Structuring your environment to eliminate bad habits was something I first learnt to do from an anxiety elimination program called The Linden Method. If you currently suffer from high anxiety, I highly recommend you check it out because it is literally life changing. Or if you would prefer, you can read my story here.
The key to eliminating bad habits is to replace them with good habits. Re-structuring your environment is a tool you can use to speed this process up.
So in this article I will use an example from my personal life about how I conquered bad habits by taking control of my environment.
The way I structured my environment to eliminate my anxiety habit was to stop doing the things which was causing me more anxiety. I stopped going on forums which discussed how people were feeling about their anxieties and how bad they feel. Every time I felt anxious, I felt the urge to research what I was experiencing. Stopping this helped dramatically.
I stopped telling people how I felt all the time. Of course, every now and then I would tell someone just to let them know etc.
But I learnt that carrying out these behaviours only keeps the anxiety alive in the long run. I didn’t just stop doing these bad habits, I replaced them with productive ones. I created an environment for change. When you forget how to do something, your brain starts to trim away pathways in your neurology which are responsible for the learning of that behaviour. In neuroscience this phenomenon is known as neural pathway pruning. In other words, use it or lose it!
Our brains are systemically designed to get rid of unused pathways in our neurology, they get weaker and weaker every time we stop doing a certain behaviour. As an example if you are learnt to drive when you were 18 and haven’t driven for 10 years, your brain would automatically get rid of the pathways which were responsible for learning this skill. So it can make way for new learning.
Of course you never lose the habit of learning to drive, it will always stay with you, but you do have to reactivate the behaviour and habits by getting into a car and driving again. Until then the floodgates are turned off.
Apparently the neural pathways in our brains are physical, like electrical wiring in a house. Imagine if you constantly kept wiring a house, the house would have to be extended constantly.
Thankfully we do have a process that happens which removes pathways of learning that are not in use. Why do you think you can’t remember much you learnt from school?
Back to the article topic… my apologies. I get a little bit carried away with the stuff I’m passionate about. 😛
What I learnt was that if I could set up an environment that stopped myself from doing the behaviours which were fuelling the bad habit (anxiety), my brain will trim away the anxious neurology and that’s exactly what happened.
Not only were anxious pathways being removed, my brain would build new pathways of learning every time I was focusing on healthier, productive behaviours. And so I structured my day doing productive stuff. Things like learning to play a musical instrument, reading, working out, creating art etc etc.
I did this consistently over time and my anxious habits and behaviours gradually stopped. Before this I tried pretty much everything that was available in terms of conventional therapies. However what I learnt was that these were the type of environments which kept feeding the anxious behaviour.
For example talking therapy or going on anxiety forums is an environment which keeps the anxious habit in place because when you’re talking about how you feel constantly, you’re doing anxiety. You’re practicing being anxious and because you’re practicing being anxious, you’re strengthening the habit, this makes so much sense doesn’t it?
Yes it seems logical and even relieving to talk about how you feel, this works in the short-term. But in the long run in makes matters worse.
The only way you can remove the anxious pathways in your brain is by replacing the anxious habits with non-anxious ones. And this is something you have to do physically. Not through cognition. It’s about doing the things that send the non-anxious data through your 5 senses back to your subconscious mind to switch off the anxious habit.
It’s like exercise. By carrying out the behaviour of exercising, through our senses we send the data to tell our subconscious mind that this is what we need to order to get and maintain a good level of fitness. When we become unfit, it’s because we’ve stopped doing the things which send the data back to our subconscious.
Whatever we experience in our environment will have an impact on our subconscious. It’s why carrying out anxious behaviour on a consistent basis becomes a habit and so this becomes rooted deep within our subconscious.
The way to reach that part in our subconscious to remove the anxious habit is by structuring your environment which allows you to create an environment for change.
Where I got the information from