Breaking the habit of being yourself

The following is based on the book “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” by Joe Dispenza

In Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, Joe Dispenza explains that unhappiness is the result of bad habits that make up our personality.

Personal growth requires unlearning those habits, creating a new you, and using meditation to manifest the life you want.

He explains what makes us think and feel the way we do, how that affects the condition of our lives, and how to use this information to form a brand new, better version of ourselves.

Where Do Our Habits Come From?

Our habits are thoughts, emotions, and behaviours that we engage in regularly. 

According to Dispenza, habits (as well as traits and skills) develop through a set of predictable steps:

  • First, through conscious thinking—learning the information needed for that habit.
  • Then, through doing—experiencing it, processing it, and retaining it emotionally.
  • Finally, through being—internalizing it as an unconscious behaviour or feature of yourself.

Once you’ve mastered a habit, skill, or trait, it becomes ingrained in you and your external environment can’t easily interfere with it.

Experts estimate that over 40% of our daily activities are habitual and that we’re able to perform them unconsciously while thinking about other things. Research also shows that people are more likely to fall into their habits—both positive and negative—if they are tired or overloaded, suggesting that it’s easier to change your habits if you’re able to get enough rest and have a positive environment.

Sometimes, we develop bad habits. When bad habits begin to run your life, your health and well-being suffer.

This is because the thoughts and emotions that make up a habit have a real and immediate impact on your body.

According to Dispenza, when you remember or imagine something, your brain and body react as if it’s real. In other words, we can put ourselves into a stress response state just by thinking about stressful situations.

Doing so repeatedly puts us in a state of chronic stress. Stress knocks us out of balance emotionally, so chronic stress makes us unbalanced people. It keeps us focused on our external reality, which doesn’t leave enough energy for our internal functioning—our thinking and feeling—and we often end up getting sick as a result.

State of Being: A Thinking-Feeling Loop That Leads to Habits

Dispenza argues that your thoughts and feelings together create a loop that shapes your reality—what Dispenza refers to as a state of being.

Thoughts come from the mind, and feelings come from the body.

However, while thoughts and feelings originate in different places, they’re constantly giving each other feedback, creating a loop: A thought will make you feel a certain way, and then when you later feel that specific way, you’ll have that same thought.

Loops can be positive or negative. A bad thought is accompanied by a bad feeling, and the next time you have that feeling, the bad thought comes. Or you have a good feeling that feeds into good thoughts, and vice-versa.

These feedback loops shape your reality. If you have a negative loop, you’ll see the world negatively. If you have a positive loop, you’ll see the world positively.

This reality eventually becomes a part of your identity. If your state of being is one of insecurity, for example, you’ll begin to think of yourself as an insecure person.

The more these loops are allowed to continue, the more these habits become hardwired in you.

Neuroplasticity

These thinking-feeling loops literally change your brain so they become more ingrained in you, thereby forming a habit.

As Dispenza explains, recent research in neuroscience has shown that our brains have the ability to change in response to stimuli, both internal and external.

This quality is referred to as neuroplasticity, and it means the way you think can literally change the structure of your brain.

When you have a thought or feeling, certain neurons in your brain fire electrical signals. The more often neurons fire at the same time, the more likely they are to fire at the same time in the future—in other words, neurons that fire together, wire together, a principle known as Hebb’s law.

Hebb’s law explains how to create and strengthen the neuronal pathways for new, positive habits, but to do so you must replace older, negative habits.

One of the best ways to prune away old habits is to make a large, drastic life change, forcing your brain to change how it operates so it can no longer rely on old habits.

However, such changes can be difficult and frightening. Another way is to make small, conscious changes that you frequently reinforce.

Because of neuroplasticity and Hebb’s law, the thinking-feeling loops change the structure of your brain—frequently thinking or feeling something causes you to repeatedly use the neurons associated with those thoughts or feelings, which hardwires those thoughts or feelings into your brain, forming a habit.

Dispenza suggests that we can use our internal environment to control the effect our external environment has on our genes and that a strong, positive internal state can help us overcome harmful environments.

Bad habits form when you allow your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to be controlled by your body, your environment, and time. This means that your external circumstances, bodily reactions, and inability to let go of the past determine your reality.

As a result, you’re trapped living in the past, re-experiencing the events and emotions that fed into your current habits, or you’re trapped thinking and worrying about the future.