Breaking Bad: Using Routine to Overcome Maladaptive Behavioral Patterns

Team IIBP Business Psychology, General Psychology, Issue 40, Mental Health, Mental Health Champions, News Corner, Volume 4

We all hate routines, right? We often associate it with monotony and drudgery, believing they stifle our spontaneity and freedom. But what If I told you that routines when approached with the right mindset, can be the unsung heroes that bring positive transformation into our lives.

Routines help us to build our cognitive habits which further influence our decision making process and thought patterns. Psychology explores how routine influences our thoughts, emotions and behaviours emphasising their role in promoting mental well being, physical health and overall psychological health. Understanding this relationship can empower individuals to use routines as tools for personal growth and resilience.

But, how routines can help in overcoming maladaptive behavioural patterns? Maladaptive behavioural patterns are the cognitive habits that could include Substance abuse, self harm , impulsive behaviours and social isolation which can negatively affect their work, school and personal life. Routines can provide structure, consistency and predictability which can help individuals to break free from maladaptive behavioral patterns.

(i) Routines are the essential element of behavioural therapy. Therapists work with clients to identify the maladaptive behaviours and replace them with the healthier ones. For example, a client experiencing overthinking issues can potentially improve their mental well being by adopting healthier behaviours, such as practising mindfulness which involves focussing on the present moment.

(ii) Routines can be integrated into Cognitive Behavioural therapy( CBT) by scheduling regular sessions for cognitive restructuring and practising new adaptive behaviours for cognitive restructuring and practising new adaptive behaviours in a systematic way. CBT incorporates principles of positive reinforcement. When individuals experience positive outcomes from their new routines, they are more likely to continue with them. This reinforces the shift away from maladaptive behaviours.

(iii) Routines can also serve as a constructive defence mechanism for individuals struggling with maladaptive behaviours. For example, instead of using denial and repression to avoid uncomfortable emotions, individuals can incorporate routine activities like exercise, creative expression, or engaging in hobbies that provide healthier outlets for their emotions.

(iv) Healthier routines such as Self Reflection, daily journaling, mindfulness exercise and therapy sessions can help individuals explore the root causes of their maladaptive behaviours. Keeping a journal or using tracking tools within their routines help individuals to reflect on their experiences, identify their patterns and adjust their strategies as needed. This consistent self exploration activities can lead to a greater insight and motivation for change.

(v) Routines provide a gradual change which can be less threatening to individuals. Slowly integrating healthier behaviours into their daily life can make the process of change more manageable. For example, individuals with impulsive behaviour seek immediate gratification and struggle to delay rewards. Routines can incorporate activities that require delayed gratification, helping individuals practise patience and self-control.

We have all heard about the popular American series Breaking Bad. But do you know that this movie can also be seen through the lens of psychology and how routines can play a crucial role in altering the maladaptive behavioural patterns. This movie can be viewed as a psychological study on how routines and healthier behavioural patterns can both enable and hinder the process of breaking maladaptive behavioural patterns. Walter White and his transformation from a law abiding chemistry teacher to a drug lord can be understood by looking at how routines play a key role in his descent into criminality and ultimately his attempt to break free from the destructive patterns.

This story reminds us that while routines can trap us in maladaptive behaviours, they can also be harnessed as tools for change. By consciously altering our routines, making choices that align with our values and seeking support when needed. We can break free from the grip of maladaptive behaviours.

About the Author