12 Months to a Healthier You Series-August: Breaking Bad Habits
For the 12 Months to a Healthier You Series, The focus has mostly been on the physical aspect of being healthy except for the month of January when the topic/focus was Positivity.
Being healthy is a holistic effort. That is why BeOrganicallYou focuses on Natural Health and Wellness-mind, body, AND soul. There has to be a balance. You cannot have one of those areas in tip top shape and the other one or two are lacking. Having an imbalance in one of those three areas is not being healthy or being organically you!
So therefore for August we will again focus on the mind. August’s focus is how to break a bad habit.
Break a bad habit
Whether it’s smoking, procrastinating, always being tardy, or nail biting, many of us have a bad habit we just can’t seem to shake. Learn how to break bad habits for good this time.
Tune into the feelings associated with your urge to follow through with the bad habit. Ignoring the habit or being in denial will only create stress and cause you to act on impulsive thoughts regarding the habit. Tune in to how you feel and what you think may be the origin of the bad habit.
Change your environment
Everyone knows that if you stay in an environment conducive to the bad habit then it’s a lot harder to quit the habit. The wrong surroundings can encourage a bad habit or facilitate a good one. For example, if you go grocery shopping and buy cookies and chips and stock them in your pantry then guess what? When you get hungry for a snack you will eat cookies and chips. If you only keep healthy snacks such as fruits and nuts around then you will have no choice but to eat that. Because more than likely you are not going to feel like making a run to the store every time you want a sweet treat.
Replace old habits with new healthy ones
Bad habits tend to have triggers (like stress) that tempt you to engage in them. However, if you plan ahead of time you can think of how to respond when the urge to perform the bad habit emerges. Some things to be aware of:
- Determine when your habit shows up. Identify situations that bring on the habit. Record how often and where it presents itself.
- Write down a list of advantages and disadvantages of keeping—or changing—your habit. What are the rewards or consequences of changing or not changing the habit.
- Consider the alternative. Develop a competing response that you can employ instead of falling back on your habit.
- Set some goals. Make a plan with short-and long-term goals regarding breaking the habit, and reward yourself when you reach them.
Planning for Change
Before doing anything else, you must prepare for the change in the habit you’re trying to break. Odds are you’ve tried to break this routine in the past. And in all likelihood, you failed because you didn’t have a plan or relied too much on willpower.
Failure in the past doesn’t mean you’ll fail in the future. Usually it’s a direct result of not having a solid strategy for breaking this bad habit. In other words, you didn’t follow the age-old adage:
So before doing anything else, you should implement these strategies to make sure you’re positioned for success.
Strategy #1: Don’t Overdo It
You should focus on one habit at a time. Trying to implement too many habit breaking systems at one time will just leave you overwhelmed. Focusing on more than one habit is a sure way to set yourself up for failure. When you over extend yourself it becomes too hard to control impulses. When it’s overexerted, it becomes hard to control your impulses.
Strategy #2: Practice Getting Rid of the Habit for at Least 30 Days
Pick one habit you want to rid yourself of and challenge yourself for 30 days. Spending a month working on stopping a habit will help you gain much knowledge about the habit. With this added knowledge, you’ll soon find the best way to go about breaking the habit.
Strategy # 3: Set a Begin and End Date
Consider keeping a journal to help you keep tracking of your progress. Pick a start date and end that for your goal. Preferably this will a time span of a minimum of 30 days. In between the 30 days evaluate the situation and adjust as needed. At the end of the 30 days have a reward set in place for when you break the habit. As it gets closer to the end you should find yourself encouraged and excited at not only breaking a bad habit, but getting that reward.
Strategy #4: Identify Your Desired Outcome
Goal setting should be a part of your bad habit elimination program. With goal setting there should be specific outcomes in mind. For example, you may pick eating healthier as your goal. That’s a good start but it needs to go further than that. What foods do you need to eat healthier? What foods do you need to avoid? For your goal you could say “I will not eat at any fast food places for the next 30 days”. What is the desired outcome? Perhaps your desired outcome is to lose weight, cook more home cooked meals, or save money by not eating out.
Strategy #5: Avoid Superman/Superwoman Syndrome
We all would love to just go “cold turkey” and hope for the best. The problem with the cold turkey method is that there’s no planning involved, little thinking involved, and too many ways in which one can fail.
