Countering is one of the most effective techniques in the cycle of self-change. It’s easier to promote the new behavior than to get rid of the old one. Trying too hard to break a habit is usually a recipe for failure. As long as you’re focused on trying to break the old habit, you’re like a soldier who is fighting with one hand tied behind his back.

Focusing on your new behavior is like freeing the hand tied behind your back. Suddenly you have more power to bring about the change you desire. People who break bad habits frequently experience frustration in the early stages, when they’re trying as hard as they can to eliminate the old behavior.

In a very real sense, success comes when you stop trying. By focusing on your new lifestyle, you stop trying to break the old habit; almost without being aware of what’s happening, you move to the next stage as the new behavior replaces the old one. When your preparation is good, you should be able to move through the action stage very quickly. If you have laid the proper foundation, your transition from stage 4 to stage 5 will be a smooth one.

You need a strategy to handle the daily temptations that arise in this stage. One of the secrets to success is to stay active.

Our bodies are designed for activity. Ancient hunters lived on a diet of red meats that were high in bad cholesterol and triglycerides, the two most important factors in high blood pressure and

heart disease. Yet anthropologists have discovered that members of ancient hunting tribes did not suffer from these diseases, due to the fact that they led such active lifestyles.

The urges we feel when we light a cigarette, pour ourselves a drink, go for an extra piece of cake, or drive to the mall are often physical prompting's of an entirely different nature. We think our body is telling us to kick back and relax with a box of doughnuts when in reality our body is trying to tell us to move.

By now you should be convinced of the crucial role of exercise in your total lifestyle change. But you can't exercise or go for a walk all the time. So how do you fight temptation when you can't exercise?

The answer is RSD: relaxation, stretching, and deep breathing.

Relaxation: Smokers who say that they smoke in order to relax are fooling themselves. Research shows conclusively that nicotine and other chemicals in tobacco stimulate brain cells. Smoking provides the opposite of relaxation—nicotine is a stimulant. When you feel the urge to go back to your old habit, do something that’s truly relaxing. Think about a beautiful day at the beach. Imagine you’re floating in the water with the sun on your face. You can do this in just a few seconds. It works every time.

Stretching: This is a great technique to use at the office. I’m not talking about a 20-minute routine (although you should stretch for at least 10 to 15 minutes every day). Anytime you feel temptation strike, fight it by stretching for a few seconds. If you have just one minute, that will defeat the temptation.

Deep breathing: This is done just like you do it at the doctor’s office. Breathe in and breathe out. This technique works every time. Try it right now. You’ll see what I mean.

By keeping you in tune with the natural rhythm of your body, these three countering techniques remind you that you don't really want the chocolates after all.

Copyright (c) 2009

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