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

Bad Habits: Do You Have a Choice?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Jun 10th 2010

drinkAs human beings we create habits, some that help us, some that hinder us. This post will be an inquiry into becoming aware of the ones that hinder you and finding ways to become aware of the moment of choice.

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?

Allow reading this sentence to be a brief pause for you to recognize 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.

After reflecting on this piece, take a breath in and breath out integrating what you had just reflected on.

Here's a practice out of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbookthat 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 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 to become aware 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 ther isn't awareness of this space and beginning to cultivate it.

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.

A remedy - Cindy - Jun 11th 2010

 If  stick-to-it-ness was avilable to purchase, I believe, I'd have been able to save lots of money!

 I would hope to choose this instead of substances I currently use.

 My thoughts have been, so second nature, it's difficult to believe I could fix them.

 Most people, like me, choose a quick fix. The IOP therapy I attend now is giving me the tools I need to be successful. Meditation is suggested, also writing down my goals, to make them real, and not just a thought. I'm starting to choose that getting outta bed and living, is the best choice.



focus on what you want - jc - Jun 11th 2010

For me, this article is a good reminder to focus on what I actually want.  I so often dwell on my bad habits, which creates more stress.  I have many good habits that I take for granted. Perhaps focusing on good habits would be a good thing to do during that space of choice.  What you focus on is what you get, afterall.  I am aware of the space you speak of, by the way.  It creates stress, but now I see that I have more options other than just yes or no.

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