Anyone who’s ever tried to break an unhealthy habit can tell you how hard it is.

A cigarette to relieve stress.  A glass of wine after a long day at work. Dessert after dinner.  The habit of sleeping in, procrastinating or not going to the gym perhaps..  Much as you want to cut the unhealthy habit out, whatever the habit may be, willpower alone sometimes just never seems enough.

According to Dr Joe Dispenza – global lecturer, researcher and author – by the time adults reach 35 years of age, 90% – 95% of actions are nothing more than a set of memorised behaviours.

This isn’t just limited to behaviours such as smoking, indulging in too much sugar or not exercising enough, it also includes emotional triggers, fears and personality traits such as stubbornness. As adults, all but 5% of us is learned behaviour – or, as we might know it better, a habit.

Knowing that everything in our life is a habit, and therefore choice, the key to understanding how to change habits is to learn how we got into them in the first place.

Let’s take smoking as an example.

The first cigarette you smoke is often a response to a thought or feeling. Perhaps you associated it with being cool or grown-up. Maybe the action of deep breathing calmed you down, so you associate smoking with stress relief. Before you know it, you’re smoking every day after work regardless of whether you had a bad day or not.

Over time, because the initial association was with stress relief, you then look to a cigarette to help with every stressful event. You might be able to give up for a few days or even weeks, but as soon as a stress hits again, you instinctively reach for the cigarettes.  The car’s broken down, financial troubles, relationship issues – your brain believes a cigarette can solve all your problems, and that urge to smoke feels impossible to overcome.

The behavioural response to the emotional association then combined with the repetitive action makes breaking habits much more complex than simply stopping, even for those who have serious illnesses and their life depends on it.

What is neuro linguistic programming?

Originating in the 1970s, Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) is an advanced brain training model. The mode interrupts the brain’s coding system that tells you to smoke and exchanges it with a more positive thought process therefore potentially changing the action (for example, going for a run to reduce stress instead of lighting a cigarette).

NLP utilises the connection between the thinking (the way the senses understand what’s going on around you), the language (how it influences those around you) and the programming (the way the brain organises ideas and actions).

Essentially, by changing the neuropathways (which we have full control over), you can interrupt your desire for a cigarette, a drink after work, or dessert after a meal to create new healthier habits instead.

Because NLP relies on changing the thought processes rather than the action, the approach has proven pivotal for those who wish to change habits leading to long-lasting, permanent results.

Visualise yourself in new habits

The key concept of NLP is that you witness yourself as you’d like to be. For someone who wants to stop smoking, that means picturing yourself staying at the table after a meal instead of going outside to light up. Imagine you’re waking up every morning without reaching for the cigarettes and lighter. Or, visualise a world where you don’t wake in the middle of the night with the tickly smoker’s cough.

 Beliefs drive behaviour

The important thing to remember is that regardless of how logical they are and whether they’re true or not, beliefs drive behaviour. Once you address the beliefs, the behaviour will then take care of itself. This means identifying that the cigarette doesn’t remove stress OR make you look cool and replacing with a more positive belief system and therefore action.

When you understand the process, it’s easier to acknowledge that everyone holds the power to change all behaviours in life. This doesn’t just include smoking and a penchant for sugary foods. Daily habits also include:

  • Emotional responses such as jealousy and anger
  • Procrastination
  • Limiting beliefs
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Creating healthy relationship boundaries
  • Financial freedom
  • Personality traits
  • Fears and phobias

A study published by Amrita School of Business at Amrita University found that “there’s a positive impact on people who have undergone NLP therapy in terms of understanding the self, this can open up more possibilities for life”

When you understand that you have control over your thought processes and can learn how to change them, you really can create any life you wish.   NLP is most effective when NLP strategy work is conducted by a licenced practitioner.

To find out more about NLP, contact me to arrange a consultation.