At one time or another, many of us have an undesired behavior we would like to change. It may be smoking, overeating, excessive drinking, drug use, video games, compulsive shopping, gambling, or some other behavior.
Well, first, in deciding to change a behavior, it is helpful to consider clearly the negative consequences associated with the behavior and to clearly identify your reasons for discontinuing this behavior. You will need to have a good reason. Are you trying to save your life, stay out of jail, save your marriage, protect your career, make others proud, live a healthy life, or simply live according to your values?
Next, it is important to tune into your feelings. Suppressed feelings can underlie involuntary urges to behave in self-destructive ways. It is important to understand how the behavior began and what purpose the behavior is serving. Does it serve to express anger or resentment, soothe depression, calm anxiety, escape feelings of loneliness, or relieve boredom? You must identify the physical or emotional experiences that trigger the habit and then develop new skills for managing your life, relationships, and emotions differently.
Do you need to set new boundaries to protect a well-balanced life style? Do you need to develop new recreational activities to avoid boredom? Do you need to cultivate new social outlets to avoid loneliness?
Now if you really want to change a behavior, then you need to develop a plan – in writing! Are there situations in which you are most likely to engage in this behavior that you need to avoid? Are there locations, activities, or social events that you need to avoid, at least temporarily, to help change this behavior? Are there items or supplies directly associated with this behavior that you need to remove from your home, office, or car?
It is also important to confide in someone with whom you can express your feelings and from whom you can receive encouragement. Sharing your experience with a family member, friend, or counselor can make all the difference when you’re dealing with your emotions and well-being.
As you follow the plan you develop, chart your progress, and don’t let any lapse turn into a relapse! Learn from any failure and continue working to develop the skills you need to manage your mood, thoughts, and behavior so you can live the life you really want.