Dr. Angela Browne-Miller, an expert on habits and addictions, has successfully helped hundreds of FOFs correct their bad behaviors–from nail biting and overspending to alcoholism and sex addiction. Her secret: A 6-step program she calls: “Rewire Yourself and Go Conscious.” Here, she explains how you can break a bad habit, whether you’ve had it for two years or twenty.
- FOF: How do bad habits happen?
- When something is habitual, it is out of our conscious control. It can take a positive or negative path. If I come to a red light and automatically stop, that’s a good habit. I don’t really have time to say, “How do I stop this car? Where do I put my foot?” We are programmed biologically to form good habits for survival. But our programming can run awry and become self destructive.
- FOF: Do women over fifty struggle more with breaking a bad habit? Is it true that the longer someone practices a bad habit, the harder it is to break?
- Dr. Angela: It varies, but almost always, yes. The longer you do something, the more you have burned that pattern into your neurological system.
- FOF: How long does it take to correct a bad habit?
- Dr. Angela: The truth is, from one week to a hundred years. I can help some of my clients very quickly. I’m finishing with a couple of clients who I worked with for a year. They are doing very well, but they all know it takes a lifetime of staying on it.
Dr. Angela’s 6 Steps To Breaking a Habit:
Note: Some problem habits and addictions are dangerous. If your behavior is harming yourself or others, you must seek professional help right away.
1. Nail-biting? Oversleeping? Snacking at night? Pick and recognize a habit that you are ready to address. Habitual behavior happens on a subconscious level. You must pull the behavior into your consciousness before you can correct it.
2. Identify and describe the specifics of the problem behavior. Answer these questions:
-What time of day does your habit occur?
-When does it show up?
-What triggers your habit?
-What is it like?
3. Use these tracking sheets, a journal or a log to keep track of your bad habits for a minimum of 90 days. Even busy women can take the time to do this. Make entries multiple times a day and even at night.
4. Look for larger life patterns that are part of your problem habit. For instance if your bad habit is watching too much television, you may notice you primarily do it after fighting with your spouse.
5. Identify one small change you can practice each day. Make sure these changes are gradual. Try to add one more small change each day or every few days. Keep going. Some examples:
-If you have 5 cups of coffee a day – go down to 4 and a half.
-If you press the snooze button every morning, don’t throw the clock away or buy one without a snooze button. Instead, move the clock farther away from the bed each day so you have to reach further and eventually stand up and walk to reach the clock.
6. Recognize problem habits and addictions for which you need outside help. Some habits and addictions embed within us so deeply that we need someone else to help us break them. If after 90 days you see no change in your behavior, seek help from a professional.
What bad habit would you love to break? Share it below.
PhD, DSW, MPH
Angela Browne-Miller, PhD, DSW, MPH, is an expert on habits and addictions. She is the author of over twenty books, including REWIRING YOURSELF TO BREAK ADDICTIONS AND HABITS. She is the Founder of Addiction Stoppers and Director of Browne and Associates Violence, Substance Abuse, and Trauma Treatment and Prevention Program. She earned two doctorates and two masters degrees at the University of California and has served as a National Institute of Mental Health Postdoctoral Fellow. She can be reached at AngelaBrowne-Miller.com or DoctorAngela@aol.com.