essay · inspiration

Improving Bad Habits and Behaviors

We all have many brain pathways that make life a lot easier, good habits that help us: brushing our teeth, eating meals, getting dressed, turning the lights off, cleaning up, holding our tongues, smiling and waving, and all of those sorts of things.

But we also have pathways that are not so positive, like checking our phones constantly, yelling, feeling down and depressed, or staying up late.

I have dealt with mood swings and feeling of depression for quite a lot of my life, and it’s really easy to fall back into that again. I’ll do really good for a while, only to have a bad day. Misery can become a habit.

And when bad habits and behaviors keep coming back again and again, it can be really frustrating. We rationally know that we want to stop doing that, but then we keep doing it anyway because it’s so easy.

Change can take a while. And sometimes we need to understand that in order for change to happen, we have to consciously steer our brains away from habitual behavior for quite a long time, longer than we really want to. Deciding that we want to change is not enough; we have to put in the effort to actually make that change happen.

For example, I really like to watch YouTube videos when I am bored or distressed. And it’s really easy just to click on the site and watch video after video. It can be really habitual, and it’s not something I like about myself. I have an app that blocks certain websites, and for a while I flat out blocked YouTube from my life.

I stopped thinking about it. I stopped doing it. It would seem like I conquered my bad habit. But when I re-enabled YouTube again, guess what happened? I started habitually watching videos again. So I blocked it again.

And I’m realized that the longer something has been around, sometimes the longer you have to work on getting rid of it. I don’t know if certain pathways ever really go away all the way–because if you did it once, it’s so much easier to do it again.

But the atonement of Jesus Christ can help strengthen us and become new people. Change can happen. For some people, it happens in an instant, but for most of us, it takes longer. The point is that we don’t give up, that we keep coming back to what we value, and we keep seeking hope and repentance and healing.

And then, maybe years and years later, we can look back and see that we are better and new, and it’s so much easier to do the right thing.

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