Why patterns are so hard to break

So many times have I heard it, and said it probably as well : why do I keep coming back to this behaviour?

We are creatures of habit, I am sure you are aware of that.

But there are so many layers to that reality so, here is just one.

You have been practicing your patterns of behaviour since the day you learned them because everything in your surrounding invited you to do so. Nothing around you, especially when you grew up, was suggesting to try something else.

As you move forward in life, that behaviour is your comfort zone. It’s home.

So naturally, when you feel unsafe or uncertain, you hold on to dear life with what you have always had.

It’s easy enough to comprehend on the intellectual level and the reason it’s much harder to change on the actual behavioural level is of course that we do it without knowing.

You see, your mind is very clever and it has realised that what you can easily do, you don’t have to think about. It’s in your bones. Literrally. If you can do something without having to concentrate on it, like walking for instance, you have so much more potential to see, hear and talk about something completely new while you’re walking.

You can function on two frequencies at the same time with your awareness.

Along with this functioning of the mind comes the fact that we rather save energy if we can because we never know when we might need some extra of it. So therefore, the mind quickly calculates that if we can simply slip into an old pattern of behaviour in a new situation, it will cost us less.

Here is where this becomes very acute for you : in any situation where you are already mobilising a lot of energy to survive, you will not even consider taking on a new habit because you are already feeling the malus of stored energy.

I’ve mentioned in other articles this acronym HALT and this is where I want to take you again. When you are one (or more!) of the four following states : Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired, you are experiencing a low on energy and are already struggling to survive which means that no matter what great strategies you have installed recently to deal with things like sugar cravings for instance, your brain won’t let you access them.

This is why we get the feeling of going in circles when it comes to bad habits. Something in the outer world triggered your nervous system and you experienced HALT and so you fell back on what you have been so used to do in those situation.

But there is a reason that renowned universities working on neuroscience and psychology has taken an interest in mindfulness practices. Because we have a possibility to “hack” into that reaction of the mind so that we can consciously make a change in the situation of HALT. Because what we have to remember is that we did LEARN it at one point and our nervous response then got used to reacting that way but that means that we can simply go to the root of the behaviour and re-condition it. The nervous response.

If I come to a point where I can actually control my nervous response, then I can find myself in a situation that would be stressful without loosing my wit. I can take note of what is happening in the body (HALT) yet not be alarmed by it and therefore make a different move than I usually would.

Most of us don’t know it but it’s the whole secret of the yogic and Ayurvedic practices. And what you should also know is that from day 1 of beginning to practice these behaviours, you are starting to recondition the response and learn new behaviours. So as you have learned something new, when you are falling back on old patterns of behaviour, you are truly not back at square one even if it might feel that way. You already have new information beginning to settle in your brain, information that you did not have before that allows you to see with open eyes that you are in effect repeating bad habits.

It means that you also need to practice a certain level of patience when you realise that you are back in old habits because otherwise you are most probably triggering yet another of the HALT states (anger/tired for instance?).

If you are somewhere in the middle of life and you have practiced the same behaviour for the past 20, 30 or 40 years, you will need a strategy to make changes. And that strategy cannot be “willpower” because when you are HALT, willpower can never win.

So you need a different strategy and like everything else, it’s always more interesting to go for the root cause in order to make the changes there.

This is what we work on in the Nourish Balance Thrive program, to find out more click here and to be on the wait list for next round, email me : [email protected]

Hi, I’m Charlotte (Yogi Cha). I’m a yoga teacher with a degree in clinical psychology. I’ve always had a deep curiosity toward eastern and western approaches to understanding the mind, and the ming/body union. You’ll find me in the lovely Canggu Bali, nestled amongst coconuts, palm trees and sunshine 🥥🌴🌞



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