Let’s say you’re sitting in class and the person next to you is biting their nails. Your attention is instantly taken away from the topic of discussion. All you can hear is the chomping sound of their teeth knawing their nails down to the stub. All you want to do is grab that person’s hand and rip their fingers away from their mouth. Have you ever experienced a situation such as this? If you have, you can testify that it is indeed, annoying. This behavior is an example of a habit.
Some of you are aware that you have habits, and just can’t seem to get out of them. I know I myself have this problem, and therefore have done research to inform myself of solutions.
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Good morning. My name is Jessica Ford, and I am here to inform you about what habits are, how they are created, and four simple strategies you can use to break your habits.
I. What exactly is a habit? Psychologist Tim Wysocki states that “A habit is a behavior that is repeated over and over again.”
A. Some habits are done involuntarily. I’d be willing to bet that most of YOU do one or more of the following behaviors: bite your nails, twirl your hair, grit your teeth, shake your foot or tap your pencil. These are all examples of things we do without even realizing we are doing it. To other people however, these habits can be irritating and noticeable.
B. Other habits ARE consciously performed. For example, if you feel the need to arrange your desk in a certain way before you start your homework because you “don’t feel right” otherwise, this is considered a habit.
II. Now that you know what a habit is, let us talk about how they are formed.
A. Firstly, a habit can develop when you are bored. If you’re sitting in class and you have nothing better to do, you may begin a behavior to occupy yourself. If you continue to repeat this behavior, eventually, it may become a habit.
B. Habits may also be created under stress. Someone may twirl their hair around their finger because it makes them feel comfortable and calms them down. This behavior may make them feel like they have something to hold on to when scared or nervous.
C. Additionally, habits can serve as a response to frustration, or an outlet for stored-up energy. Behaviors such as shaking your foot or tapping your pencil may be examples of this.
D. When a habit begins to be noticeable to other people or takes up a lot of time, you may want to consider breaking it. Breaking a habit is not easy. Psychologist Timothy Wilson says, “Changing may be difficult, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it ”.
III. If you have a habit you wish to break, Current Health Weekly suggests four steps for doing so. These include understanding the problem, keeping a record, taking action, and taking your time.
A. Before you can break your habit, you must first understand the problem. The first thing you can do is to visualize it. You can ask yourself questions like “How do I look to myself when I do this?” “How do I look to others?” Next, try analyzing your emotions in writing. Appropriate questions to ask yourself would be “How do I feel just before I do this habit?” and “How do I feel while doing it?” “What does this habit accomplish?” Describe your habit, and why it is you believe you do it. This way, you are aware of the reasons behind your behavior, which will make it easier to stop.
B. After you understand the reasons underlying your habit, you then need to keep a record of it. Make a calendar of your usual activities including plans with family, friends, and school, and carry it with you wherever you go. Each time you notice yourself performing your habit, write it down on the day it occurs. At the end of each day, try to make connections between the activities you do, and the habits you perform. These two things may very well correlate! Perhaps an activity is stressful or nerve-racking. This may cause you to comfort yourself through a habit.
C. When you have understanding of your problem, and you are actively recording its occurrences, it is then time to take action!!! The most important mechanism for quitting your habit is to stop it in its tracks. When you are in the middle of your habit, tell yourself to stop. Do something else in place of your habit to forget about your urge. For example, if you find yourself biting your nails, go for a bike ride. This way you can’t put your hand in your mouth. You may also choose to chew a piece of gum, this way you are substituting a food for your nails.
D. The last step of breaking your habit is to take your time. Realize that habits form over time, and you need to have patience. If you notice progress, reward yourself! And do not attempt to take on more than one habit at a time.
To sum up my discussion, habits are voluntary or involuntary behaviors that are repeated over and over. They are caused by numerous factors, including boredom, stress and frustration. With the four steps described above, and some patience, YOU TOO can break your annoying habit and enjoy the freedom that follows. Thank you for your time!
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