It’s perfectly o.k. to take your time in breaking your habit. No one is expecting the breakthrough to happen overnight. Sure, some people can go cold turkey, but there is absolutely no reason why you should be putting pressure on yourself to do the same.
Strategy #6: Take Baby Steps
A fine example of taking baby steps is someone who is trying to break their smoking habit. If you’ve smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for the last 10 years, you have to be realistic. More than likely you cannot say okay I will only smoke 1 cigarette a day until I break this habit. A better idea is to say I will cut back by 1 cigarette a day until I am no longer smoking any cigarettes.
Setting your own metric is best. Pay no mind to anyone else’s goals or metrics. You know yourself better than anyone and what is doable for you personally. Other metrics for various goals can include the number of times, amount of time, how much, how many, and so on.
Be mindful that there will be times when completing a goal for the day will just not be possible. You might fail one day and do great the next. The key is to just make changes to your life over a period of time, not in a few days, weeks, or months even. Each situation is different.
Since all habits have actions and thoughts that occur beforehand the key is to figure out the trigger to your habit and then adjust accordingly.
Let’s say you got a bad report from the dentist and now you’re trying to brush your teeth not only when you first get up but also at night before you go to bed. You’ve gotten lazy over the years and fall into bed each night too exhausted to brush your teeth. On the surface, this might seem like an innocent goal. But let’s examine this further. The lack of brushing your teeth before you go to bed has led to a number of problems: increased cavities, increased financial expenses from dental visits, tooth pain that interrupts your sleep at times, more frequent sick call ins to work, etc. You’ve gone from two nights a week to never brushing your teeth before bed. An occasional habit has become a full blown problem.
If you’ve been diligent in taking notes on your habit you will quickly identify some patterns that may stand out.
Using the tooth brushing example from earlier, your notes might include your mood right before bed, what you’re doing, and the time at night when you go to bed.
Say you have the following:
What you’re doing: watching tv, getting the kids ready for bed, preparing lunch for the next day
Time: 10:00 pm
Reading the notes above, you may realize that you don’t brush your teeth before bed because you’re too preoccupied or tired. You’re tired because you are getting the kids ready for bed or preparing lunch for the next day. The time is pretty late (10:00 pm).
With this next knowledge, it’s time to do some readjusting. Perhaps you need to start preparing lunches for the next day as soon as you get home from work instead of waiting. Maybe you can alternate getting the kids ready for bed with your husband or wife so that a few nights a week you have more free time to yourself. Are you seeing the big picture here?
Bad habits go way deeper than we even realize sometimes and can have many underlying causes. By analyzing these triggers, you now know that your lack of tooth brushing has more to do with lack of energy or perhaps even being too preoccupied and forgetting than it does being lazy.
Some people are great at encouraging themselves and keeping their momentum without any outside influence. Others may need a bit of accountability to keep them in line! If you are one of the latter you may need to find you an accountability partner.
There’s no need to go this alone, unless of course you want to. Why not regularly communicate with someone who shares a similar desire to make a lasting change. Talk or meet with this person a few times each week to share your experiences. Or, pick a close friend or family member who you can call in those moments of weakness who will snap you back to reality. You can also find like-minded individuals and groups with similar goals. These people and groups can be your online support system as well.
Still not enough accountability for you? Announce your goal on social media. Nothing like public embarrassment to keep you on the straight and narrow huh? Who wants to announce that they are going to do such and such only to have someone ask you about it a few months later or call you out on it if it doesn’t happen? This tactic may be a little extreme and harsh but some people thrive on this type of situation and are extremely motivated by it.
Unfortunately, there will be people who will subconsciously (or consciously) try to sabotage your efforts at self-improvement. These people may be random strangers, close friends or even family members. Their words can be detrimental because they’ll flood your mind with doubts and limitations. Listen to them at your own risk. The moment you start believing them, is the moment you will have already decided to fail.
Finally, if all else fails-seek professional help. There is no shame in getting the help you need and deserve. You may require a higher level of expertise that goes beyond your own understanding.
Many people are ashamed at the thought of seeking help, let alone professional help. There is no shame in bettering yourself and receiving the resources you need to accomplish your goals. In fact, self-improvement should be commended.
Are you looking for more tools to help make your life the best it can be? Are you ready to make your dreams a reality? If so, grab this free Vision Board Toolkit here and start turning those dreams into a reality!
In the meantime don’t forget to…Eat well. Be well. Repeat