“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” – Benjamin Franklin
We all have habits. Some are good, healthy habits, while others are bad and possibly even dangerous. Throughout our lives we often set goals to try to create new, good habits or to break the bad ones we already possess. Many people try again and again to change their habits for the better only to meet with failure in the end. Learning a new habit can be just as difficult as breaking a bad one that you’ve struggled with for years. There are reasons for this and steps that you can take to help ensure your success.
Establishing good, healthy habits can enrich your life in countless ways. When an action becomes a habit, it becomes automatic and you don’t really have to give it much thought. Some of the healthy habits that people try to develop include; eating healthier, exercising regularly, meditating, completing chores around the home, or simply taking time out daily for them-selves. These are just a few examples but, basically anything that you want to do on a regular basis that will enrich your life and make you happier can become a habit.
Here are nine, simple tips that are easy to follow and can help you to turn healthy activities into lifelong habits.
1. Take baby steps. – You cannot expect to just dive in and be successful when developing a good habit. Start with small manageable steps. If you would like to make healthy eating a habit, start by swapping out specific foods or meals for healthier options. If you make sudden, drastic changes to your lifestyle, the odds are good that you will not be successful.
2. Make yourself accountable. – Tell a friend or family member whose opinions matter to you. By telling a trusted friend or family member about your intension to develop a new habit you promote accountability. You will be more likely to stick to your habit if you know that you will have to answer to someone other than yourself.
3. Treat yourself. – You should be proud of the fact that you are trying to make positive changes in your life. Reward yourself regularly when you stick to your new habit. Treat yourself to a pedicure or a warm bubble bath. Spend a Saturday morning sleeping in, or play a few rounds of golf on the course. Whatever it is that you love… do it.
4. One habit at a time. – Work on developing one habit at a time. If you are anything like me, there are a ton of new, healthy habits that you want to incorporate into your life. Focus on one at a time so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Developing a habit, like exercising regularly might seem like a small change but it’s not. When you begin to develop a new habit of any kind you are changing the way that you live your life.
5. Make sure that you really want it. – The more you want to make even small changes, the more likely you will stick with them. Don’t ever begin to develop a habit that you don’t want just because you think, or have been told, that it’s the right thing to do. If you try to force yourself to do something you hate, you will avoid it at all costs. If you hate going to the gym, don’t do it. There are plenty of good habits that you can develop that will enrich your life and that you will enjoy.
6. Plan it out.- Sit down and make a list of the good habits you would like to develop. Prioritize the list and determine what habits you would like to develop first. Once you have this figured out, write out a plan. By putting this in writing you can refer back to it whenever you need a bit of extra motivation and it will help you stay on track.
7. Be very specific. – Don’t just say, “I want to make it a habit to drink more water”. Instead, say, “I want to begin drinking eight glasses of water each day”. By being specific you know exactly what you have to do to develop your new habit and will not become overwhelmed. If you are too vague, you could easily rationalize that you drank more water today than yesterday, even if it wasn’t your desired eight glasses.
8. Use tools. – Utilize every resource that you have at your disposal. You can make lists, journals, charts, spreadsheets… anything that will help you to keep track of your goals. I often use sticky notes around the house. I will place reminders on walls, mirrors, the refrigerator, and anywhere else that I think they may be helpful. They may not look pretty but they help me to stay motivated.
9. Don’t berate yourself for slip-us. – We all slip up from time to time. Just yesterday, I was snacking on a few potato chips while watching television. Before I knew it, the entire bag was empty! It happens to everyone. Realize this, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Remind yourself of why you wanted to develop the habit in the first place, and then start again
“A man who can’t bear to share his habits is a man who needs to quit them.” – Stephen King, The Dark Tower
Why is it so difficult to break bad habits? There are things we do on a daily, or even hourly basis that we know aren’t good for us. We bite our fingernails, smoke cigarettes, make unhealthy food choices, procrastinate, lead sedentary lives, etc. Every one of us has a bad habit that we would love to break, but we often have difficulty doing so. This is because, once a habit is developed, we rarely even notice we are doing it. It becomes part of who we are. If we want to improve our lives, breaking bad habits is a wonderful place to start.
Here are 5 common reasons why we often fail at breaking bad habits.
1. We expect results too quickly. – We didn’t develop our bad habit in one day, and we certainly can’t expect to break it in one day either. Breaking a habit takes time. We must be patient and persistent in our goals.
2. We have a low level of self-awareness. – I have been a nail biter for the majority of my life. I do it without even thinking and am usually not even aware that I have been chewing on them until I feel pain or see blood. This is because I am not always self-aware. We often go through life on autopilot, but when we are trying to break a habit, we need to slow down and pay attention to everything we are doing. We must make an attempt to really live in the moment. If we develop a stronger sense of self-awareness, we can head off our bad habits as soon as we begin doing them.
3. We use our habits as an emotional crutch. – Many of our habits, like smoking or turning to food when we are in need of comfort, serve as a coping mechanism for emotional stress or pain. We need to look for other, healthier substitutes for these habits. When I was trying to quit smoking, I would often exercise whenever I would feel an urge. The exercise took my mind off of my immediate craving and helped me to relieve my stress in a healthy way.
4. We don’t tell anyone we are trying to break our habit. – Breaking a bad habit is extremely difficult. It is even more difficult when we do not have the support of our friends and family. We often fail to tell them out of fear. We think that by not telling them, we can avoid disappointing them if we fail. In order to successfully break a bad habit we must tell those we love and trust. They will give us the support we need and they will also make us accountable for our actions.
5. We are too hard on ourselves when we slip back into old patterns. – Just as developing new habits is hard, breaking old ones is extremely difficult. We will all slip up from time to time. We must stay positive and remember why we want to break our habits. Do you want to be a better role model for your children? Do you want to avoid a second heart attack? Do you want your nails to be beautiful for your wedding day? Whatever your motivation is, remember, there is a very good reason why you decided to break your bad habit in the first place. When we slip up and fall back into our bad patterns, we must take a moment to remember why it is important to break the habit. Then, we must start again.
I hope that these tips will help you to feel guided in having motivation to break habits you’re not happy about or develop new ones you’re proud of.
“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” -Brian Tracy
Written by Chelsea O’Brien, author of “I Eat Weird” and founder of BingeEatingBreakthrough.com. Discovering how to stop binge eating has shifted her life in a whole new direction. Her counter-intuitive approach has inspired many others that feel unhappy with their bodies and eating. Download her free “Breakthrough Binge Eating” video course at www.bingeeatingbreakthrough.com.
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