Busting Bad Habits

It’s that time of year again for new years resolutions and promises to “Be Better” . For most of us, bad habits have crept into our lives and kicking them is tough. Habits are formed through repetition and when enjoyable events trigger the brain’s “reward” centers setting up harmful habits, such as overeating, smoking, excess TV or excessive use of computers and social media. The good news is, humans are not simply creatures of habit. We have many more brain regions to help us do what’s best for our health. Here are some strategies and tips to help you kick bad habits and embrace new ones for a happier and healthier life.
Set a Date: Once you identify the behavior you want to change, set the date that you want to begin. Mull it over for a few days! Be sure it’s a good date for you!
Hint: If you have a vacation booked, or a special event, you may want to wait until after to cut out the sweets.
Track Your Progress: Once you start getting rid of a bad habit, keep track of your progress. Using a journal or even an online blog to help you stick to your goals and help you become more aware of unhealthy habits and patterns that arise.
Hint: Online blogging is a relatively new and popular way to journal. There are tons of free blogging sites like blogger.com.
Be Prepared for Obstacles: Self control is like a muscle. If you exercise it, it may become temporarily tired! It can be deceiving as you may think you have your bad habit under control only to give into temptation the next day. Recognize that this is normal, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Setbacks are to be expected and can be overcome.
Hint: Once aware of unhealthy habits, you can develop strategies. Develop a plan, say, to avoid walking down the hall where there’s a candy machine. Stay away from friends and situations linked to problem drinking or drug use.
One Day a Time: While you may be motivated to cut out sweets and lose extra weight for a special event or beach vacation that is 6 months away. You may be better to focus on day to day habits that you want to kick. If you motivations are far off in the future it is likely you may give them up.
Hint: The temptation for those bad habits might be stronger than you expected, and if your only motivation is off in the future, you may be more likely to put it off or give up. With this kind of challenge, it’s better to go one day at a time.
Replace Your Old Habits: According to the National Institutes of Health, one of the best ways to kick a bad habits is to replace it with a new one. Some of our bad habits become ritualistic or compulsive, so the best way to get rid of them is to replace them with a new , healthier ritual. For instance, instead of getting lying around after work watching TV and eating dinner late, replace this habit with eating dinner earlier followed by a brisk walk.
Hint: Although our brain never forgets “older habits”, studies prove humans are capable of strengthening newer habits and suppressing the older habits.
Reward Yourself: Don’t shy away from using incentives to motivate you to stick to your goals. However, If you’re trying to give up sweets, don’t reward your hard work with a giant piece of cake. Instead, put a dollar in a jar for every day that you go without sweets, then use that money to buy yourself a new pair of jeans since your old ones may be too big before you know it. The same can be done with the money you would have used to buy cigarettes or your daily coffee. Hint: It might be more helpful to use rewards that are unrelated to your bad habit.
While kicking bad habits can be hard, it’s often a key to living a healthier, happier life. Take stock of the things that you could change and start setting goals to get rid of the back habits that have crept into your routine.