Everyone has some "habit to break" in life. SOMETHING.
In running, for me, it's my arm swing. I tend to let my arms cross over in front of me rather than remain in line with my body, causing me to be far less energy efficient.
I know this. So I tell myself, "Don't cross the body. Don't cross the body. Don't. Don't. Don't..."
Is this the best way to go about ridding myself of this energy-sucking arm swing? To spend all my mind power focusing on what NOT to do, rather than what TO do?
Break the Habit
Habits are statements about a past of which we are trying to rid ourselves. The past is gone. Gone. So wouldn't it be better to focus on the present and future rather than the past?
A baby doesn't learn to "not crawl" when he/she learns to walk.
A child doesn't learn how to "not write print" when learning cursive.
Maybe it's not so much about learning to break a habit, as it is to learn a new one. Resisting an old habit puts all your focus on NOT doing that, not allowing much wiggle room to remember what to do as a replacement.
The groove theory in tennis and golf is a great way to learn new habits and break old ones. The idea is that every time you swing your racket or club properly, you form a little groove (pattern). The more you do it that way, the deeper the groove becomes and the higher the probability that you'll always swing that way again and again.
Think of scratching a tree. You leave a little mark from where you dragged your nail down the bark. Now do it again. and again. In the exact same spot. Soon you'll have created a groove in the tree that is so distinct, you could look away and scratch the tree again, knowing you'll land your nail right in that spot.
You aren't thinking about NOT landing in it. You know you WILL. It just happens. You're in the groove.
These impressions are also being made in the brain just as you make them on the tree bark, or with my arm swing. You are making these impressions little by little in your nervous system, creating muscle memory. The more you focus on the right way, the deeper the groove becomes and soon that is your new habit.
You didn't BREAK a bad habit.
You created a NEW habit.
There are plenty of ways I can and am working on bettering my runner's arm swing, but thinking about NOT doing something isn't one of them.
Focusing on the negative never brings the positive.
Write a couple "bad habits" down and list the ways you've been working to break them. Are you guilty of focusing on the "don't", "bad", "no" of breaking a habit rather than the positive of starting a new one?
What are ways you can focus on the new habit instead of the old one?
Rework and replace.
Get into that groove.
Photo Credit: Stephen Matera Photography
Stephen is a Seattle-based landscape, active, and lifestyle photographer working with some of the world's leading outdoor manufacturers and publishers. I have had the honor to work with Stephen a couple times and am so grateful for this skilled photographer in my fitness life! Follow his adventures on IG @materas