We are creatures of habit. We follow the same routines over and over again because it’s easy, it’s comfortable, and it’s often automatic. When habits become ingrained, we barely even think about the actions we’re taking.
This is great if our habits are good for us. But we all have bad habits we repeat consistently, too — not enough exercise, too much screen time, not enough healthy food, too much sugar, not enough rest, too much work, etc.
Once a habit is ingrained, it’s hard to turn it around. Transforming bad habits into good ones takes time, commitment, and patience. Following these steps will make the process a little easier.
Step 1: Start Small
Don’t try to change many habits at once; the difficulty may be insurmountable. Start with one habit and stick with it for 30 days. When it becomes routine and you find yourself doing it automatically, then add in another one.
Start with something small and relatively simple, like replacing your second cup of coffee with a glass of water in the morning, or spending 20 minutes of your lunch hour walking outside. Starting with something small and easy increases your chances of success and will put you in a positive mindset for tackling tougher habits.
Step 2: Know Your Triggers
Understand what triggers your bad habit. Do you eat chips every time you sit down to watch TV? Do you bite your nails when you talk on the phone? Do you drink coffee whenever you’re feeling sluggish?
Knowing what triggers your bad habit allows you to create a plan to help prevent you from engaging in it when the trigger strikes. So, for example, you could keep a bowl of fruit next to the TV, have something to keep your hands busy when you’re talking on the phone, or plan to get up and do some jumping jacks when you’re feeling sluggish.
Step 3: Replace the Bad Habit with a Good One
For every bad habit you want to eliminate, find a good habit to replace it, and make it easy to engage in that habit. For example, say you want to stop snacking on chips; have a healthy snack like a handful of almonds or some chopped up veggies all ready and easy to grab. The impulse to eat will still be there and you can act on it in a healthier way.
Step 4: Be Consistent for 30 Days
They say it takes 20 to 30 days to really cement a new habit, and that’s with consistent practice. The more you practice the new habit, the faster it will become, well, a habit. It will get a little bit easier each time, until one day you’ll do it without even realizing that you have.
Step 5: Use Distractions When You Have Cravings
Habits that are well-ingrained will come with strong physical urges or cravings. Whatever you do, don’t give in to those urges. Ride them out by distracting yourself or using positive self-talk.
Most urges will only last a few minutes before fading away. Resist them and you’re that much closer to creating your new habit.
Step 6: Accept Failure but Don’t Let it Stop You
It’s almost inevitable that you’ll fail at least once when working on replacing a bad habit. It’s only natural to revert to what we’re used to — especially when we’re tired, stressed, or hungry.
Don’t let a lapse in willpower prevent you from forging ahead with your goal. Get back on the wagon and keep going. You’ll soon get there, and you’ll feel so good when you do!
Looking for more healthy habits inspiration and support? Come talk to an expert at the LD Pharmacy anytime.