Habits... we all have them from biting our nails, having a biscuit the moment you come in from work, comfort eating when you feel bad, to more addictive ones like smoking or drinking etc and mostly we don't think about them, until someone brings them up or something happens where we are left evaluating our own life, sound vaguely familiar? The great news though, is that with any habit big or small, if you started; you can stop, the trick is to find what works for you.
Habits vary so much from the innocuous to the potentially harmful. However, mild or extreme as they are, they can and do interrupt our lives, and prevent us from accomplishing more than we want. By impacting our health, mentally, physically as well as wasting our time and energy which ultimately could be an investment into something more positive, which isn't that what we truly all want?
So, to help crack these bad boys, these are my top 10 tools to help quit any bad habit..
Its a key factor in most things, we need to be prepared to accept that what we are doing isn't necessarily good for us. It wont be easy, as nothing of value ever is, but understanding and accepting the reality that this “habit” is not particularly helping you make the most of your, your health, wellbeing, physically and mentally will go a long way in overcoming the habit. 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.
Lets not start with huge declarations at first, as we will almost be setting ourselves up to fail and no one wants that, do we? Instead lets 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 cant 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; eg: 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.
This is one of the biggest reasons why we have habits in the first place, instead of vocalising our worries and concerns, we more often than not we 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. People are brilliant at hiding their true emotions, however our bodies and minds don't always work in sync and therefore start exhibiting these habits as ways to manage our stress. How do we fix it? we don’t… The art comes from trying to recognise the trigger or cue (ie: location, time of day, emotional state, though, belief, people, patterns etc) that bring about this craving 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 - i know! However, being mindful of this is one giant leap in the right direction.
Another reason for why we create habits is boredom, we want to fill a void, a gap in time. A way of avoiding an issue so we may go 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 stuff down. If this is familiar, it is 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 find it uncomfortable to be present, to sit with ourselves and be perfectly at ease, enjoying our own company or simply just allowing ourselves to be still. Slowly find a space where you feel comfortable and take deep breathes in and out, filling your lungs with air, and letting all the days thoughts go with that breath and just allowing your body to feel present, it might only last a few secs or a few mins, but taking those breathes a few times a day, is enough to start the ball of change happen and to centre yourself more so you become less bored, as in reality when you are comfortable in any situation, boredom becomes a thing of the past!
Choose a substitute for the bad habit
Finding something else to do is a perfect start to stopping the old habit, if its social smoking, don't go out for a while, if its eating when you get back before dinner, take a bubble bath, go for a walk, clean you teeth. Change your pattern so that the usual trigger isn't there anymore. That doesn’t meant replacing 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…
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.
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 has a highly successful way to kick any habit, not only from feeling supported but also to be accountable for our actions and the achievement in accomplishing it, well thats a day worth having. Don't know 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.
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 instil a sense of “can do” attitude in yourself, search on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, newspapers etc as well as going out there to clubs, meetings etc and meeting these people, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a great way to change your habits and inspire yourself along the way.
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 its not smoking - then imagine being with family, friends, without the cigarette, How does it feel? What would it smell like?), if its stopping eating before dinner, imagine your day to day meal plan, Plan the week so that you have healthy filling meals ready for you and you don't have to worry and feeling utterly fulfilled and satisfied and seeing how that feels? etc 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 to breaking these habits…
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…
Shall we start?