Bad habits can be particularly destructive in our lives.
They can cause us pain, frustration, embarrassment and anger. They waste our time, money, energy and ruin our health and relationships. One bad habit left unchecked, can negatively impact many areas of your life. Because habits are something we do ‘consistently’, these negative effects compound over time. For example, the habit of unhealthy eating can lead to health problems, weight gain, reduced energy and lowered self confidence. Over time this can impact your ability to work effectively, develop good relationships and live a full, happy and productive life.
Because of the negative and compounding effects of bad habits, it is best to deal with them as soon as possible.
Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Become aware of your habits. You cannot change something you are not aware of! Once you have identified a bad habit you wish to break, start to gain awareness around the habit itself. When, where, how, why, who do your habit with? Because habits are largely unconscious, the more aware you can become of your habit, the more power you have to change it.
2. Focus on one habit at at time. You will need to consciously focus on doing your new behaviour until it becomes a habit. Because the new behaviour is unfamiliar, carrying it out requires additional physical and mental resources. Discipline yourself to just work on one habit at a time, otherwise you risk none of your desired behaviours becoming permanent habits.
3. Get motivated. Because bad habits are particularly resistant to change, you need to build your motivation to ensure you carry out the change. Consider both the short and long term consequences of continuing with your habit. These can impact not only yourself but friends, family and loved ones. Consider what habits you are passing on to your children and grandchildren. Write a list of all the benefits you will receive by breaking your bad habit and read over these morning and night to keep your motivation levels high.
4. Replace lost needs. At one point, your bad habit was most likely filling an emotional need. For example, are you eating for comfort or pleasure rather than nourishment? If so, try and find a healthier way to get this need met such as calling a friend or watching a funny video. Your habit may have been meeting MANY needs e.g. you may eat junk food in order to socialise, for pleasure, comfort, nourishment etc. You will need to replace EACH of these needs in order to successfully overcome your negative habit.
5. Make a plan and decide what you will do instead of your bad habit. For example, instead of watching TV, you might go for a walk or read a book.
6. Avoid people and situations that might trigger your habit. For example, perhaps drinking with friends triggers you into wanting a cigarette.
7. Practise the new habit. Changing a habit involves creating a new neural pathway for your brain to take instead of the old one. You need to practise the new habit at every opportunity in order to make the new neural pathway stronger and easier for your brain to take than the old one. Research indicates it takes 21-30 days of daily practise to lock in the foundations of a new habit.
8. Record your progress. Daily recording of your progress helps you stay focused on your goal and to easily identify problem areas or situations.
9. Use rewards and punishments to keep yourself on track. Perhaps you can take a nice holiday with the money you will save on cigarettes. Or, you could schedule in regular breaks or a night out with friends to reward yourself for focused study efforts. Use not only big rewards for reaching your ultimate goal but small, frequent rewards for your daily successes.
10. Build in accountability. Tell friends and family about your commitment to your new habit and get their support with helping you follow through. You might enlist the help of an exercise buddy to help you form the habit of daily exercise.
11. Experiment. In the process of changing your habit you may need to modify it slightly to suit or another bad habit you weren’t aware of has risen to the surface
12. Get immediately back on track. Chances are you will make mistakes and have slip ups. Learn from these and make course corrections as necessary.
More Help!. For anyone who has tried to change a habit, you will know is not an easy business. For further tools, techniques and strategies, download your free "7 Steps to Make or Break Habits" Ebook summary now.