Are your negative habits taking over your life? Have you tried and failed, again and again, to lose weight? Do you struggle with nail biting, skin picking, or hair pulling? Are poor sleep habits interfering with your sleep? Is gambling ruling your life? Are such habits as tardiness, procrastination, or dishonesty interfering with our relationships? Do you spend hours surfing the Internet, watching TV, playing video games, or shopping? If these habits cause problems in your life, then this workshop is for you. You will receive the skills necessary for making lifetime habit changes.
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines a habit as:….
From this definition, we can see that habits,… When we think of our habits, our habitual behaviors are what usually come to mind. But we also have habits in our heads, in our minds. We develop automatic thoughts – thinking habits – that help us handle most situations reasonably. But what happens when our thinking habits get in the way of our achieving our goals and functioning well? Automatic thoughts can become bad habits just as overt behaviors can become bad habits. Throughout this workshop you will be asked to consider how your thinking patterns relate to your habits. What are some bad habits that you can think of that we can list?
To help you determine if a habit is good, bad or indifferent, you will be asked to list the advantages and disadvantages of the habit. Once you’ve determined which of your behaviors are bad habits that you need to change, you will identify good habits you want to develop. Again, you will list the advantages and disadvantages of the habits you want to develop.The resulting good habit will be your natural reward for changing your bad habit. Be prepared to list the advantages and disadvantages of the bad habit you’d like to change. #12 Bad habits can affect our lives in many different ways. What are some ways that your bad has affected you in your life or at work?
To begin thinking about your habits and how they are affecting your life, complete the “Habitual Behaviors and Thoughts” Questionnaire #01 This will help you to clarify and define what behaviors and/or thoughts you might want to change.
Habits are formed when we engage in a specific behavior, or thought frequently, unconsciously or automatically, and through repetition.
Habits can interfere with every part of our lives. Let’s look at some of the reasons why people say they can’t change their habit.
What are your reasons for NOT changing now? Complete the form “What Are Your Reasons For Not Changing Now?” #02 List all of the reasons you can think of for not changing now. Think about and look for evidence to support or refute each of your reasons.
How do you know if your “bad habit” is more than just a “bad habit?” If you suspect that your “bad habit” is more than just a habit, you are highly recommended to seek professional help beyond this Workshop. This workshop is not intended to be a substitute for any required medical and/or other professional help you may truly benefit from.
You want to be able to “operationally define” your habit in terms that are measureable? #03 “Habit Description”Pretend that you are describing your habit to a martian. For example, if someone had a habit of using a blackberry. To say, “I use my blackberry too much” would not clearly define his/her habit. Instead, someone would want to ask themselves some of the types of questions in this list. Afterwards, someone would have an operational definition of his/her habit.For example, I constantly have my blackberry cell phone with me. I am always waiting for a call or text message [because I can’t afford to miss any important messages]. Anytime, anywhere and in anyplace, I will stop what I’m doing to answer the phone or to text back a reply; even interrupting conversations to do so. I take my blackberry with me to the bathroom and I’ve handled many calls there. In the course of a day, I spend about 4 hours talking or text messaging. It has gotten to the point where I know others are annoyed with me (even strangers in public places) and I’m beginning to see how anxious it is making me. But when I have lost my blackberry/ cell phone service in the past, it has made me even more anxious. I can’t stand it when that happens. As a result, I begin getting very short-tempered with other people around me. That’s not good
Describe a situation in which you engage in your habit. What leads up to it? How are you feeling at the moment when you begin to engage in your habit? Reflect and fill out the Habit Triggers form #04
Your habit has consequences. The most significant consequences of your habit are probably the emotional effects. For most people, habits produce a mixture of feelings. You may feel relief or even excitement, and at the same time you may be angry with yourself or feel guilty. Its important to understand these consequences since they are usually part of what keeps a habit going. #05 Habit Consequences form.For example: If one goes to a casino and loses a lot of money gambling, one may feel anxious over losing the money; wondering how to make up for the loses. At the same time there may be strong feelings of anger over why one continues to go to a casino and continue to lose money; even knowing that “the house always wins.” Subsequently, there may be feelings of shame or guilt over making the same mistake again and again – not wanting anyone else to know.As a result of the intense feelings of anger, and guilt, one may not be able to sleep, can overeat, can mercilessly put oneself down for the bad act they’ve done.
