Sometimes we create more drama than we need to about our habits.

We see them as a mystery. We marinate in thought about them hoping to stumble upon an insight that will make change effortless.

Occasionally we get lucky and have an AHA moment, but even so, this alone isn’t enough to change a habit; we still have to rewire our brain by allowing our urges to come and go unanswered.

Here’s why it can be tough. Urges feel, well… urgent.💥 They’re like little alarms🚨going off in our heads telling us we need to swing into action. When we do, we strengthen the habit. The loop happens on autopilot and looks like this:

(Cue) Feeling stressed → (Thought) I need a drink → (Feeling) URGE → (Action) Have a glass of wine → (Result) Reinforce the idea that you need a drink to relax

It’s uncomfortable to interrupt this loop by allowing the urge to go unanswered instead of having the wine, because urges become more insistent – like a toddler in the candy aisle of a grocery store. But interrupt it we must if we are going to rewire our brain 🧠 to release the habit.

The trick is to take your brain off auto-pilot by getting curious. Try asking yourself some of these questions:

What was happening when I noticed the urge? (you were getting ready to make dinner)

What was my thought about it? (I love to unwind with a glass of wine while making dinner)

What excuse is your brain giving you to have a drink? (One won’t hurt. You earned it.)

If I act on this urge, what am I teaching my brain? (That I need a drink to relax)

What do I want to teach my brain instead? (That I don’t need alcohol to relax)

Am I willing to be disappointed now so that I’m not disappointed in my choice later? (ugh…yes)

Note the ugh above. I know this isn’t fun and easy, at least at first. But it’s these little choice points that you face daily that determine how quickly you will change your habit, not the big insight or AHA moment (although those are really fun). Choosing consciously and delaying gratification are skills. You can build these muscles with practice. And if you fail on one occasion, learn and move on. Don’t dwell on it. You’ll have another chance to practice shortly.