We all have bad habits we would like to change, whether it is eating junk food, drinking alcohol, smoking, biting nails or picking at scabs. More commonly these bad habits are centered around our Health and Well Being.
Don't get me wrong, indulging in a little guilty pleasure every now and again is not a mortal sin. However, once you get into a habit, it is very difficult to break out of it. You may have formed the habit over 20, 30, even 40 years. How on Earth are you to begin the process of ridding yourself of your "affliction" and get to the new, fitter, healthier you?
Well, that's where most people's efforts end. The intimidatingly daunting task of trying to even find a starting point is enough to discourage most people. The mere thought of changing stops people from changing, therefore making changing bad habits seem impossible.
"To try and fail is of little consequence, but to never start at all is fatal to the habit change"
Well, as you may have guessed, changing bad habits is not impossible - no matter how long you have performed them. It can be done, but it has to be done by you. Yes, you!
Here is your step by step guide to how…
Forgive Yourself - Stop beating yourself up. All those times you did your bad habit in the past are gone. Said and done. Never to return. Do not dwell on them. Forget them and forgive yourself.
Ease into it - Don't go to extremes. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, not to begin with anyway. Cutting from 20 to 10 cigarettes a day over the course of 2 weeks, drinking only on the weekends instead of a glass of wine or 2 every night. You can take it step by step and ease into it.
The process of changing habits is tough, one that requires hard work and discipline. You may have a dozen bad habits, so to begin with, just focus on one (I am working through my bad habits one at a time and with each one the process gets a little easier). Start with the one you think you can kick, not the one you cling onto, your "emotional crutch" habit. Start small and work up once you get the hang of the process.
Have a moment of realization - Realize this, right now. You are stronger than your habit. There is nothing in your life that you have not been able to get through yet. You can do this. You do not need your habit to fulfill this need you are feeling. It is only a feeling and feelings pass. You can deal with stress in other healthier ways. You can beat boredom. You can cope with anything life throws at you, you have so far. You do not need this bad habit, you can learn better ones, it is just going to take a bit of time and practice. When you are about to indulge in your bad habit. Stop, take a breath and think about what is causing you to what to do it. What is the trigger - stress, feeling insecure, boredom, the need to relax, being criticized? These are all legitimate feelings that cause you to feel a need. Find out what the cause is and you find out why you have this habit.
OK, we are almost there. Hang in there, you have broken the back of this…
Commit - to yourself. Make just one small tiny step each day, one you will hardly notice but it is going to make all the difference. The change can be so small, you don't even have the scope to be half assed about it. For tomorrow, smoke 19 cigarettes instead of 20. The next day 18, then 17, then 16 until you have reached your goal. Write your intentions down, put it up in plain sight on your wall or fridge. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, write a blog about your experience, start a forum. By writing it down and telling people you are going to kick your habit, you are suddenly accountable. Accountability is a pre-cursor to success.
I have completely given up all processed foods and here is how I did it. I write in a food journal everyday so that I am accountable for what I choose to eat. I don't eat junk food and I have lost 4lbs in the past few weeks.
I used to be a glass of wine a night person (at least). It was an association thing. Wine = end of work day - time to relax. Now with the help of this sign on my fridge and my new herb garden, to relax at the end of a long day, I drink lemon mint leaves in hot water and save my glass of wine for Friday nights only.
Finally, Find a replacement habit - A healthier one that fulfills the need. Make it easy. One that you can do after you feel your trigger, instead of your bad habit. If you need to relieve stress, then try walking, guided meditation, yoga or self massage.
I am not good at sitting still and when I do I tend to occupy myself with scratching at my own skin, as a consequence of being bitten by mosquitoes here in the Costa Rican jungle - lovely! To replace my picking habit, I am using this stress ball. I have it with me everywhere I go. Not only does it stop me from doing my bad habit, I am getting toned forearms in the process.
So to summarize;
Notice - when you have the urge to do your habit. Pause. Then do your new healthier habit.
Repeat - Feel the urge. Stop and then do your new habit. You may lapse every now and again but that is done and in the past and you can just do your new healthy habit the next time you feel the urge. The more you do it the better you'll get.
Practice - Everyday, for as long as it takes. You will keep having these urges so view them as wonderful opportunities to practice your new habit. You can kick your bad habit one urge at a time.
Good Luck. Let me know how you get on kicking your bad habit!