The Secret to Changing Your Behavior

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changing behavior

We’re months into a pandemic and we’ve heard over and over again, “wash your hands and don’t touch your face.” We’re still touching our faces. Even with the threat of a potentially deadly virus, we can’t seem to completely stop touching our faces. We see people touching their faces all the time as we observe our fellow humans, and we know that to be true for ourselves.

I know that I find myself really, really wanting to rub my itchy “it’s allergy season” eyes as well as my itchy nose. We’ve been touching our faces our whole lives, how can we possibly expect to change any other behavior we need to change if we can’t change the simplest thing like not touching our faces during a pandemic? How do we expect to change dysfunctional behaviors when we can’t even stop touching our faces?

As a therapist and behaviorist, I can attest to the fact that change, big or small, is absolutely possible when it comes to face touching as well as other things that we’d want to change. Here’s how.To begin with, we might think that change happens like a thunderbolt, epiphany, or by falling off a horse like St. Paul. But the secret is that change happens slowly without noticeable differences oftentimes. In fact, you do wake up one day and realize that you don’t do that old behavior anymore or you do something else instead.

Changing behavior requires retraining your brain to do something different from what you’ve been doing. The brain is prone to resetting to the default behavior, which is exactly what you’re trying to do differently when you aim for change. The really important ingredient in changing behavior is that we have to really want to change.

Motivation is key to any new, changed behavior.

Here are some tips to facilitate change.Create your own motivation and reason to want to change. Here are some examples of self-imposed motivation. “I don’t want to get sick, I should stop touching my face during a pandemic.” “If I eat more healthy foods in smaller portions, I will fit into my favorite jeans.” “If I stop smoking, I will feel better and not have to worry so much about dying from lung disease.” “If I exercise, I will feel better about me.” “If I have better work-home balance, my life will feel more satisfying.”

Create your own accountability. Set your own goals like for example, exercising once a week, and keep track of your progress. Setting small, manageable goals is the key. Be willing to go back to step one if you have to. Be kind to yourself when you mess up. Dust yourself off and start again. Oftentimes, we give up with all-or-nothing thinking, “I didn’t lose 20 pounds in two weeks. I failed.” Be willing to start again.

Reward your steps however small.

You need to be your own cheering squad. For example, recognize that you did make progress such as keeping to exercising once a week. Work on developing patience with yourself. Small successes lead to larger ones and only happen when you allow yourself to be human and patiently guide yourself through the change process that includes messing up and starting again. With patience, you create a climate for change. Don’t judge in terms of win versus fail. Attempts matter. Plenty don’t even try, and trying at all is huge. Getting closer to a goal is better than staying safe and where you were.

(Source- Psychology Today)

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