Manchester Life Coaching: How Micro Thoughts Form Bad Habits

How Micro Thoughts Form Bad Habits

John was running late. After making a quick breakfast, egg on toast, he quickly jumped into his car and headed down the road. after about 10 minutes a little voice in Johns head repeated “you have left the gas on….you have left the gas on.” Worry built up and soon John had spun the car around and was driving home, knowing that each minute was making him later and later. The panicked John reached home and ran straight into the kitchen only to find that he had turned the gas off before he had left for work.



We have all been in John’s shoes, but why does that internal talk happen? What is the purpose of this chartering self talk? This internal talk can be a pain, especially if you’re running late and it tells you that you have left the gas on. But the internal talk is there to keep you safe. It helps to warn you about potential danger – this doesn’t mean its always right, as in John’s case the gas was turned off.



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Forming Habits



You have a hundred billion neurons in your brain, these neurons help you to react to the world spontaneously by finding past references to the situation you currently find yourself in, so you know how to act. These quickly become habits and these habits help you to react quicker, allowing your conscious brain to focus on other stuff, rather than having to consciously think “how do I react to this situation?”



The anxiety built up in John, thinking that he left the gas on, maybe coupled, as an example with the knowledge that his girlfriend was sleeping upstairs unaware of the danger. This emotional reaction can be so powerful it becomes associated with the car and driving to work. The next morning John drives to work, he remembers the anxiety feeling, the voice returns “have you left the gas on?” John knowing its not worth the risk to carry on, turns his car around and a habit is born. After a couple of conscious “should I turn the car around” John finds that setting off in the morning to work, hearing the worried internal voice and returning home before setting off again, has become part of his morning routine, he even leaves for work a little earlier so the return home journey doesn’t make him late.


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Night Time Voices


Habit forming also happens at night. Many of us will put our mobile phone on charge in the bedroom. Modern smart phones are linked to our social media profile and our e-mails, and it this awareness that forms bad habits that can stop us sleeping.


Julia just returned from a successful first date, set up by her friend sara. The date had gone great, he was lovely; good looking, intelligent and a gentleman. They had exchanged phone numbers and on the train had messaged each other, asking questions they didn’t have time to ask on the date. Questions turned to flirting and flirting turned to complements and the potential for a second date to be organised. This messaging had continued as Julia arrived home, and soon after Julia had decided to go to bed. She put her phone on charge, drew the curtains and jumped into bed. She had a big meeting tomorrow and needed a good nights sleep. As she closed her eyes she kept thinking about the date and how great it was, maybe her inner voice told her “you should check your phone just incase?” Encouraged by her self talk, she got out of bed and no message. After 10 seconds of being back in bed the inner voice asked “maybe he just replied as you were getting into bed?” It took Julia 3 hours to get to sleep. The next night a tiered Julia went to bed early. The day had been amazing, the meeting had gone well and the guy she had dated had texted and had arranged a second date. They had continued to text each other through the evening. Julia had decided for an early night, as she got in her bed her inner voice suggested “you should check you messages just encase….”


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Mobile Phone Research


On a side note. A lot of research has been conducted on mobile phone being left in the bedroom and how they affect your sleep. It is now recommended that you charge your phone in a separate room. The reason behind this is that our brain is sensitive to light. The nerves in our eyes send signals to the brain, when light is detected we know when we should be waking up. The light from the mobile phone when on charge confuses our internal sleep/wake system making us believe dawn is approaching taking us out of a deep sleep.


Breaking Habits


Becoming aware of a habit forming is key to breaking the habit. Once aware you can set up a system to break the habit. John as an example could set up a checklist to ensure he has checked the gas. When the voice questions him on the journey his list will provide the evidence that the house and girlfriend are safe and he can continue on his journey. This continuation of his journey can be enough depending on how deep the habit has become, to break the habit.



Your brain is constantly learning and changing through plasticity, which is why we can form new positive habits – going to bed without checking the phone because you charged it downstairs. With a little repetition new habits that serve you well are created allowing you to focus on other elements of your life.


Chris Delaney NLP Life Coach, Hypnotherapist and Career Advisor is available for booking for One to One Private Sessions, Group Training Sessions and Public Speaking Events


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Chris Delaney NLP Life Coach, Hypnotherapist and Career Advisor is available for booking for One to One Private Sessions, Group Training Sessions and Public Speaking Events


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