Habits… We all have them, from biting our nails, hitting the snooze button too many times, having a biscuit (or five) the moment we come home from work, comfort eating when we feel bad to more addictive ones like smoking, excessive drinking, drugs etc. Mostly we don’t think about them, until someone brings them up or something happens where we are left evaluating our own life and how we feel. Does this sound vaguely familiar? Habits may differ from person to person and in extremity but the one thing they have in common is the impact they can have on us, whether it’s our health, physical or mental health, they also waste our time and energy, which ultimately could be an investment into something more positive to you. Great news though! You can crack any habit big or small… if you started; you CAN stop, the trick is to find what works for you.
So, to help crack these bad boys, below are our top 10 tools to help quit any bad habit…
1. ACCEPTANCE A key factor to overcoming anything is being prepared to accept that what we are doing isn’t necessarily good for us. It won’t be easy but understanding and accepting the reality that this “habit” is not particularly helping your wellbeing, will go a long way in overcoming the habit. A great way to help is just to take a moment, a big deep breathe in and really connect with yourself and who you are, once we can do that, everything will become a little easier to do.
2. COMMITMENT Let’s not start with huge declarations at first; the aim is to succeed not fall at the first hurdle. Instead let’s begin at the beginning: Commit to just start: Each day at a time and slowly as confidence grows, we make it two days, three, a week, soon we are on a fortnight and can’t even remember what it was in the first place, and this is what we want. To make the commitment so gradual we barely notice the change. The only change we feel is how much healthier we’ve become; e.g. smoking – food starts to taste better, improvements in health, skin looks clearer, not to mention the bank balance! Or there is more time in the day to do things you have been putting off, things which perhaps have been neglected as the habit of sofa squashing after a long day appealed more. The advantages will begin to show more and more.
3. STRESS This is one of the biggest reasons why we have habits in the first place, instead of vocalising our worries and concerns, often our default is to bury it, we stuff it deep down so that it can take a while to work out what the stress is in the first place. We are brilliant at hiding our true emotions; however our bodies and minds don’t always work in sync and therefore start exhibiting these habits as ways to manage that stress. How do we fix it? We don’t… The art comes from trying to recognise the trigger or cue (i.e.: location, time of day, emotional state, thought, belief, people, patterns etc) that bring about this habit and trying to understand it, Not to fix right away as it will take time, but try to befriend it, accept its presence and not let it rule you – sometimes easier said than done – we know! However, being mindful of this is one giant leap in the right direction.
4. BOREDOM Another reason for why we create habits is boredom; we want to fill a void, a gap in time. Perhaps to avoid an issue? So our outlet becomes going straight to the pub after work to avoid going home, we smoke to have something to do with our hands out of nervousness, we comfort eat in a way to stop us from feeling all these emotions we try to shut down. If this is familiar, it’s okay. So many of us are so focused on the future and the past that we don’t realise we are missing being present and also being present can feel uncomfortable for the untrained. It isn’t natural to most, to sit with ourselves and be perfectly at ease, enjoying our own company or simply just allowing ourselves to be still. It takes time, but the more you can practice the more the ball of change will begin to happen and what was originally boredom could may well become comfortable and feel great!
5. CHOOSE A SUBSTITUTE FOR THE BAD HABIT Finding something else to do is a perfect start to stopping the old habit, if it’s social smoking: Don’t go out for a while. If it’s eating when you get back before dinner: Take a bubble bath, go for a walk, clean your teeth. Change your pattern so that the usual trigger isn’t there anymore. That doesn’t mean replacing it with another ‘bad’ habit, but try to find an alternative way to deal with the pattern you would normally associate with your habit, to something else…
6. CUT OUT AS MANY TRIGGERS AS POSSIBLE This is similar to the above but understanding your triggers is important, it allows you to identify beforehand where you feel you may need to adapt or change your pattern. Habits are usually created within 21 days, so for the first month at least. You may have to be a lot kinder to yourself and limit your trigger points, till you are more comfortable being in those situations so think about where you go, who you hang out with (if these are the triggers), not buying biscuits, hiding the TV remote etc so that the temptation is less in sight and eventually it will become easier to loosen the chains that bind you to the habit.
7. JOIN FORCES WITH SOMEONE You do not need to do this alone, a problem shared, is a problem halved, so speak to friends, find groups, join an after work running club, go to support groups, meet like minded people that feel and understand how hard it is. Finding people to help is a highly successful way to kick any habit, not only from feeling supported but also to be accountable for our actions. Not sure where to look? Good ole Google has a wealth of information, as well as looking at your online local community, there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained just by having a nosey on their sites and seeing which resonates with you. There is no need to be alone when help is literally around the corner.
8. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO LIVE THE WAY YOU WANT TO LIVE People that live the life you aspire to, are fantastic motivators to self improvement and change and to instill a sense of “can do” attitude in yourself. Maybe it’s a certain social group that is preventing you from quitting that bad habit? There’s nothing like having friends that inspire and motivate you to be the best version of yourself so hunt them down and make an effort to surround yourself with good humans!
9. VISUALISE YOURSELF SUCCEEDING One of the best ways for success is a simple visualisation technique. Close your eyes and imagine how you see yourself (if it’s smoking – then imagine being with family, friends, without smoking, How does it feel? What would you smell?), if it’s to stop snacking before dinner, imagine your day to day meal plan. Plan the week so that you have healthy filling meals ready for you and then visualise feeling utterly fulfilled and satisfied and seeing how that feels? Your mind is such a powerful tool and will take you most of the way to breaking these habits so use it… let it guide you.
10. REPETITION Lastly and by no means least, keep doing it, no matter if you fall down one day, pick yourself back up and start the next day with a clean slate and keep repeating this till it is so natural to you, it will just be your life. You have everything you need to break habits within you. You just need to tap into it and stop giving yourself such a hard time about it and commit to change for the better. Guilt and shame will get you nowhere. Give yourself time, be persistent and you will achieve great results.