“I’m starting my diet on Monday.”
“This is my last pack of cigarettes. I swear I’ll quit smoking.”
“That’s it, I’m not going to buy things I don’t need.”
We know how easy it is to form habits and how difficult it can be to break them, but not all habits are bad. They actually help us become productive and efficient in life. Think of all the things you do every day; you wake up, take a shower, get dressed, grab a bite to eat, get the kids to school, go to work; all without much conscious thought.
Through constant repetition, your behaviours become deeply wired into your brain and go on autopilot, freeing up your brain to focus on other things.
Good news: We are all comfort-seeking creatures of habit.
Bad news: We are all comfort-seeking creatures of habit.
Either way, we can’t help it. So, why not choose a healthy habit that will serve you instead of choosing unhealthy, self-defeating ones that hinder you and keep you stuck in a rut?
If we can understand the nature of the beast, it will make the process easier. Habits are automatic behaviours. In order to replace a bad habit, you need to create more conscious decisions along with consistent efforts at repeating the new desired behaviour. It’s about becoming proactive instead of reactive, as well as choosing to be more deliberate instead of sticking to the same old routine.
For the most part, it can be a taunting task. What makes it more difficult is that most people lack the proper approach and tools. Please take note that even the best of plans cannot work unless they are followed by action. To tackle bad habits, you need to become behaviourally flexible in order to start doing things differently.
An overview on how to rest your mind and your habits
Identify what you want in your life and which behaviour you would like to change.
Take a personal inventory and figure out what’s not working. A small percentage of the population can succeed at changing their bad habits by going cold turkey. However, for most people, it is best to learn how to focus your attention on one habit at a time, and as your work progresses, you will find that it will become easier to make the shift.
Figure out the why. Write down a list of all the reasons why you want to quit a habit. You need to convince yourself that the change will be worth it and that you really want it. This will help keep you motivated.
Can you figure out what your trigger points are? Avoid them by finding replacements; do something different. In essence, you are finding a new substitute so that when the trigger occurs, you are better prepared to deal with it.
Create a new game plan and set incremental goals rather than try to change everything all at once. Include a start and finish date, the step-by-step plan, and how you will track your progress. Make realistic goals.
Become mindful. Bring your awareness to the habit as it occurs, so then you will be in a better position to switch gears.
Whatever you focus on grows. For example, say “I enjoy eating healthy foods.” as opposed to “I’m going to quit eating junk food.” Make sure you use visualizations to help you focus on the positive end results and bring them to life.
Develop new routines and set up alternate routes.
To start building better habits, you need to change the environment associated with the bad habit you want to change.
It’s not so much about willpower as it is about changing behaviours and implanting small baby steps; one day at a time, one step at a time.
Make sure you get support and surround yourself with like-minded people. This will help keep you motivated and encouraged.
Enlist the help of positive people (friends, family, online networks) who will fuel the positive changes. Stay away from negative people. They are bad influences, and you end up feeling drained.
Join a support group or, if need be, seek out professional help.
Always remember to be kind and gentle to yourself. Realize that it is going to take time, commitment, focus and effort.
What is critical in breaking your habits is your daily actions. Be prepared for setbacks and resistance along the way.
If you fall off the wagon, get back on. Don’t scrap the whole plan. Forgive yourself for relapses. Everyone makes mistakes. Remember that falling is not failing.
Even if you are having a bad day, hold on. Perseverance and consistency are important to stay the course.
Establish incentives to reward yourself with the small wins along the way.
Recent studies show that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to break a habit, with the average being 66 days or 2 months, as a more realistic estimate. Keep in mind that while these numbers are not set in stone, each individual situation is unique and depends on many factors. However, the determining factors are how consistent you are and how badly you want to change.
Although this period will be the hardest, once you are over it, it will become easier to maintain the new habit.
Staying stuck in your comfort zone is what limits your personal and professional growth.
Practice, practice, and more practice will make your new habit permanent, just as the old habit came to be.
Harness the power of habits. You have the power to control your habits. By adjusting your mental attitude, you can change the way you act and ultimately, change your behaviour. Compulsive behaviours make you feel like you are losing control and make you feel powerless.
Change does not require more energy, just a redirection of energy. Create conscious, intentional choices and take action. You can transform your bad habits.
Stop your bad habit by starting a new one!