Good Habits Are Easier To Make Than Bad Habits Are To Break…
As with so many women, I am constantly trying to attain some “better” version of myself. Don’t get me wrong, I like me. But, there is always room for improvement in pursuit of a healthier life. It’s not for anyone else’s happiness, but for my own. And my happiness is important to me (you have to be your own advocate!). If I’m unhappy, I feel it’s my duty to take steps to address it. Whether it’s a bad diet or a bad attitude, my biggest stumbling block always begins with breaking bad habits. Like pounds, habits are easy to gain and hard to shed. These are some useful tips to keep in mind to help you break yours.
1. Keep track.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so measure the frequency of the bad habit and write it down. It helps you become mindful of how often you do it and helps you see your progress – or regress – as you try to correct it. We are emotional creatures, when we see hard data that we’re improving, it gives us good feelings. When we get good feelings, we want more of them and thus work harder to break the habit. It’s cyclical. Don’t feel much like journaling? The minicomputer glued to your hand (aka your smartphone) has both a calendar app and a notepad app, either one would work great for record-keeping.
2. Find your habit’s good twin.
When you’re trying to quit doing something, you need a behavior to replace it with, and you need to know it in advance. If you get to the actual act of doing the bad habit, it’s going to be easy to just keep doing it without a backup plan in place already. That’s the problem with habits! Here’s a simple example: I snack on cookies (“evil twin”) every day and I want to stop. So, I need to have a healthy alternative, like cut up fruit (“good twin”), ready to go for when that afternoon craving hits.
3. Learn your triggers.
Most bad habits are triggered by some internal or external factor. You probably know what it is too. I skip workouts when I’m tired, for example. If tiredness is an issue, go to bed earlier. Your hurdle may not be attacking the habit itself, but avoiding the trigger in the first place. If you want to look at your phone less at the dinner table, quit bringing it to the table at all. By making it harder to engage in the habit, you give yourself more time to realize that you’re falling into old patterns.
4. Remind yourself why it’s a bad habit.
You’ve started this habit-ending journey because something about engaging in that habit made you feel bad, or sad, or less than you want to feel. Keep that negative feeling in mind. Don’t let it depress you, let it motivate you! Most bad habits have some after-effect that is the true driver for wanting change. For smokers, it’s a future of health concerns. For moms who don’t pre-rinse dishes, it’s having to waste five minutes scouring that stuck on crud the next day when the dish is still dirty out of the dishwasher. We all have our motivators.
5. Forgive yourself.
Habits are hard to break for everyone. It’s two steps forward, one step back. You can’t hate yourself or become depressed every time you fail. If you do, your negative feelings are going to spread and you’ll give up. If you are constantly failing, then you need to re-visit #2 and re-think your substitute, because it clearly isn’t good enough to outweigh your desire for the bad habit. You must expect some failures. The trick is to let those failures go and start again – and make a habit of doing that! With repetition, you create the new habit, and the old one fades away.
Make Not Giving Up Your Habit.
I have plenty of habits I’d like to change. I used to try the New Year’s Eve Resolution approach, “tomorrow I quit doing that for good.” But cold turkey sucks and, more often than not, leads to failure. To replace a bad habit, you need to create a new one and creating habits takes time. I’m not going to ever wake up one day to “a new me.” I’m a work in progress. I’m going to work every day to be a little better than the day before – whether that means healthier, stronger, braver, kinder – and I know I’ll be a happier and more confident me because of it.