Breaking Bad (Habits)

January 11th, 2018

We’re barely more than a week into 2018, and there’s a good chance you’ve made a few resolutions. Whether you want to get in shape or eat healthier there are a number of things that stand in your way. The biggest obstacle however, is habit. If you’re used to drinking a few glasses of wine at the end of the day, there’s a strong chance you’ve reinforced these habits over a long period of time. If you want a better, healthier you, you’ve got to break those old habits. We’re here to help with some helpful tips and tricks for building better habits. Consider Your Motivations: We all have habits we’d like to break, but why? Before you commit to tackling a bad habit, take some time to consider your feelings. Why do you dislike your habit? What do you consider it to be a ‘bad’ habit? Chances are whatever you are doing isn’t good for you in some way, mentally or physically--possibly both. Create a mental picture of all the things you really hate about your habit. You can’t go into too much detail. What are the consequences of your habit now? What will the consequences of your habit be in the future? How will your bad habits negatively impact your life if you don’t break them? What are some positive effects to your life that will occur when you break your bad habits? Whenever you encounter a negative side-effect from your bad habit, try to internalize and remember how it feels. Sure, those drinks were fun, but now you’ve got a nasty hangover. Was it really worth it? Once you have a clear picture of your bad habits, you’ll start to understand why you want them to change. Alter Your World: Believe it or not, your environment is a huge factor in establishing your habits. The world that you inhabit on a daily basis determines the temptations you encounter. If you’ve got a bar cart in your living room, there’s a good chance you’re going to be tempted to drink more. If your best friends smokes a lot, chances are you’re going to be craving nicotine whenever you’re around him/her. Avoid triggers can be easier than you think, it just requires a little bit of planning ahead. If you’re trying to eat better, make a healthy shopping list full of and stick to it. It’s way more difficult to stuff your face full of sweets and fatty foods when your cupboard only has healthy options. This goes double for your phone. Does Seamless enable your unhealthy eating? Delete it. Do the Instagram and Facebook apps cause you to obsessively check your phone? Delete them. If you’ve got a serious smartphone addiction, you might even want to take some drastic measures. The Punkt MP01 is a phone that can make and receive phone calls, as well as text at irritatingly slow speeds. That’s it. Downgrade your phone to upgrade yourself. Baby Steps: It’s hard to break bad habits--super hard. Don’t put too many expectations on yourself. Don’t try to quit all at once. That’s a recipe for relapse. Instead, take baby steps to wean yourself off your bad habit. If you realize you’ve been drinking ten cups of coffee a day, it’s actually a terrible idea to quit cold turkey. Commit to drinking one less cup every week. Before you know it, you’ll be drinking a much more reasonable amount of coffee. You will have tricked yourself into a healthier habit just by taking baby steps. A key element to this approach is to track your progress. Set your phone’s calendar to remind you when it’s time to reduce. You can also follow a daily checklist so you don’t accidentally over-indulge again. You’ll be amazed how satisfied you feel when you successfully meet small goals every day. Don’t Spare the Rod: They say you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but that’s not always true. Particularly when it comes to breaking bad habits. If you keep screwing up, it might be time for you to devise a punishment for yourself. These punishments don’t have to always be negative. Try creating a bad habit jar. Every time you break your bad habit, put a dollar (or whatever amount of money you feel slightly guilty losing) in there. At the end of each month, donate that money to charity. Next time you eat something unhealthy, force yourself to run a mile--you’ll be balancing out some of the damage! The only drawback to this system is that you’re responsible for holding yourself accountable. It’s hard to be tough with yourself! Luckily, there are other ways to motivate yourself... Reward Yourself: On the flipside of negative reinforcement comes positive reinforcement. There are plenty of great, healthy (or not-so-unhealthy) ways to reward yourself for good behavior. When you make it through a day without falling off track, have some kind of small reward waiting for you at the end of the day. Enjoy a small amount of candy, or an episode of your favorite television show, or do something else that’s fun and relatively harmless. You can even build cheat days into your schedule. Did you just spend the whole week watching calories and eating healthy? Dedicate Saturday to donuts, beer, and high-calorie bliss. You’ve earned it. Just don’t get carried away. Stick to the Plan: One of the most powerful ways to break habits is with great planning. Create a simple “if/then” plan for your future. I.E.: ‘If I avoid caffeine all week, I can have a caramel frappuccino on Saturday’ or ‘If I slip up and eat garbage, I’ll add an extra 30 minutes of cardio to my workout’. Your plan needs to be simple to be effective. Complex plans have loopholes, and you’re too devious not to find them. It’s also important to consistently review and update your plan. When you make a mistake, sit down and think about why you screwed up. Alter your plan so that you’ll do better next time. Regular review and reflections are key to maintaining good habits and breaking bad ones. Ultimately, it’s up to you to break bad habits. It requires a whole lot of tenacity and gusto to change deeply-formed habits. Congratulate yourself when you succeed and chastise yourself when you fail. Most of all, feel great that you’re taking steps to improve your life. Eventually, not doing your bad habits, will become a habit itself! It’s as simple as mastering your mind.