The Latin meaning of ‘habit’ refers to a ‘state of being’. I would argue that this remains an appropriate understanding of what habitual behaviour means. At the surface, habits are practices we regularly repeat, perhaps in the sub-conscious or out of compulsion. It is these patterns of behaviour which determine our day-to-day existence and therefore, more widely, our state of being. In You are the Placebo, Dr. Joe Dispenza notes that we have 60,000-70,000 thoughts a day and normally, out of these thoughts, 90% of them are the same as yesterday, the day before yesterday, the day before the day before yesterday (you get the gist). So how do we escape the hamster wheel of our own thoughts and change our state of being?
Firstly, it is important to emphasise that a habit does not originate with the external action. We must go back to the root. Unsurprisingly, this is our brain, both the subconscious and the conscious. The diagram to the left is Joe Dispenza’s succinct way of explaining how to break a habit. It is worth mentioning that he is an incredible neuroscientist, therefore this flow-chart is not just an easy way to describe thought-patterns. Instead, it is a scientific technique of changing the neurological pathways in our brains. Dr. Joe Dispenza regularly refers to the brain as a muscle which just needs training, like one would train for a sporting endeavour. The way one trains the brain is through new stimulus, creating new thought patterns (which are determined by you), leading through the flow chart until you have a new state of being. In this new reality it is possible to discard old habits and welcome new ones. Dr. Dispenza asks whether the environment shapes your thinking, or if your thinking shapes your environment? This may seem like an odd question, yet if you are able to tune in, thus change your thought-patterns, you will stop reacting to your surroundings. In turn, avoid the environment moulding our thoughts and instead we can choose our own response. You are back in the driving seat of yourself.
It is an appealing concept, being in control of ourselves, but how do we practically achieve it? As previously mentioned, new experiences, creating fresh neural pathways (known as neuroplasticity), are essential in escaping our own hamster wheel. Additionally, it is essential that we recognise the thoughts that lead to the habit itself. On average, 80% of our thoughts per day are negative. Practically speaking, this negativity will lie the foundation for our daily habits and be brought to fruition in our state of being- quite a gloomy concept. However, awareness of the hamster wheel means that we can alter it. I would propose meditation and journaling (Innate mood is a brilliant app for video journaling, logging your entries by date and emotion, as well as notifying you with past emotions. ‘The more reflective we are, the more effective we are’). But even just noticing the thoughts that appear in our reality gives us the opportunity to consider our response, rather than immediately reacting in the same vein as the day before and the day before that etc.
Habits form the cornerstones of our personal reality, or personality as Dr Dispenza refers to it as. They are not necessarily bad, yet as soon as we find ourselves reliant on an external practice it becomes a sort of addiction. To change our habitual behaviour, new experiences are essential, as well as awareness of our daily thought processes. Perhaps try and write down your daily practices and then examine why it has become a habit. If the practice does not arise from the intention of serving yourself, discard it (you now know how) and create new ones that generate a state of being to enhance yourself and therefore your happiness.