We all have many habits – from brushing teeth to drinking a cup of coffee after lunch, from a glass of lemonade on an empty stomach to a cigarette after a busy day. Then sometimes it’s a whole pack of cigarettes per day, a midnight junk food snack or scrolling on the phone in bed before falling asleep. We are often aware that some habits we have are bad and it would be good to get rid of them. We might try to but we rarely succeed, even though it’s not always about a physical addiction to the substance (as in the case of nicotine). 

Why is it so hard to break a habit like midnight snacking, reading (mostly bad!) news 20x per day, staring at the phone before bedtime,…?

A habit represents safety

It’s because every habit represents safety. When we take away something our body knows so well, we take away its sense of safety. Every time we come across something new, we instinctively try to connect this new thing with something that is already known to us. When we meet a new person we try to remember who they remind us of; when we taste a new fruit we want to figure out which fruit that we know tastes similar.

Everything that is unknown represents stress and discomfort for the body; and vice versa – if we take something familiar away from the body, we take away its sense of safety. When we consciously resist a bag of chips at midnight, our body falls into the “fight or flight” mode and releases a bunch of stress hormones. The intelligence of the body is not connected to the conscious mind so the body doesn’t distinguish between being chased by a bear and having a bag of chips taken away. It both represents stress.

So how do we break a bad habit? We do it by gently REPLACING it with another – healthier – habit. Of course this is a process that can’t happen overnight. As everything else in nature, it takes time and patience.

Understanding the body’s intelligence and (re)connecting with it is one of the main things I focus on in my programs.