immediate positive feedback, you automatically assume you’ve said or done the wrong thing. But if you apologise for almost everything you do, you present yourself as not being good enough – and the people around you will assume it’s true.

Break the habit: You must associate a quality you want to have e.g. self-belief or competence with staying quiet. There has to be a reward for the new behaviour, so imagine a positive scenario such as getting a promotion or the extra confidence you’ll gain from keeping quiet and smiling instead.

Saying “yes” when you mean “no”

ThinkstockPhotos-486939215A habit that means you take on too much. The cue is someone saying, “Can you do…” and you find yourself saying “yes” and wishing they’d never asked, instead of just saying ‘no.’ The problem with this is that it encourages other people to get into the habit of asking you as they’re rewarded by you taking the burden off their shoulders!

Break the habit: You must generate a powerful feeling or sense of control when you say “no!” Imagine yourself doing something that you’ve been too busy to do, whether it’s a soak in the bath, time to yourself, or time with a loved one, and hold that image in your mind as you say “no” to the request and “yes” to the image instead.

Being negative

ThinkstockPhotos-155250318This habit can become really systemic in that it begins to influence everything you experience and do. In reality there is a problem for every solution, and you don’t have to look too hard to find it. Your mind is like a steering wheel, whichever way its facing is the way it goes, so changing this habit and looking for the positive outcome can be life changing, as you literally change direction.

Break the habit: You must learn to stop for just a second, and look at the other side of the coin before you speak or take action. When you hear yourself say “Yes but if I do that … negative chatter… will happen” ask yourself the question, “What if I am wrong and something great happens, what might that be? What other great things might that lead to?”

Eating when you are not hungry

ThinkstockPhotos-102766725The word ‘gluttony’ might sound harsh but it’s important to be honest about exactly what it is that you are changing. If you carry on thinking about it in positive terms it’s easy to justify “I deserve this…” is much more likely to make you have that extra piece of cake than “I am a glutton”.

Break the habit: Changing your internal dialogue is at the basis of all change-work, whether it’s changing habits or limiting beliefs. If you associate pleasure with not eating something and see it as evidence that you are a powerful, confident individual who can make your own choices, that reward and mind-set lasts a lot longer than the 30 seconds it takes to eat the cake.

In all of these examples be mindful of one thing – whatever you say you are listening, so make sure you are saying something that will help you not harm you. Look for the solution not the problem.

Janet Thompson hosts Mindfulness retreats at Champneys, specialising in diet and wellbeing. For their extensive list of residential retreats please go to




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