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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Breaking Bad Habits Using The Now Effect

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 26th 2012

jumping woman in sunThe brain is an organ that makes things we do in life routine so that it can handle more complex tasks. Some of these routines help us, like walking, putting on clothes and exercising, while others hinder us, like overeating, drinking, and procrastination. How can we begin to recognize that space between stimulus and response where choice lies to gain freedom from our unhealthy reactivity and choose a response toward a healthier life? This space of clarity is what I call The Now Effect and you can train it like walking and talking, to create lasting life changes.  

Spend a moment reflecting on what habitual patterns arise in your life as a result of stress? Do you say things you wish you hadn't? Do you smoke cigarettes? Do you eat or not eat as a result of stress or maybe repeat certain actions to get away from distressing thoughts? Do you procrastinate, putting things off until the last minute?

Allow reading this sentence to be a brief pause, a moment to sit in a space of awareness, recognizing that  you have a choice to reflect on this before moving onto the next part.

Perhaps there are some habits you have built that are helpful, like exercising, eating healthy, getting good sleep, meditation, or communicating with your partner when you notice something off. We often have a combination of healthy and unhealthy habits.

Take a breath in and a breath out integrating what you had just reflected on.

Here's a practice that you can do today:

Spend the day today being conscious of your habits, both healthy and unhealthy. As you do this, see if you can recognize the space where you have a choice on whether to actually engage in this habit or not. At first you may not notice the space and only upon reflection, you can recognize that you engaged in this habit.

However, over the course of the day or many days, you may start to see The Now Effect taking root as you realize that there are moments of choice that you intentionally or unintentionally decide to engage in that habit.

This space is where the magic lies.

Even when we have addictive behaviors that have a genetic basis and the pull to smoke, drink, binge, etc... is a physical pull, there is still a space between stimulus and response to become mindful of. This is the space to make a phone call to a sponsor, recite the serenity prayer or leave the triggering environment.

We're not judging the unawareness of this space as a "bad" thing or something to be shameful of, instead, we're recognizing the fact that there isn't awareness of this space. The funny thing is that in the moment we recognize that we haven’t been aware, we are actually aware and clarity is that close. 

Try it out.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

The Pinnochio Method - Al Jolson - Jan 30th 2012

I live with blinders on without Wellbutrin, but even with it I find myself returning to bad habits or wanting to.  I will try this "method", but you could call it the Pinocchio Method, or "Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide".  It didn't escape a lot of viewers that Jiminy Cricket has the initials J.C..  This is almost like telling manic depressives to "cheer up", but if you motivated one person to change their life, it was worth.

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