“We become what we repeatedly do.” -Sean Covey
When you think about habits, what do you think of? Do you think about biting your nails, having a drink after work, twisting your hair - or – do you think about exercise, morning or bedtime routines?
When we hear the word habit, it tends to hold a negative connotation. Growing up, we were often made to feel bad about our habits, which usually affected our self-esteem. We cannot let those bad habits continue. When we were young, we started getting in trouble for our behaviors. When my brother was a toddler, he sucked his thumb, and my mom put something on it that made his thumb taste bitter. My brother eventually stopped. I continuously chewed my hair, got a pixie cut (very short hair), and did not chew on it when it grew longer.
I have many bad habits in adulthood, some of which I ignore and others I work on conquering. Breaking a bad habit can be challenging yet a gratifying experience.
Five strategies that can help in breaking bad habits:
• Understand the Habit: Recognize the triggers, actions, and rewards related to the bad habit.
• Mindfulness: Practice mindfulness to become more aware of your responses and actions, which can help you catch yourself before you engage in the bad habit.
2. Set Clear and Specific Goals:
• Be Specific: Instead of vague goals like "I want to quit smoking," make them specific, such as "I will not smoke a single cigarette today."
• Small Steps: Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable goals. Celebrate small successes along the way.
3. Replace the Bad Habit with a Positive One:
• Substitute Behavior: Find a positive behavior to replace the bad habit.
• Positive Reinforcement: Reward yourself for choosing the positive behavior to reinforce the new habit.
4. Seek Support:
• Talk to Friends and Family: Share your goals with friends and family, who can provide encouragement, accountability, and support.
• Professional Help: Consider seeking help from a therapist, counselor, or a support group who can provide additional resources and strategies.
5. Be Patient and Persistent:
• Expect Setbacks: Understand that setbacks happen, and that's okay. Learn from them and move forward.
• Persistence: Continuously work towards your goal, and don’t get frustrated by slip-ups.
Habits can be good. I have a friend who has excellent exercise routines. It did not happen overnight. My friend did not exercise much, and he decided to get healthy. He started by going on walks; then, he bought a Peloton and regularly rides it. He joins rides with other participants, has set goals, and reaches them regularly. He is getting fit but wants more, so he bought a rowing machine and Pilates equipment and regularly gets massages. He eats well and sees a homeopathic clinician.
Bad habits can lead to guilt. That guilt leads back to bad habits. It is a vicious cycle. For me, it is food. I overeat, and when I do, I feel guilty, which leads me back to overeating. I continue to struggle with bad habits but have conquered some of them.
I now have some excellent habits that make my life easier and better. I continue to finesse those habits and keep them from getting boring, so I don’t return to my old ways.
I encourage you to evaluate your habits and discover what needs to change. Look at the steps above and begin to implement them. You may be surprised at what can be changed and how much freedom you can experience.
Have a great week!