Discover when your habit seems to affect your life the most. You Habit Record (#06) will tell you: (1) when you had the urge to engage in the habit, (2) whether you engaged in it or not, (3) how long the urge lasted, (4) the automatic thoughts and (5) the emotional reactions you had. Make a few copies of the Habit Record (#06) and the Triggers and Consequences Record form (#07). Using these forms, keep records of your habit for 5 to 7 days. If the Habit Change Program is going to work for you, completing these records is essential.When you have completed the records for your habit(s) for 5 to 7 days, you will be ready to move forward.
Provide participants with a HANDOUT describing Dr. James Prochaska’s (Ph.D) model of change (#8) and the stages involved (#09). Review the ten processes of change (#08) that Dr. Prochaska and other researchers have described to be important in any effort to change. Are you really ready to change? If you think you are then think about and write down your reasons for wanting to change now. What are the advantages or benefits of keeping your habit? What are the disadvantages of keeping your habit? What are the advantages of giving up your habit? What are the disadvantages of giving up your habit? Fill out the Habit Advantages and Disadvantages form (#12) Which advantages and disadvantages have the most value? Take a few minutes to think and write exactly how you want to change.
What are your reasons for changing now? - To solidify participants motivation for change. Review Taking the First Steps.
In the 1970s, psychologists and researchers Nathan Azrin and Gregory Nunn developed the technique called habit reversal. In their studies, after the first day of treatment they reported an average 90 % reduction of the frequency of the targeted habit. After one week, the habit was reduced by an average of 95% , after one month an average of 99%, and after six months 99.5%. A few people, 10%, reported that the habit never returned after they learned habit reversal. Other researchers have repeatedly proven the effectiveness and long-lasting results of habit reversal in changing a variety of habits. More than 80% of the participants in their research did not experience relapse. The habit continued to decrease until it was no longer a problem. Those few who did have a relapse, dealt with it by reviewing and performing the habit-reversal procedures again. Habit reversal is made up of several steps. The first steps involve habit awareness; which we will look at now.
Step 1: Review the Habit Record you completed earlier. You need to be aware of how much you are engaging in your habit so that you can track your progress. Record keeping is important for your becoming aware of where you started and how much you have changed. It is also helpful because it brings about change. Step 2: Review the Habit Advantages and Disadvantages. This is an important step designed to move you into the action stage of change.Step 3: What leads to your habit? You will find the Habit Triggers Chart helpful here.Step 4: You will find your habit description and Habit Record helpful here. Describe the elements of your habit. What do you do, step by step? When and where do you do it? Who is around when you engage in your habit? List any other details that help you illustrate your habit.Step 5: Make a commitment to practice your relaxation method daily. Do this as you begin work on changing your habit.
