How to switch to a positive habit

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text margin_bottom=”10″]Habits run our lives, often without our conscious engagement. Wikipedia define a habit as a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously.  We often think of those habits that are bad for us, however, there are many habits that are good for us, and help sustain a positive, athletic, life. A few examples are, getting enough sleep every night to allow our body to rebuild and repair; regular exercise; and brushing your teeth.

We tend to classify habits by whether we determine them as good or bad. We also tend to adopt the same process with our thoughts, that are inevitably habitual as well. Previous features have suggested that we each have as many as 60,000 thoughts each day, where 95% of those are repeated thoughts. Even more alarming is that on average, 80 percent of those habitual thoughts are negative in nature.

Unfortunately we have a mechanism called negativity bias where our brains are designed to take in and register negative experiences more deeply than positive experiences. This defence mechanism proved useful for our ancestors several thousands of years ago. However it’s not a great recipe for happiness, and it can also hurt our athletic performance as well. World renowned sports psychologist Terry Orlick has worked with individual athletes and teams to encourage them to adopt a positive focus, enhancing performance “by making environments positive and uplifting, by finding opportunities within the situations we face, and by embracing good qualities in ourselves and the people around us.” (Embracing Your Potential, p.50.)

For some time experts have held the belief that it takes 21 days to change a habit or pattern of thinking. This number is credited to a widely popular 1960 book called Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon who noticed his patients appeared to need about 21 days to get used to their new faces. Now more recent research suggests that to effect permanent change, more time is required. Researchers from the University College London examined the new habits of 96 people over the space of 12 weeks, and found that the average time it takes for a new habit to stick is actually 66 days. So to give a new pattern of thinking the time to become permanent, you need to allow more than three weeks to effect a change. Stick with it for 10 weeks, and you will have a whole new way of thinking on a consistent basis.

So how can we ditch our many negative thoughts that hold us back from our goals, damage our performances, and make us sick? The answer is to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones. It’s actually much easier for us to replace an old way of thinking rather than to try to stop thinking negatively. You may never completely stop your negative thoughts, the pattern of neuron responses will still be there, they will just have a decreasing impact on your thinking as your positive thoughts and neural responses become more potent, and dominant.  This is why meditation is such a challenge for many people, as the temptation is to try to turn your thoughts off. Instead, becoming an observer for your thoughts means you no longer become frustrated when another thought comes along. Then the thoughts start to arrive less frequently, and become easier for you to manage.

So when you have a negative thought, just replace that idea with something that is positive and that will support your goals, enhance your performances, and support your health, and then repeat….for at least 66 days! The great news is that thinking positively is like a snowball, the hardest part is to get it moving. Once you’re under way, you have started a process that there is no stopping, and can become a wild ride! Patience, as they say is a virtue, so set your expectations at a realistic level and, as with all forms of training, be consistent.Here’s what you might expect as you progress through developing a positive perspective:

Be strong (Days 1-22) – let your best supporters know what you’re doing. Hold yourself accountable. Remind yourself of how strong you are, of past successes, and your reason why.

Time for reflection (Days 22-44) – now is the time to dig deep and find out who you really are. Often we have aha moments in this period, where something we had been missing suddenly makes sense!

Build mental endurance (Days 44-66) – just as with physical training, now is the time to think about mentally pacing yourself appropriately so you can reach the finish feeling strong. Create your pathway that will guide you through the final stretch.

Celebrate! (Days 66 +) – once you reach your goal, now is the time to celebrate! You have invested a ton of resources to change the way you think, and have set yourself on a path for a new positive life. This is also a great time to say thank you to those that have supported you on your journey, so invite them over for dinner and tell them how much you value their support, and that you could not have achieved this without them.

As with most determinants of behavior, the more important the why, the greater the chances of success. To give yourself an event greater chance of success, use an app like activacuity®. activacuity® is built on positive images and words, and helps your brain literally build new neural pathways that make it easier to think and develop positive expectations about yourself  and others. See what a difference activacuity® can make to your thinking, your goal achievement, your performances, and your health, and look out for a special offer coming soon![/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text margin_bottom=”10″]Terry Chiplin, the visionary behind activacuity, provides positive coaching sessions for clients, working with athletes to enable a positive focus on their status and goals. He can also create personalized guided imagery sessions for clients, delivered as an mp3 audio file that you can listen to on multiple devices.

activacuity provides a daily dose of positive guided imagery or visualization sessions. Find out what you can do when you make that mind-body connection – check out our subscription options here.