Many of us are midway through our January resolutions and already we may be starting to waver.  But did you know that giving something up is good for you and can make you happier?  The challenge, of course, is the effort required to give something up.   

The problem is, your brain may trick you and tell you that you don’t have the time or it's too hard, and, you then fail.  Willpower alone is not enough, as willpower quickly depletes.   In fact according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi to make any change requires activation energy and therefore the hardest part can sometimes be getting started. The good news though is if you make a positive change easier to do your likelihood of success increases dramatically, therefore decrease the activation time required.  Equally, if you give something up or break a negative habit, increase the time taken to do the negative habit.   Research suggests this Is anything from a few to 30 seconds.

The following exercise is a research-proven strategy to make positive habits much easier to keep or the negative ones to lose but, more than that it can make you happier. Why not give it a try.

TIME REQUIRED =  21 days

THE HOW - GIVING IT UP

Step 1. If you're looking to give something up choose something that you enjoy doing regularly and that you have unlimited or nearly unlimited access to.  A good choice may be a particular food or drink that you enjoy, such as chocolate or wine.

Step 2. On Day 1, allow yourself to indulge as you normally would in this activity. Eat a chocolate bar. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Veg out in front of the TV.

Step 3. Then, from day 2 do not allow yourself to indulge in this pleasure at all. If you’re giving up chocolate, abstain from any foods that contain it; if you’re giving up TV, try not to even watch a video on your phone and don’t allow any wine in the house. The key here is to make it at least 30 seconds harder to do.  For example, I’d got into a bad habit of picking my nails, especially when watching TV or stuck in a traffic jam.  To make it harder to do I put on two pairs of gloves.  The effort required to take the gloves off stopped me.  At first, it was hard, but within 3 weeks I was cured of my bad habit.

Step 4. If you’re giving something up only temporarily when you do allow yourself to indulge again, pay attention to and note how you feel. Are you noticing any physical sensations that you didn’t before? (e.g., taste and texture of the chocolate or the notes of the wine)? How pleasurable is the experience? What kind of mood are you in?

Step 5. Try to go through this same process with a different pleasure another month. In between these periods of abstinence, try to focus your attention on the pleasures you enjoy every day. What are the activities or experiences that you actually enjoy doing? What do you enjoy about them—how do they make you feel?

THE HOW - CREATING A NEW HABIT

Step 1.  If you're looking to create a new habit choose something that you want to get started on, maybe swimming more regularly, going to the gym or running outdoors.

Step 2.  On day 1 prepare yourself and plan for your new activity.  If your activity is swimming get your swimming kit ready the night before, set your alarm put the bag by your bed.  Likewise, if you’re planning a run or going to the gym, lay your clothes out on the floor by the bed so that you can jump straight into them.

Step 3.  To start your activity, set yourself a goal and visualise that goal, then record it. Imagine your best self when the activity becomes a habit, what do you look like and how do you feel?

Step 4.  After your activity again as above, pay attention to how you feel.  What are the physical sensations? Can you record your progress each day in terms of achievement and the positive benefits you are feeling?

Good luck and please tell me about own experiences of how you found this exercise and if it has worked for you.  Are you feeling happier?

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