Everything about breaking and picking up habits is hard. First, you have to recognize that your habit is bad, which is often the easiest step to accomplish. Second, you have to make a conscious decision to change your ways. Most people have woken up and said “You know what? Today is the day!” But very rarely has today been “the day.” So that brings us to the hardest part of all of the habit-breaking steps: actually implementing it into your daily lifestyle.
We’ve all tried to break habits and failed miserably at one point or another. Breaking and adopting habits is a part of being human. I gave up soda one time (for 2 weeks) in 2003. My friends still bring it up. People want to do better for the most part. But failing is also a part of being human. How can you choose habits you know you can stick with? Should you implement all the healthy habits at once? Or take it nice and slow? Read my quick tips for choosing your habits and keeping up with them:
Recognize your good habits:
There are very few people in this world who don’t have good habits. Even if you think you don’t, I assure you that you do. For example, maybe you think you drink wine too often (everyday perhaps?), but you only drink a glass or two a night. A good habit is to wait until the nighttime to have your glass! It’s also a good habit to only have one or two glasses!
Recognizing your healthy habits means you recognize that you have it within you to change your ways. By understanding that you are able to make a change in your life, you gain more confidence and determination when choosing to change yourself.
Maybe make a list of the habits that you’re proud to have. Or if you’re not in the mood, just stop right now and think of one good habit that you possess. For example, while most of my friends put extra salt on their food, I don’t and I’m happy about it (no matter how bland food can taste at times!)
Think about the habits that make you feel bad:
After deciding what you’re already good at, it’s time to take a step back and acknowledge what you don’t do so well. Everyone on the planet has bad habits, even the healthiest and most on-top-of-it person you know! (AKA, midnight eating over here.)
There are a lot of steps in the habit-making/breaking process, and the most daunting can be picking the habits that you should work on. Most people overthink this step! You know what makes you feel bad about yourself. These things are the first things you should choose to change. Hating on yourself for not drinking enough water is barely a way to live your life. Drink more water already.
What do you think about everyday? Maybe it’s the intense guilt you feel when you buy an overpriced and oversugared coffee every morning. Maybe it’s the stomach ache you get after eating a carton of ice cream even though you know you’re lactose intolerant. These bad habits should never stand in the way of your happiness or daily life. Buy the lactose free ice cream and eat away.
Familiarize yourself with the types of habits:
Many different websites and papers like to break habits into psychological or sociological groups. While these can be helpful, I’ve found that sometimes they can be overwhelming. So I’ve compiled a small list of different habit groups that I could think of that might help you choose your habits:
Exercise and Diet (ex. losing/gaining weight, getting active, etc)
Health (ex. taking your medicine, avoiding an allergy, etc)
Motor Habits (ex. swearing, rocking your foot back and forth, etc)
Spiritual (ex. praying, attending service, meditating, etc)
Mental Health (ex. releasing feelings, seeking help, spending too much time online, etc)
Sleep Habits (ex. sleeping well, sleeping for correct amount of time, etc)
Social Habits (ex. the way you interact with others, spending time with others, etc)
I know there are plenty more but it might help to choose a category that resonates the most with you and then focus on that.
Recognize your incentives:
Incentives, or things that entice you to do what you do, are super easy concepts and learning about them can help you understand why you do the things you do and why you should or shouldn’t.
There are three types of incentives: economic, social, and moral.
Economic incentives are pretty straight forward. They have to do with gaining money or material objects. For example, a pretty good economic incentive for not buying a coffee everyday is that you’ll save hundreds of dollars in the long run. Or limiting you credit card debt is a good economic incentive as well.
Social incentives involve doing things based off of what others will think of you. For example, most people base their looks (like their hair, clothes, presentation) off of what other’s will think. Many people choose to lose weight due to social incentives because they believe that their weight changes the way people see them. You be you and be happy regardless. As my mom would say, “Who cares what someone else thinks.”
Moral incentives are slightly different. They involve choosing to do something based off of your concept of right and wrong. Moral incentives can be the main reason a person chooses to change their habits. For example, drinking a liter of soda per day is something everyone knows is wrong, especially for their body and well-being. Yet, we guzzle tons everyday. I love when I walk into the cafeteria at work and my clients start stashing soda everywhere.
By knowing what makes you want to pick/drop a habit, you are more likely to stick with it. For example, if your doctor tells you to start taking a heart medicine, you will probably do it and then stop for awhile. But if your doctor tells you to start taking a heart medicine because you might die if you don’t, that’s a pretty strong economic, social, and moral incentive to start taking your medicine. Interesting story here: I refused a certain medication for months. My Rheumatologist was all over me. I had been in the hospital and just couldn’t recover. My main concern was that I had to sign that I would not get pregnant again and I wasn’t ready to be officially done. Plus, who gets to decide that for me? Not you, Mr. Rheumy. This goes on for months and I was getting sicker and sicker. Mr. Rheumy was not a happy camper. I’m sitting in his office and he brings it up. I of course start rambling and he listened for as long as he could. He leans over and gets inches from my face. “I no longer care what you think. I’m going to save your life and you need to realize that. So, back down. If not, find a new doctor.” Well well. Guess who saved my life. Multiple times and still is 13 years later. Now we are like an old married couple.
What can you afford to do about your habits?
Habits require A LOT of effort, time, determination, and sometimes money. It’s important for you to understand how far you’re willing to go to stick to a habit or else you might get burned out. For example, you might really want to run a marathon in a couple of months, so at the beginning of your training, you say you will run for one hour each day in order to prepare. However, you forgot that you have a huge project coming up at work and that your daughter has theater rehearsal every weeknight and that your friend asked you to feed her cat every other morning. This poor planning will result in you coming home one night, exhausted, and telling yourself that you can afford to skip one day of running. But then you do it the next day, and the next, until it’s the morning of the marathon and you haven’t practiced at all.
While this might have been an extreme case, it still serves as an important reminder to cater your habits towards your lifestyle. Let’s face it, most habits are hard to stick to. It would be hard for anyone to run an hour a day, regardless of their job, family needs, and/or prior commitments. But those things on top of your already-hard goal spells out absolute disaster.
Another example is choosing to go completely vegan for a month. For average people, it can be incredibly difficult to get a full stomach while going vegan, especially if they don’t have the money to spend on bulk fruits and veggies or the time to spend planning out their meals. Now if you are a planner, then you start chopping those veggies.
If you really want to stick to your goals, choose habits that aren’t completely impossible. Understand your lifestyle and day-to-day commitments before deciding on a habit.
Understand what it takes:
Habits are super hard to make and break. That’s why they have such a bad reputation. By understanding the effort, determination, and time that goes into making yourself better, you will actually be able to stick to your goals.
Understand that you might fail a couple of times, but getting right back up and finishing what you started is a sure-fire way to become a happier and healthier you. Stay tuned for the “Great sugar detox of 2019” that I’m currently smack in the middle of.
What is my ending comment: It’s simple. Take care of business people. You only have one life. Live it great and FOR YOU. Listen to the professionals if you need help. YEEESSS!