We all hang onto a few bad habits like security blankets. They feel so good, especially when we are stressed out or bored. We all know we should be doing things differently.
How do we move from what we know we should be doing to actually doing it? The most important aspect of breaking a bad habit is to replace it with something else. It's not enough to stop what you are doing. By merely trying to stop a behavior, you are left with a void, and the question of "what do I do now?"
There are two equally important parts to breaking a habit:
1: Mentally training your brain and body to stop what you are doing.
2: Knowing what you are going to do instead of the bad habit.
Mentally Training to Stop Your Habit
First, you need to reset your thought process. Here are 5 ways to do that:
- Train yourself to focus on the negative aspects of your bad habit. We continue with bad habits because they provide some type of psychological comfort, even when we know they are detrimental in the long run.
Create a physical list of the negative consequences of your habit and place it in places where you usually practice your habit. Refer to it when you are about to engage.
- Focus on one habit at a time to reduce the risk of failure. Often when we want to make a change, we go all in. We must remember that reaching rock-bottom to the point of knowing we need to change doesn't happen overnight. It takes a long time to hit bottom. We can't climb out overnight.
- Find an accountability partner. When we know we are doing a check-in, we are more likely to remain committed to change. This could be a friend or family member. Select someone that is fully behind your change, and can support you in a positive way.
You may have to select someone beyond your inner circle, because those closest to you may be engaging in the same habits. By selecting someone that already lives the lifestyle you want to adapt, you will have more success and support.
- Visualize your success. Envision who you are without your negative habit weighing you down. How are you enjoying your time? What are you able to do that you can't do right now? Who are you spending time with? How will the improved version of yourself be able to move closer to your larger goals?
- Remove triggers. What causes you to reach for your bad habit? By knowing our triggers, we can either find healthier ways to deal with the triggers, or we can make changes to avoid them in the first place.
Identifying Your Replacement Habit
Now that you are setting yourself up for success, it's important to know how you will fill your time. It's difficult to release what is familiar to us, even when we know it no longer serves us.
Before initiating your habit change, make a list of the activities that can replace your bad habit.
- If your habit centers around foods or drinking, consider a list of alternative choices, and who is around you that may be encouraging these choices.
- If your habit revolves around spending money (online or in-person shopping), consider a list of how you can achieve the same outcome by spending less money, or by replacing the activity altogether with an activity that requires no money.
- If your habit revolves around an activity that keeps you isolated or distracted, (video-gaming, online gaming, social media), think of productive things you can do with your time.
- If your habit revolves around hanging out with the wrong people, identify people that you would like to know.
Who Do You Want Be? Act Accordingly.
These lists should reflect who you want to be and who you want to attract in your life. Our actions determine our outcomes. Who do you want to be? What kinds of people do you want to attract and know? How do you want to be known?
The quality of our decisions, habits, and actions creates the person we are and who we become.
The good news is that you can decide today to change. You are fully empowered right now to decide you are ready to replace a self-limiting, destructive habit with a new one.