Step 6: Review your Habit Description chart and your answers to Steps 3 and 4. What kind of mood are you usually in when your habit shows up? (i.e., angry, tense, sad, frustrated, bored, tired, lonely?) Where are you likely to be when you engage in your habit? At what time of day do you seem most vulnerable? Are you usually alone or with someone? Whom are you with? Do you feel more vulnerable during certain activities or in particular situations?Step 7:Develop a competing response(#14) , a behavior you will try to engage in every time you have an urge to start the problem habit. Choose a competing response that can be done often and as long as needed. Be sure that the competing response is one you can continue for several minutes. The behavior must be incompatible with your habit. Your competing response should be a behavior that can be done without interfering with other activities. Engaging in your competing response should help you to be more aware of what you are doing and what you are not doing. Paying attention to your habitual, automatic behavior will help keep it from occurring without your being aware of it. List several possible competing responses (#14) you could engage in when you are in a habit-provoking situation. Make copies of the Competing Response Advantages and Disadvantages (#15) . Describe your competing response specifically. Anytime you find yourself engaging in your habit, interrupt it by using your competing response.Step 8: Whenever you notice the behaviors (in Step 3) that lead to your engaging in your habit, begin your competing response. Rehearse the response now. Think about finding yourself doing one of the preliminary behaviors, and then stopping yourself. Perform the competing response as you described in Step 7. Now think about the habit-provoking situations (Step 6). Imagine yourself in one of the habit- provoking situations, performing a few of the preliminary behaviors. Instead of engaging in your habit, start your competing response. Perform your competing response for 3 to 5 minutes, then repeat the entire exercise 3 to 5 times for a total of 15 times. As you are rehearsing, talk to yourself, either aloud or in your head. Mentally discuss what you are doing, what steps you are taking, and how you are feeling. Rehearse everyday. Dedicate at least 15 minutes to rehearsing each day for 7 days. Each day, when you have done your rehearsal, check off the days on your calendar. By the end of the first week the urges will probably diminish greatly. You may find that the habit almost disappears. Then you can relax a bit and rehearse only when you feel the urges increasing.Step 9: Choose 1 or 2 people who can help you change your habit. Ask them for positive feedback.Step 10: List the situations you avoid because of your habit. Then, make plans to display your improvement by intentionally putting yourself in situations you have been avoiding. List the things you plan to do and the dates you would like to be able to do them.
Most of our behaviors and thoughts are based on what we’ve learned in the past. We all process a massive amount of information through automatic thinking. Just imagine driving a car, baking a cake, or operating a computer without automatically remembering past learning! Complete the Activity Steps chart and Previously Learned Behaviors and Thoughts form (#18). Make enough copies to use over time. Learning how to change our automatic thoughts in a particular situation can help us to change the way we feel. When we can change the way we feel, we can then change the way we act in response to the thoughts – and break habits. Complete an Activity Steps chart and Previously Learned Behaviors and Thoughts (#18) form for your habit twice a day for the next three days. Questioning Automatic Thoughts – It is not necessary to change all, or even most, of our automatic thoughts, but it is important to change the thoughts in those areas of our lives where they are causing problems. Let’s take a look at why some of these automatic thoughts are so upsetting. - Give examples of conclusions and should statements. - Encourage using alternative thoughts Complete the Alternative Thoughts Record
Permission-giving thoughts can include thoughts like “Just this one time won’t hurt,” “I deserve to do it,” “Everyone else does it so I can too.” Facilitating thoughts go deeper. They are born of beliefs we hold before we are faced with the trigger situation. They are blanket permission slips to engage in the habit. Permission-giving thoughts are often related to facilitating thoughts. What kind of facilitating thoughts could be setting you up for relapse? Write down your Facilitating Thoughts and Reasonable Thoughts in the Worksheet provided. #20 It might be helpful to print your collection of facilitating and reasonable and tape them up wherever you’ll likely run into trigger situations.
Facilitating beliefs are based on beliefs – beliefs we may or may not consciously be aware of. Automatic thoughts result from some of our underlying beliefs. These thoughts and beliefs are frequently distorted. Now, we’ll look at some other ways thoughts get distorted, how to identify them, and how to change them. Some of your beliefs may be getting in your way or cause you problems. They may be contributing to emotional upset, which may lead you to engage in the habits you are trying to change, or they may be making it harder for you to change the habits. Three kinds of thought distortions are drawing conclusions without evidence, thinking in absolute terms, and making predictions. The types of thought distortions apply to the majority of cognitive distortions that serve to maintain problem habits and interfere with efforts to change them.
The Feeling Good Handbook by Dr. David Burns (1999) lists ten distortions that show up in most people’s thinking. One of these distortions mental filtering, is a process in which we selectively pay attention to data that supports our ideas without evaluating the rest of the information. This process is involved in other types of thoughts, such as discounting the positive, magnification, minimization, and blame. Emotional reasoning is involved when we think “I feel that way so it must be true.” The act of using feelings as evidence involves first arriving at a conclusion, then using the conclusion as evidence to support itself. This process can really be problematic for people who are trying to give up troublesome habits. The solution is to evaluate more carefully and remember that feelings aren’t facts. What feelings do you most often mistake for facts? Write them down.
