Spring Forward This Season: Overcome Heavy Habits

Habits: actions performed regularly, sometimes without awareness.

As Micah Shanser, CEO of performance and mental health center Amazing Brains in Avon and Frisco, explains, “[habits are] something that, when you don’t do it, you don’t feel like yourself.” Some habits are helpful, such as mindfully exercising or saving money, while others (even ones that begin with good intentions) can become heavy to carry, causing difficulty in relationships, work and life.


Before we can overcome a habit, though, we must identify it as harmful and be ready to change. Elizabeth Lutes, wellness coach, leader and entrepreneur from Durango, says, “Often the people closest to us can see the habits we have which are holding us back. Another way to look is to notice how we feel after each activity. Do we feel lighter? Clearer? Satisfied? Empowered? Or, dull? Diminished? Irritated? That is the body’s way of letting us know what is supporting us and what is not.”


Our internal dialogue matters. Considering a habit to be toxic is a slippery slope to believing you are inherently toxic (which is not the case). Rather than viewing the habit that you want to let go of as purely toxic or harmful, shift your thinking to be curious about the why behind the action. Both Shanser and Lutes point out that self-compassion is pivotal in this shift.

“It’s important to understand the drivers of the cycle; we put it in place for a reason,” Lutes explains. “Understanding that reason and having compassion for oneself for having had that need will create some space for making a different choice.”

“Acknowledge, honor and say thank you to [the behavior],” Shanser adds. “Acknowledge that it provided the best mechanism you had at that point, and now, you’re at a point where you have more stability, safety [and] resources.”


Everyone’s timeline is different. Shanser recommends moving forward with 1% changes. If you’re struggling with the habit of feeling afraid to speak up, for example, you can start small by opening up to yourself or in a journal, possibly to your therapist, then to your best friend, next to a group of trusted peers and so on.

Lutes reminds us to dissect habits and seek understanding in all four human elements —physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual. “Understanding how the habits we want to break operate in all four domains and then building a bridge from the harmful aspect to a healthy aspect is key. For example, if the harmful aspect is to overeat, the spiritual component may be an experience of isolation, the cognitive belief that I am not lovable, the emotional aspect of feeling lonely and the physical aspect of the need to eat to feel better. Taking on a new view that I am connected and lovable then leads to behaviors to generate new connections and will help shift the behavior of overeating. It’s not easy; changing one’s mindset and beliefs takes work, but the new habit is far more likely to hold if change is made in all domains.”


Setting achievable goals is the key to success when overcoming harmful habits. When you’ve identified a habit you want to shift, remember to be R.E.A.L. about your goals.

Realistic: “Realistic goal setting can get sabotaged by both moving too slow and not fast enough,” Shanser says. Ensure that your 1% smaller habits are attainable on your timeline, obvious to you and allow you to see results.

Extrinsically motivated: Set yourself up for success. Give yourself motivating factors, such as rewards, when you achieve a goal.

Accountable: Habit shifts should be rooted in your own authentic desires, and the right community will uphold that requirement. “Find the right support structure for you — friends, family members, professional care —whatever you need to make real progress,” Lutes encourages.

Long-term: Focus more on the process than the goal. “Take it slow, and don’t do it alone,” Lutes shares. Frequently look back on your journey of overcoming with gratitude and gentleness, Shanser recommends.


If you have a habit that is holding you back from flourishing (most likely the one you were thinking of as you read this article), use these reminders to spring forward this season and bloom into the best version of yourself!




Originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Spoke+Blossom.