Smiling optimistic

How to Break Bad Habits With 4 Steps

Breaking bad habits can be difficult. By definition, habits are cemented firmly within our routines and lives. Bad habits can turn our kids into their own worst enemies. They might try to break bad habits–succeeding in the short-term. However, bad habits can be so ingrained in their minds that they can continually come back, making our kids feel hopeless or helpless to change. They might feel that their minds are working against themselves, perpetuating a cycle of detrimental behaviors to their goals and personal development. Bad habits can be changed with work, time, and patience. Fire Mountain’s Aaron Huey speaks with clinical psychologist Dr. Joseph Luciani about changing bad habits on the podcast “Stop It and Drop It! Dr. Joe and the End of Bad Habits.” They discuss what causes bad habits and four steps to change.

“What If” Scenarios and Maladaptive Coping

Bad habits can be the result of worrying about the future. When a person is anxious about the future, they imagine several “what if” scenarios about their fate while losing control of the present moment. Dr. Luciani believes that worrying over the future means that a person is not living in the present. They are attempting to solve problems that do not exist. When our kids solve problems that are not real or worry about potential scenarios in an imagined future, they remove themselves from the here and now. They are “out of time” and not seeing the issues that they can control. Maladaptive coping strategies, like addiction, cutting, screen obsessions, or other issues, can arise as a means of coping with what appears to be a hopeless future. Dr. Luciani (or “Dr. Joe”) believes that our kids (and we parents!) can take a four-step process to return to the present and build better habits.

Four-Step Mind Talk

Dr. Joe discusses a process to restore presence to the current moment and away from imagined futures. We can guide our kids through these steps when conflicts arise. We might even need to keep these steps in mind to remain grounded during a crisis. The steps break down as follows:

  1. Separating facts from “emotional fictions.”
    • Our kids may struggle to separate what’s real from what they “feel” is factual due to emotional responses.
    • Emotions can trick our kids into believing things that are not true because they need to justify our feelings.
    • Our kids might be changing the “facts” to fit the way they feel; however, we should encourage them to work the other way around.
    • Our kids can learn to differentiate what is verifiable from their “emotional fictions,” which sometimes means admitting that they may have over-reacted or were not responding appropriately to an event.
  2. Engaging with “active minds.”
    • Often, most individuals operate on “auto-pilot,” responding or thinking in habitual patterns that are not necessarily appropriate across all scenarios.
    • During a conflict or crisis, we all need to consider what is going on in the present with our minds.
    • Are we filled with doubts, fears, and other negative thoughts that are influencing our behaviors? Are these feelings justified in the present?
  3. Responsive Living
    • When we or our kids find that thoughts are gravitating toward negativity and imagined “worse-case” scenarios, we need to get back to the present moment.
    • As “emotional fictions” and “what-if” scenarios take hold in our kids’ minds, their anxiety peaks, and we need to guide them back down.
    • Grounding exercises, like deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, and other techniques, can pull them back to the present.
  4. Coaching
    • We need to cultivate optimism continually in all our lives.
    • Optimistic thinking can be a risk that we all can choose when we take a leap of faith to imagine a future of hope and achievement.
    • When we encourage our kids to picture a world where everything goes right in the future, they can spend less time living with worry and keep themselves in the game.
    • Instead of focusing on worrying over the bad things that can happen, they can start to plan for a hopeful and bright future.

By getting out of their heads and engaging with the present, our kids can begin to change their bad habits. They might have developed these bad habits as a means of coping with a fictitious world inside their minds, as they fill themselves with doubt and pessimism. When they get into this “habituated pattern of darkness,” they might feel hopeless and helpless about what lies in store for themselves during life’s journey. They can get out of their minds and jump back to the present by reminding themselves to choose optimism. Bad habits can develop as a result of feeling a loss of control over the future. However, our kids can control how they choose to look at the future ahead of them. We as parents can plan for a successful future with our families. Picture a future where everything goes well, and you can put your worries aside to plan a joyous and fulfilling life.

Bad habits can impact the overall quality of our kids’ lives. They might be out of touch with the present, operating on “auto-pilot” and not considering that they can make better choices in the moment. Their habits can stick with them and be challenging to break. For better or worse, their habits may have helped them survive or seemed justified when they began them. However, we can help our kids re-evaluate their unhealthy habits when they negatively impact their quality of life. Bad habits can derail progress in life. We and our kids must be aware of and take a mindful approach to our lives. We can cultivate optimism to lessen our anxiety over the future. Often, people become detached from the moment due to fears and concerns over an imagined future of “what-if” scenarios. Let go of these fictitious concerns and chose a hopeful future to free yourself and your kids from anxiety. If your child is struggling with addiction or other issues and trying to help them, you might need additional support. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment is here for both parents and kids. Call us today at (303) 443-3343.

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