The problem with “should” statements is that they are absolute. In his list, Dr. Burns includes other distortions that are examples of absolute thinking – all-or-nothing thinking, labeling, and over- generalization. All-or-nothing thinking is a frequent problem in relapse. People think of themselves as having a habit or not having it. They might think, “I am a gambler, insomniac, etc. If I have the problem once, I will always have it. If I slip and start up the habit again, I will never be able to control or change it.” Labeling is “If I cannot stop the problem habit then I am a failure.” This is an absolute statement. It is either true or false.Overgeneralization involves seeing negative events as a never-ending or absolute pattern: “It will never get better.” The problem with absolutes is that they don’t fit the real world. There are a few absolutes, but they are rare. One way to counteract absolute thoughts is to ask yourself if you can think of an exception. If you can, then you can try to come up with an alternative thought that is not absolute but does fit the evidence and data you have. If you have a relapse, it doesn’t make you a failure, but it does suggest you have some weaknesses and problems you can benefit from working on. Remember that you don’t fail at everything. You just heard what was said \\ and understood it. You didn’t fail at that. Think of an absolute thought you have about yourself and your habit. Can you think of an exception? With what alternative thought could you replace the absolute thought?
“What if” thinking is a common form of prediction. This often occurs when a person thinks about trying not to engage in a habit. They think, “What if I don’t give in and do it?” Then they mentally answer this question by making a prediction: “If I don’t give in to this urge, it will just get stronger and stronger. If I don’t get some relief from the tension, I will explode.” We often make predictions about not being able to handle things, failing to meet our goals, or being defeated by impossible obstacles. Another form of prediction is the “I can’t stand it” statement. You may think, “I can’t stand not getting enough sleep.” As yourself what it means to not be able to stand something. When we say we can’t stand something, we are really making a prediction about what will happen if we try it. The fact is that, in most cases, we will be uncomfortable, but we will be able to stand it. What exactly were you predicting? What is the probability of your prediction coming true? Has this type of prediction ever not come true? Finally, if it did come true what would the consequences be? The Distorted Thought Record will help you examine your automatic thoughts for distortions. #21
If you have a basic belief that you are powerless, then an automatic thought like “I can’t stop” or “I’ll never be able to change,” might pop into your head. These thoughts are specific ways of expressing the broader basic belief. Use the Harmful Beliefs That Shape Our Automatic Thoughts worksheet (#22) to identify some of the basic beliefs behind your automatic thoughts. Once you’ve identified some of your harmful beliefs, it is important to challenge them and work on changing them. Look for evidence too support or disprove the accuracy of them. If you can’t find evidence to support the belief, form a more reasonable alternative belief. Complete the Harmful Belief Challenge worksheet (#23) to help you do this. Make at least 25 blank copies of this worksheet and complete one of these worksheets each week as long as you are actively working on changing your habit, at least six months. Changing these harmful beliefs to more reasonable ones will be helpful in many areas of your life, since these beliefs are active in many situations that upset your or leave you feeling bad. Changing the way you think is important in changing the way you act – or changing your habit.
Competing responses – good habits – help fill the void left by the bad habit. You may also be interested in development good habits that are totally unrelated to your bad habit. Motivation and commitment are important factors in any change – you need to believe that to develop new habits. Using the Good Habit Consequences worksheet(#24) , describe the habit you would like to develop, then describe the emotional and other consequences of developing the habit. Not all the consequences may be positive. For example, it could cost money to go to the gym or take time away from another activity you value. Now think about the advantages and disadvantages of your new habit. Complete the Good Habit Advantages and Disadvantages worksheet (#25). Are the advantages of developing the habit greater in importance to you than the reasons not to change? Put this in a conspicuous place and review it at least 3 times everyday. Record keeping is important to changing habits. Your Good Habit Record (#26) will help you clearly see your progress. Use the calendar with happy faces and frowns as an alternative. Use the TIPS FOR DEVELOPING HABITS (#27).
Keep in mind that your progress may be slow, but focus on your positive change everyday and you’ll come out on top in the end. Relapse. Means to return to your old pattern of behavior; where you go back to where you were before you started working on your habit. A lapse is a set-back. It’s always your choice.