Updated: Mar 22
Over the last 5 years, there's been a surge of information around forming good habits that can help us unravel how the bad ones get started and give us clues about how to stop them. A theory called the 3 "R's" shows that reminders or cues and triggers, come first, routine is next, and the reward associated with the behavior is what keeps us hooked. Feeling confused or a little irked that I just said you're getting something out of your bad habit? Keep reading!
There’s a common myth that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. It would be really nice if on Jan. 21, after three faithful weeks of skipping dessert, this idealistic behavior became automatic.
Realistically, experts believe it takes 2 to 3 months or more to break an unwanted habit. Of course, some habits may take more or less time to break.
Once we stop a stressful trigger can come along like a nasty divorce, or being laid off and there we are again with a tub of ice cream in our lap, smoking a cigarette, and endlessly scrolling social media posts. It's also much easier to form new habits than to break old bad ones. In fact, a better strategy is try and replace the negative habit with a good one.
How Hypnosis Stops the Cycle
I remember when I was kid, my friend’s mother told me she quit smoking (after 35 years) through hypnosis. She was a chain smoker, so I was pretty impressed. “How did it work?” I asked. She replied, “they told me it would taste like dog poop in my mouth if I smoked – and it does.” She HAD to test it out. Like any 12-year-old I replied, “Eeeewwwww! Gross!” And I still feel the same way. I promise I won’t use that suggestion – unless you want me to!
Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis involves more than just suggestion. The goal is to change your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings at a deep core level using the power of your imagination.
First, we’ll identify the root cause of the habit and resolve underlying emotional or psychological issues that may be contributing to your unwanted behavior. What triggers the habit? What helps? Noticing these things is half the battle. In a relaxed, hypnotic state I’ll use the power of suggestion (but probably not dog poop!) to instill all the benefits of quitting.
A “hypno-curious” friend told me how she quit smoking. She chose a date a few months ahead when she was going in the hospital for surgery. What better time as she wouldn’t be able to smoke there – and hey, she knew the good pain killers would help ;-). Every time she smoked up to that date, she would think about all the things she hated about it: her hands, hair, and clothes stunk, guys don’t dig it, she was coughing all the time, etc. This had a profound effect! She didn’t realize she was reprogramming her mind to be repulsed by it. It worked like magic! She was HAPPY to quit. I would argue that we need to also instill all the things you're going to LOVE when you're free from this habit.
The key here is that quitting unwanted habits by reprogramming your mind removes the longing you have for them. If you stop a habit and miss it, you're one step away from starting again.
Willpower is not the answer here. And often, there are things you like about your habit – there is something you’re getting from it and the first step is identifying that. It may just be a sense of stress relief even though we know that smoking for example causes a significant rise in blood pressure and heart rate. Fatty, unhealthy foods similarly cause stress in the body even though we call them "comfort foods."
Together we remove what you like about your habit and replace that with something positive you enjoy equally. In this way I can say with confidence, you won’t miss the habit. Yes, you can do it on your own, but most won’t. The attachment is too strong. And of course, many “habits” are powerful physical addictions. For example, I would not recommend hypnotherapy by itself for a severe alcohol addiction or eating disorder, although it can help profoundly in conjunction with medical treatment.
One last note: don’t be afraid of the word “reprogramming.” All habits reside in the unconscious mind, and you’ve become convinced or “programmed” to believe you need it. I’m facilitating your access to that auto-pilot program to reverse it. I’ll help you believe in your own self determination to create lasting change.
I've helped people remove cravings and stop unwanted habits like:
Overeating and late night snacking
Too much screen time
I typically recommend at least 3 sessions for resolving unwanted habits. Just imagine what it will feel like to be free of this, never to return, in possibly less than 3 weeks! This is the power of our brains on hypnosis.