Break Bad Habits
How to make a plan, stick to it, and stay sane
A bad habit is simply a negative behavior pattern or one which causes negative or unwanted consequences. As we approach the holidays and new beginnings, I hope this article helps ease your New Years resolution and brighten the coming new year! If you are reading this article and have decided to change a bad habit, good for you! By admitting the habit is a problem and making a resolution to quit, you’re already that much closer to success.
So What Causes Us to do Bad Habits?
At one time, we decided that something was easier, more enjoyable, less complicated etc then the consequences of doing it. For most, it can be as simple as instant gratification. Bad habits affect us all, and unfortunately are much easier to define than to overcome. Before even attempting to overcome a bad habit, you must come to the conclusion that you consider the consequences as “bad” not worth the gratification of the behavior. More often, we find ourselves willing and trying to change the behavior and finding it far more difficult than we anticipated.
Once we have decided to make a change, the individual must then make a commitment to altering the behavior despite current circumstances. How often do we manifest busy lifestyles while placing ourselves on the bottom of the pile. Does this sound familiar?
I will get to it when I am done with this. I will stop smoking once this project is done. I will eat a healthy breakfast once my work hours become more manageable. I will start meditating once I …
Well, you get the idea.
The fact is, there rarely is a ‘perfect moment’ to fix another problem. Once one obstacle disappears, another seems to take its place. It’s no wonder then we chose certain habits over others!
How to Change a Bad Habit: A Guide for the Exhausted, The Frustrated, and the Generally Fed Up Resolutionist
The key to breaking bad habits is to find a way to BREATHE through the changes, NOT white knuckle them.
It’s no secret: will-power only takes us so far. Yes, we can try the going “cold turkey method” (I still don’t know where that expression came from) however, that too has its limitations. While it’s difficult to design one program to work perfectly for each person, here are the main keys to success:
Compare Your Past and Personality
The first step (this) is to decide on your personality style and what has worked for you in the past. Examine what gives you confidence and where your biggest pitfalls are. Are you more amendable to change if you design a big huge overhaul change program? Do you prefer small measure steps? Or do you resonate with very tiny changes?
Make a Tangible Goal: Then Make Smaller Ones
Find your ultimate goal behind the habit change: The reason you started. Now, break that goal down into smaller, more attainable goals. For example, if your focus is to break the bad habit of eating junk food and live a healthier lifestyle, this can be broken down into drinking 8-10 8oz glasses of water per day or avoiding holding meetings at coffee shops and bakeries. Put these in degrees of difficulty, and use the success of accomplishing one to fuel your concentration on overcoming another. Give realistic measurements to accomplish those goals, and try not to fix everything at once.
Identify Your Habit Triggers
Once you have an idea of what has been keeping this bad habit alive, identify thoughts, behaviors, situations, people, places and/or things that have continued to retrigger it. Work on reducing as many triggers as you can. (Impossible to get rid of them all so don’t go crazy trying to do so. Just try and neutralize the ones you can). For example, if driving by the bakery continues to create salivation and a need to have cupcake in your face, find an alternate route – even if it’s out of the way.
Find a Habit Substitute
Find a substitute for your bad habit. Even if it’s the lesser of two evils. Hey, you got to start somewhere! i.e: Get rid of the cigarette and get a lollipop
Invest in an Accountability Partner
Develop a buddy system to help you stay accountable, be your ‘rah rah’ team, your non-judgmental confidante, and a shoulder to cry on if you need one. (Note: It’s OK to choose different people for these various roles)
Share Your Concerns
Use a therapist, life coach, friend, or even a journal to help you identify what has created this behavior or what at least has been fueling this behavior. (Note: When a licensed therapist is necessary, don’t use your friend in place of a therapist).
Surround Yourself with Affirmations
Surround yourself with positive affirmations of your progress. Post-it-notes, affirmations, goal sheets, star stickers on the calendar (I know juvenile but my personal favorite) …whatever you need to keep your focus on your wins, not losses. Surround yourself with peers who are living the way you want to live or support your current goals ( It’s really difficult to stop drinking alcohol (or at least cut down) when you stay with your present partiers.)
Delight in Friends and Family
Surround yourself with your friends and family during your holiday season. Allow others to support you. Reconnect with old friends or make new ones! Nothing grows the holiday spirit quite like sharing it with others.
Be Patient. Be Kind.
Most importantly, visual your success and be kind to yourself. It’s a process. There is no rule that says it needs to be serious and intense during this change. Do something fun to get out of your head and distracted. If a seated meditation doesn’t work mediate while walking outside. Stay pleasantly distracted with time in nature, in a social club, or online support forums. It’s OK to complain and share how difficult the change is, just remember to not let that become another bad habit.
Remember, it takes it takes 7 days to make a habit, 30 to break a habit, and 90 days to get a new habit to stick over an old one. Work on the first 30 days. Take it day by day or minute to minute if you need to. Find the level of support you need and alter it accordingly. Expect some days to be worse than others. It’s OK.
If you or someone you know is struggling through a bad habit, would like to create good ones, or simply wants to put their best foot forward for the new year, call me at (908) 268-0724 to set up an appointment. First-time clients will receive a FREE, no-strings-attached introductory session.