Habits – good or bad?

Human beings are very good at forming habits. Habits are essential for us to live our life in a reasonably ordered and efficient kind of way. Without them life would be a chaotic and unmanageable rollercoaster of new experience and constant experiment. We would never have been able to learn anything, even the most basic tasks necessary for survival, while our interactions with each other and our environment would be at best random and at worst fatal.

In short, habits are good!

So why do so many of us feel that we have bad habits, and why are they are so difficult to stop?

All habits are established by repetition and they are formed initally because we get some kind of reward as a result of doing them, whether it be praise from someone we admire, or a pleasurable feeling. When the behaviour is repeated the habit gets increasingly ingrained, and the more repetition there is the deeper the habit is ingrained, so that often it becomes completely unconscious – we have adopted it fully as part of who we are and how we are in the world. Because they are so deeply a part of us, habits are hard to break.

Have a think about someone you know well; is it not the case that what they are is a collection of habits? I’m not being too serious here, but suffice to say that a person’s character is made up of habits, which we call ‘traits’; these can be individual and cultural. Our habits make us who we are; our beautiful unique selves!

We feel we ‘know’ a person because we can to a large extent predict how they will respond in any situation. We don’t tend to like people who are unpredictable, unreliable, change their tastes rapidly or form U-turns in their opinions; in other words who don’t respond in a habitual way.

However, part of the character of the person consists of what we might call ‘bad’ habits. These could be small things such as not putting the lid back on the toothpaste, but they could be more serious and damaging behaviours such as over-eating or a regular tendency to become violent.

Most of us can recognise our obvious bad habits, especially when they are pointed out to us by our nearest-and-dearest. However most of us also tend to have many ingrained unhelpful habits which are not so easy to spot.

How is all this relevant to the Alexander Technique?

Over time each of us has developed a whole way of being and acting which is made up of a series of habitual behaviours, which in turn consist of sequences of movements (the contraction and release of muscles). Someone may have a certain recognisable style of walking or perhaps they may wave their hands in the air when they talk – these behaviours constitute the person’s individual characteristics or traits. It could be said that these behaviours are how each of us ‘uses ourselves’.

If we experience regular aches and pains, stiffness, over-tension, discomfort or feeling ill-at-ease, the most likely cause is that we are not using ourselves correctly, in other words that we have developed unhelpful or ‘bad’ habits of being and moving.

The Alexander Technique is a method of removing or modifying these unhelpful habits and developing new habits which are more conducive to a comfortable, balanced, pain-free everyday existence.

To put it simply, the Alexander Technique helps us swap bad habits for good!

If you have any queries or would like to find out more about how the Alexander Technique can help you, please do contact me.

(Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash)

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