Workshop Helps Attendees Kick Their Bad Habits

Anne Andlauer

By Anne AndlauerThe Daily Northwestern

About 25 people learned how to make and break habits Saturday afternoon at a workshop in Evanston Public Library.

A habit is a “constant and often unconscious inclination to perform some act, acquired through its frequent repetition,” said Wendy Lapidus-Saltz, a Chicago mind coach and corporate trainer who led the workshop.

Some habits are good and useful, like exercising or eating well. But Lapidus-Saltz also works with clients to eliminate harmful habits like smoking or overeating.

“Habits usually start consciously,” Lapidus-Saltz said. “Some kids may start smoking for socialization reasons, to feel rebellious and adult.” But by repetition, a conscious action often becomes automatic and unconscious, she said.

In her Chicago Gold Coast office, Lapidus-Saltz uses hypnosis to help her clients discard habits that hold them back. “Habits are learned and can be unlearned,” she said. “But people have to want it and to believe in hypnotherapy.”

The processes of intentionally breaking a habit and making one are similar. People first have to establish their motivations for change and to become aware of their habits, she said. The next step is to imagine themselves doing or being what they want.

Lapidus-Saltz also teaches clients how to “chunk down.”

“In neurolinguistics, chunking down is when people realize that they have to go through successive steps to achieve their goals,” Lapidus-Saltz said. With hypnosis “in one hour guaranteed,” Lapidus-Saltz promises to help smokers become permanent non-smokers by “transferring the pleasure derived from smoking to a healthier habit of their choice.”

Many students also trust hypnosis to lower their anxiety before taking exams. “I teach them easy techniques to release stress,” Lapidus-Saltz said. Those techniques include the creation of “anchors.”

“During the session, I ask my client to think about something in the room where the exam takes place – a chair, for example.” According to Lapidus-Saltz, looking at this “anchor” before the exam helps the student feel relaxed, as he was during the hypnosis session.

But people may also want to adopt good habits that make life better or easier. James Corcoran, an Evanston artist and writer, said he wanted to “learn how to improve my working habits.”

Corcoran said he thought Lapidus-Saltz could help him find ways to generate new organizational habits. “I need to designate more time to my writing and to train myself to be more productive.”

Ian Lapidus-Saltz, Wendy’s husband, faced the need to adopt new life habits a few years ago.

“After my cancer surgery, I had a very bad image of my body,” he said. “I knew I needed to drink water and to eat certain food. But I couldn’t find the courage nor the time to do it.” Lapidus-Saltz said the “chunking down” method helped him to keep from getting overwhelmed by his objectives and to overcome his surgery. “Today I feel better than ever,” Lapidus-Saltz said.

Not all habits are bad. Most of them remain minor. “This makes the difference with addictions, which are extreme habits done to excess,” Wendy Lapidus-Saltz said. This also makes the difference between the utility of a hypnotherapist for simple habits and the necessity of a psychotherapist for real addictions.

Reach Anne Andlauer at [email protected]