Why Habits are Hard to Let Go


Our thoughts become our words

Our words become our actions

Our actions become our habits

Our habits become our character

Our character becomes our destiny

As we grow up, we create routines and habits. They make our life easier – can you imagine having to consciously think about how to brush your teeth every day? Certain things become automatic, whether it’s making our coffee in a sleepy state or eating food in front of our favorite show. These habits normally reserve our brain power for other tasks that are more challenging or allow us to get more done; however, sometimes our habits become detrimental. Sometimes we create habits that can hurt us instead of help us, like the habit of needing a drink after every work shift or denying ourselves food for fear of gaining weight. There are a lot of habits that can be good, but when it comes to changing harmful habits, it often feels next to impossible. Why?

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Think of snow on top of a mountain. As the snow melts, it cascades down the mountain toward a river. As the snow melts year after year, that water begins to carve a path in the side of the mountain, making its journey down to the river easier. But what if some of that snow melts and the water slides a different way? Then the water slides away from the river toward homes, causing floods. So how does the water reroute back to the river? Well it has to go against the engraved path and attempt to carve a new path. This is the path of creating a good habit and avoiding a harmful one. It feels so much easier to go back to that old path we carved in the mountain in the short term, but long term it will lead to floods. It’s difficult short term for the water to take the new path, but it will eventually reach the river. The answer? Practice. Practice, practice, practice.

Over time, the mountain will rebuild over the old path, and water will carve a new path. Then the old path feels difficult, and the new one feels a little easier. The old path is never erased – sometimes we will fall back on detrimental habits. But our new path is still present, we can still rely on our new paths even if every so often we slip into that old path. We can help ourselves and others by pursuing that new path, and supporting others on their way. Don’t be afraid – ask people. Often, when we are struggling, we recognize the support that would help us most, so don’t be afraid to ask a loved one or friend, “How can I help you carve your new path?”

Written By: Vivianne Swart, MPH, RYT-500, Dietetic Intern for Inner Door Center

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