That latte you have every morning. The chocolate at 2 pm. The wine after work. The snacks with TV after dinner. Reading emails when you don’t need to be.
Why do you do these things?
We all have certain behaviours, but when we do something repetitively it becomes a habit. Habits are automatic processes that we undertake day today. Most of our habits are beneficial and even necessary. The habit of brushing your teeth, or showering daily, or perhaps hugging your kids before bed.
Habits become problematic when they don’t serve our higher good, or do us harm. These ‘bad’ habits can sabotage our health and are hard to consciously beat because your brain is often hardwired to do them. But you can break them, so let’s explore some of the ways you can kick a bad habit to the curb.
1. Identify the habits so that you can change them
Sometimes your bad habits will be obvious, but other times less so. Think about the things you do each day – are they serving you to be a better version of yourself or are they holding you back?
Once you are aware of the habit, you need to do a bit of detective work to understand it better.
- What is the habit?
- What is bad about it?
- When does it normally happen?
- Is it at the same time each day?
- What triggers the behaviour?
- Where are you?
- Who are you with?
- Is there any pattern to the behaviour?
Knowing the answers to this can help you to get clear on what you need to do to stop it.
2. Think about the ‘why behind the habit’
There is a reason you do what you do. Are you tired, and can’t get through your day without the coffee? Are you stressed and need the wine to defrag after work? Are you bored so you eat in the afternoon? You need to look at addressing the underlying cause behind the habit. See a naturopath help you sleep. Look at the underlying reasons for the stress. Without considering why you’re doing what you’re doing the root cause will end up putting you right back there.
3. Replace it with something positive
The easiest way to stop an unhealthy habit is to find a replacement. Instead of your coffee in the morning, could you have herbal tea? Instead of the wine, what about talking it out with your partner? Or going for a walk? If you’re reaching for chocolate at 2 pm, maybe go and talk to a coworker or take a moment to move your body to break the pattern. Think of something you’d like to do – perhaps it’s learning a new language, reading or something artistic. Make a start on these in the time slots you’re most likely to slip into the bad habit.
4. Cut the triggers out
Try to avoid the environments, people and places that trigger the bad habit. Have friends that smoke and you’re trying to give up? Avoid them. Sitting near the cookie jar at work? Move it! It takes far more energy and willpower to break a habit if the trigger is right in front of your face, so do what you can to avoid them.
5. Be with the people who are rooting for your success
Be mindful of the people you surround yourself in and hang out with the people who will help with your success. If someone is negative about you trying to shift the habit, or even pressure you into continuing (against your better good) then avoid them while you’re breaking your habit. It is amazing how many adults will still peer pressure their friends, family and colleagues to eat badly, drink more or have other negative behaviours. Positivity breeds positivity, so choose your friends wisely.
6. Don’t aim for perfection
It’s OK to fail sometimes when you’re giving up a habit. As you’re shifting, you may slip up from time to time. Make sure you celebrate your success and avoid dwelling on the failures. If what you’ve tried hasn’t worked, try something else! There are many different ways to break a habit and the first go may not be the last.
7. Make the replacement habits easy!
When starting a new habit make an effort to make it as easy as possible to complete. For instance, if you’re going to go for a walk in the morning, place your clothes and shoes right near your bed so that when you wake up they are right in front of you. This visual cue will help reduce the likelihood of your negative ‘I don’t want to talk winning out. If you’re trying to stop eating sweets at 2 pm then have some healthy snacks or a protein shake at your desk ready to go. Prepare to succeed, visualise your success and celebrate when you get there!
Habits can be hard to break because they are just that, habits! Be mindful, persevere and success awaits you.