Forming behavioural patterns comes naturally to humans, but some of them are detrimental to our mental, emotional and physical health. Let’s talk about how we can combat these negative habits and put positive ones in their place!
If you’ve ever made patterns on Easter eggs or in any other craft projects – sewing, knitting, stained glass painting, etc. – you know how it works. After a while, your hand gets used to repeating the same movements, it comes without thinking. Much like artistic patterns, behavioural ones quickly become automatic.
For example, you may keep attracting toxic people who are clearly a negative influence on your life, be it partners or friends. They may swear, talk badly of others, gossip, complain about everything, or even put you down, and though you are against what they’re doing, you stay with them for the good times. You know being with them doesn’t do you any good emotionally, mentally or spiritually for that matter, but next time they call to ask you out – there you are, again by their side.
Some of our negative patterns don’t even involve other people. We know smoking, drinking and eating anything excessively or using drugs is bad for us, but we get addicted to it regardless. I, personally, am currently battling against using coffee as a crutch when I run out of energy, and boy is it hard to quit.
The good news is that we can quit. People recover from years of addiction to heroine and restore sanity after decades of staying in an unhealthy relationship – so, whatever negative pattern you may be dealing with in your own life, you can conquer it! Here is a step-by-step guide that can help you in this difficult, but necessary process that will hopefully lead you to a better life:
#1 Recognise the pattern
First off, a big kudos to you! You’ve acknowledged that something is wrong, and are determined to shift it. It means you are guided away from a path that is not beneficial to your growth, and you are heeding that guidance. Before you can make the change though, it is important to understand the problem fully.
What damage does your negative pattern do in your life? If you are attracting toxic people or environments, how are they affecting you? What exactly makes you want to leave this relationship, circumstance or habit? The answers to these questions will not only help you pinpoint the problem, but they will also serve as the main motivators to make the change.
If you let the pattern remain a vague discomfort in the back of your mind, instead of taking it out in front of you and examining it with a magnifying glass, it will keep a reign over your subconscious mind and keep manifesting externally in other forms. Looking at the issue directly, on the contrary, and taking it apart gives you power over it. Your willingness to examine the negative pattern shows that you are not afraid to see the full scope of the problem – in fact, you want to acknowledge and tackle all of it.
#2 Get down to the roots
Now that you see everything that’s going wrong because of your negative pattern, ask yourself “Why?” Why are you doing this? In complicated cases that are meant to show us a serious problem in our own psychological make-up, the answers are likely to be uncomfortable. For instance, lack of self-worth often leads us to pleasing people, especially those who are cold to us, in order to gain their approval- that’s how many end up with toxic friends or partners.
Dig even deeper – ask another “Why?”, now to clarify where that which you’ve discovered about yourself in the first answer is coming from. If you base the change only on what you know so far, you may end up fixing a tiny bit of the problem – the external expression of it. Soon afterwards, it could be replaced by another unhealthy habit, because the issue inside that is causing trouble is still unresolved.
Repeat the question as many times as needed to understand what part of your Self has attracted this problem, what needs to change inside of you in order for this negative pattern to go away permanently. There’s a theory of 5 why’s to get to the bottom of anything – try it!
When you get a hold of the true, deep issue that is expressing itself through a negative pattern, you can work on healing it directly. The external change will simply be the finishing touch on the inner shift you’ve initiated. If you find that the cause of your unhealthy relationships is lack of love and support in childhood, for example, you can start giving yourself the care needed to feel good about yourself now, so you will no longer bear having disrespectful people who suck the energy out of you in the close circle.
#3 Replace the negative with a positive
If you are deeply attached to a negative situation/relationship/habit, abandoning it may feel like losing the Earth from under your feet. Even after making the necessary inner changes to operate from a healthier place, it is natural to be drawn to the old ways at first, and it will initially require effort to push away from them. Like any process in life, this shift will be a gradual improvement rather than waking up one morning thinking “It’s all good now!”
You are almost guaranteed to experience severe discomfort and other heavy withdrawal symptoms – be it physical (as in my case with coffee) or emotional (when you are leaving an unhealthy partnership). Allow yourself to make this transition as smooth as you need it to be, without falling back into the old ways.
The key to sustaining the change is creating a positive pattern in place of a negative. For example, if you used to drink alcohol or eat sweets excessively as a means of comfort in stressful situations, you would benefit from cultivating another comforting habit that isn’t harmful to your health instead. Going for a walk, making yourself a lovely cup of tea or talking it over with a friend comes to mind. To become independent of caffeine, I have stocked up on litres of other soft drinks – namely sparkling water, orange juice and full-fat milk (one of my top-3 guilty pleasures) – to pour when I find myself reaching for the cup.
When it comes to relationships, I believe it is absolutely necessary to rid yourself from toxic friends and partners to start the change in your external environment. This helps to see how many wonderful, empathetic and caring people you have around. Once you’ve created space for new connections that are good for you to come in, they certainly will – and probably even faster than you think!
Most importantly, be unyielding in your desire to kick out the negative pattern from your system. Then, no matter how difficult it turns out to be, you will successfully make (and sustain!) a positive shift in your life.
Enjoy your journey!
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