If you're trying to improve yourself by changing some unhealthy habits, you're on the right path. However, sometimes things don't go as smoothly as you'd like and you wind up relapsing into your old behavior.
Whether you're working to stop smoking, cut out alcohol, temper your anger issues, reduce your excessive spending, drop 20 pounds or just watch less TV, it's not uncommon to slip and fall back into the bad behaviors you are trying to change. The most important thing to do when this happens is to get right back on track.
You should never let your relapse be an excuse to give up or to forget what momentum you have already made. Instead, treat the relapse as a learning experience and a chance to further your growth.
Try to look at what happened before the relapse and use the information as a springboard to make further changes. The next time something like this happens, you'll be primed to behave differently.
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For example, if there was a strong trigger that kept you from implementing an effective coping strategy, add that trigger to your "red flag" list and make note that you have to be especially cautious. So, when friends drop over with a huge pizza and you want to lose 20 pounds, what alternatives are there? Can you eat only one slice, instead of the usual two or three? Can you have a huge salad while everyone eats the pizza? Decide beforehand how you'll like to handle things, so you'll be better prepared and won't succumb to temptation next time. In other words, your old ways of behaving need to be replaced with more carefully planned behaviors.
It's always good to avoid problems like this before they happen by soliciting help from supporters. The more people who know what you are trying to do, the more successful you will be. Furthermore, the warning signs of a relapse happen way before the actual relapse. Your friends may be the best indicators that you are in trouble and need to increase your awareness.
Remember, you do not want to give up on the work you have already done because of a sudden relapse. You have so much to gain by continuing. It takes time and consistency, but if you can successfully practice new behaviors for 21 days, you will create a new habit that becomes much easier to implement.
How do you keep practicing these new behaviors for three weeks straight without slipping? Here are some suggestions to keep in mind:
1. Always keep your thoughts on your goal, with a strong visual image of what you want to attain.
2. Redesign what you tell yourself as you go through your day. Create powerful declarations that support your focus on success.
3. By thinking success, your entire nervous system is set up to establish your new habit. Think of it as a way to tone and strengthen your mental vision.
4. Don't put yourself in situations where you may fail. Remind yourself of how you feel when you relapse. The feelings of guilt, shame, anger and disappointment are not pleasant. It's much better to feel pride, confidence, satisfaction and joy in your new behaviors than feel the negative emotions associated with your setback.
A relapse is just a momentary postponement in your progress, not a sign of failure. When you give up, that is when you make a temporary condition permanent.
Therefore, be kinder and gentler with yourself and you'll find your relapses will come less frequently and your successes will be easier to achieve.