As promised in my article 10 Essential Rules of Healthy Living I will be expanding on each of the rules, starting today with Eliminate your Bad Habits.
If you are someone thinking about establishing a healthy lifestyle then this is a must read for you. Your goal is a good one, essential if you’re going to enjoy a life of good health, but it is a challenging one, particularly if you have many bad, entrenched habits.
Are you thinking about being more active? Trying to cut back on fattening foods? Are you starting to eat better and be more active but having a hard time sticking with these changes? Perhaps you’ve taken that big step and are trying to quit smoking.
You will know by now the meaning of the saying ‘Old habits die hard.’ Changing your bad habits is a process and sometimes it takes a while before changes turn into new habits. You may face challenges along the way. But adopting new, healthier habits can protect you from serious health problems in the future. So it’s worth persisting. After a while, if you stick with these changes, they may become a part of your daily routine helping you improve both your lifestyle and your health.
A habit is a learned pattern of behaviour that is repeated so often that it becomes automatic. Often there is a particular stimulus, or trigger, that activates the automatic behavioural response. Certain habits can be helpful, like the habit of brushing your teeth before going to bed or buckling your seatbelt when you get into a car. These are habits that a person builds on purpose, to achieve a positive objective.
When you woke up this morning, what did you do first? Did you jump into the shower, check your email, or grab a glass of water from the kitchen? Did you brush your teeth before or after you had breakfast? Tie the left or right shoe first? What did you say to your kids on your way out the door? Which route did you drive to work? When you got to your desk, did you deal with email, chat with a colleague, or jump into writing a memo? When you got home, did you put on your trainers and go for a run, or pour yourself a drink and eat dinner in front of the TV? Our life is a mass of habits. Just take a few minutes and think of all the habitual behaviours you carry out every day.
Some habits are not good for you, and they can cause distress or be damaging you in some way. Even the worst drinkers or chain smokers reading this know that your habit is having a harmful effect on you.
These bad habits are preventing you from healthy living, there is no doubt about that. You may not want to admit the effect they’re having on you, but they are. If you are committed to your health, then you have to admit to your personal bad habits, acknowledge their destructiveness and set about changing them. Stopping these bad habits, will increase your odds of being happy and healthy.
So hands up, admit to what they are. I’m not asking you to put your answer into a comment, I won’t be that cruel; but just admit these things to yourself.
Whether it be emotional eating, drinking alcohol in excess, smoking, having a sedentary lifestyle, not getting enough sleep or another bad habit, like spending hours on Facebook, looking at porn, or watching TV for hours on end, the time has come where you replace these habits with far better and healthier ones.
If you’re serious about having a healthy lifestyle, you need to change your bad habits, it’s that simple!
Getting rid of bad habits for healthy ones promotes your overall health and can protect you against medical problems like heart disease or cancer. So it is definitely something worth you doing.
By identifying your bad habits, replacing them with healthy choices, and then maintaining them, you can change your health. So get started and get rid of your bad habits once and for all.
The problem is that we get so comfortable in our ways that it’s hard to give up those old habits.
Bad habits are like a comfortable bed, easy to get into, but hard to get out of.
A Process to Eliminate Bad Habits
Once you’ve developed a habit, and have had it for a while, your brain stops fully partaking in decision making. It stops working so hard, or focuses on other tasks, because this habit, whatever it is, happens automatically. To rid yourself of it, you have to have a process to follow. Let me help you by providing the process you need to go through in order to change a habit.
Step One: Recognise the Problem
You first need to recognise the bad habit and acknowledge its harmfulness. Be it the amount of daily intake of coffee, cigarettes, the internet or cheesecake, once you admit your bad habits only then can you start taking action on curbing it. It is time for you to be self-aware and self-honest, determining those habits which don’t serve you – which are destructive in some way. Smoking, excessive drinking and eating junk food are the obvious habits people try to give up.
Step Two: Why do you engage in this bad habit?
Examine the setting of your habit. When does it happen, what instigates it? Just think about it for a little while and think about the situational and emotional context that triggers the habit. This can help you to see why you do it. . Often, habits have become so ingrained that we don’t even notice why we do them. Developing awareness noticing when you are doing it and under what circumstances and what feelings are attached to it, will help you to stop it.
Step Three: Why change it?
You need to list down the reasons for changing the habit, exactly why you want to get rid of it. By determining the strong emotional reasons why this habit is bad for you, why you have to stop, will help you to bring about the change. Will it help reduce your risk for serious health problems, increase your longevity , give you more energy?
Step Four: Determine how committed you are.
You have to figure out how you are feeling about changing your habits. There are 4 stages of change.
- Contemplation – In this stage you are considering change but you are not ready to start. You believe that your health, energy level, or overall well-being will improve if you develop new habits but you are not yet ready to do what is necessary to successfully make the change.
- Preperation – You have decided that you are going to change, you are making plans and figuring out specific ideas that will work for you getting ready to put your plan into action and get started.
- Action – You are acting on your plan and making the changes you set out to achieve.
- Maintenance – You have become used to your change and just have to keep things going, and never fall back into your old ways.
You now need to be at stage 2, preparation, ready soon to begin taking action at stage 3. If you’re not there yet, go back to step 2, and ensure your reasons for doing this change are big enough to make it a ‘must do’.
Step Five: Swap a bad habit with a good one
For a new habit to stick you need to replace the bad one with a good one. However bad your habit may be, getting rid of it without replacing it with something new is going to leave a big void in your life. It can often be much easier to stop your bad habits if you have another habit to fill its’ place. Make sure this new habit is a healthy one.
Step Six: Stay Committed
Willpower counts. You might be determined to break a bad habit, but the withdrawal symptoms will soon kick in and challenge you to return to your bad old ways. You need willpower to not give in. Willpower or self control is simply your ability to make a decision and stick to it. But while it can seem so easy to decide to eat a healthier diet, do regular exercise or quit smoking, the actual doing of it can be so hard, but once you decide to break a bad habit, you must stick with your decision. Make no exceptions.
Step Seven: Track your progress
Track your progress by using a physical activity log or keeping a journal. This will help you to stay on course. Focus on your results. Journal how things have been, record what has happened, show the process the attention it deserves. When people successfully give up smoking they count every day they’ve stopped and check on how their health has improved or see the money they’ve saved. So you need to reflect on your progress and what it has meant to you no longer doing this bad habit.
Step Eight: Reward Yourself
Think up some healthy reward or treat, and use them to keep you on track.Plan to reward yourself with something like buying that new piece of clothing or going on that trip when you have successfully avoided the habit for 6 weeks, demonstrating to yourself the importance of stopping this bad habit.
A lot of hard work. Probably many attempts, and many failures. Just remember the effort is worth it because the reward is good health. Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped. Bear in mind as the saying goes ‘Rome wasn’t built over night. Research shows that it takes 92 days or near over two months to inculcate a new habit in anyone. Changing your bad habit is worth it so persist.