It's Not as
Hard to Change a Habit as You Think
Breaking Bad Habits Can Lead to
More Satisfying and Healthy Life **
Updated 2-2-13 -
"Bad habits are easy to
develop but hard to live with", according to Brian Tracey, a
well-known motivational teacher. But he also says, "Good habits
are hard to develop but easy to live with". Have you decided
that 2013 is going to be the year you make some important changes
in your life by giving up an unhealthy habit?
Did you know that it is really hard to
make more that one major habit change? Because it takes
attention and consciousness to make any significant changes in
your life, you'll have best results if you "Take it easy with one
change at a time".
Have you ever been successful in changing a habit in the
past? If so, you may find that the steps we mention here for changing habits
are familiar. Perhaps you've actually used some of them.
Now they're all here in one neat list to support your on your way
to a better lifestyle.
According to many experts, it takes only
21 days to break a habit. When you make the decision to
change habits, you will find that often it can be easier than you
thought it might be.
As an example, at one point, I decided to
give up chewing gum. It was causing tooth and gum problems,
plus, the sugar and colorings were unhealthy. So, I became
aware, made a decision to change, and then I committed to the
change by taking action. I found that substituting mouth
spray stopped my craving for chewing gum and I did not give up my
new actions until the new habit was established.
At first, it was kind of a challenge to
remember to use the mouth spray instead of chewing the gum. I had to
really think about it. But over time it became much easier and
finally, I no longer craved the gum at all.
The really exciting thing about changing
habits is that as soon as the new habit is established, you'll
never have to think about it again. You will simply continue
to "do" the new habit year after year until you decide to change
Tips for Changing Habits
1. Become aware of the habit:
Awareness is crucial for breaking bad habits, if you're not aware,
then nothing can change. Noticing a behavior that you do regularly
and you may want to change is the beginning of the
process for changing habits. Your habit may also be
affecting others in a negative way which may give you an additional
motive for changing it (smoking is a good example).
2. Changing is a matter of
making a decision: Sometimes you will be willing to
decide to change a habit and sometimes you won't. If you
have a health problem, it's a good idea to look at any resistance
you may have to changing your habits. Eating or drinking the
wrong things can have serious consequences which may drive you to
think about changing. Once you've made the decision to
change, your direction becomes clear.
3. Make a commitment to change:
Here's the hard part of changing habits - making a commitment.
That means, you will do whatever it takes to let go of your old
behavior and to introduce new behaviors that serve you better.
You've looked at your old habit and you now see that it's time to
do something different.
4. Continue to take daily action:
Habits are with you every minute of every day, even when you
aren't thinking about them or doing them. This is because
when you're not thinking, when the time for action comes, you will act out
your old habit unless you have vowed to take consistent conscious
daily action to change.
The best way to do this is one hour or
one day at a time rather than thinking about all the days you will
have to give up something you may really like. Often, not
smoking just this one cigarette is possible and reasonable, while
not smoking for the rest of your life may send you straight to
your pack of cigarettes! You may sometimes find that simply stopping the old
habit completely is easier than letting go gradually or vice versa.
Only you can decide which system works better for you
Every time you take another step toward
breaking the habit, give yourself a small reward. As you take your
daily actions to your new habit, remember that consistency is
critical. Taking an occasional action will not work.
5. Try a healthier substitute
for the old habit. Sometimes it's easier to substitute
something else for the old habit instead of trying to get rid of
it entirely. Make sure that the substitute is something you
like, not something you feel neutral or negative about.
Often, you may find you're attached to the
process involved in the habit. For example, I love having a warm drink
in the morning so I substituted tea (a type I really like) for
coffee. That way, I still got my warm satisfying drink.
Here are some more examples: Herbal tea instead of coffee, a
mouth spray or chewing gum instead of smoking, raw fruit instead
of candy, lemonade made with fresh lemons and lo-cal sweetener
rather than soda.
6. Don't give up: As
you go through these steps, you may find yourself wondering
whether all this effort is worth it. You may think that
changing habits is too hard or that you don't have the strength to
change. In this case, you're just coming up against
resistance, which is often called the "comfort zone".
You may ask yourself "Who will I be when
I change this habit?" Just be prepared for this to happen,
if it doesn't, great, but if it does, just keep on making the
changes you've been making one minute/hour/day at a time.
Interestingly, the resistance often goes away completely when you are really
committed. If things seem tough, try using prayer or
meditation, both have helped many people to get through difficult
periods in their lives.
Visualization can really be helpful - see
yourself with your new habit, imagine that it is easy and pleasant
to make the change. Often when you're stuck this technique
can really make the difference. Think of the value to your
life of having good habits that keep you healthy.
Getting support from friends and loved
ones can help you as you go through the process of change.
Ask the people close to you to support you on your path. Be
careful with this one though, sometimes criticism or too many
reminders from others can make you "rebel" or become resistant.
Another technique that can help is
affirmations. Make up several to use during the day such as
"I now thoroughly enjoy drinking herbal tea every morning" if you're giving up coffee
or "I really love the taste of my morning cup of herbal tea".
Be sure with affirmations that they could be true. In other
words, you can't convince yourself you enjoy the taste of
something you don't like. You can also use
affirmations relating to resistance such as "I find myself
changing my habits effortlessly".
Try these 6
Tips to Create
New Healthy Living Habits
Now that you have this 6-step
process for changing habits you may want to try it on many
different habits. Don't forget to limit your changes to one habit at
a time. That way, you can focus all your attention on just
the one to help ensure success.
If you are addicted to alcohol, smoking
or other things, you may find that the steps in this article are not enough.
In that case, you might want to get professional help or find a
support group that is working on your issue. But in many
cases, these 6 steps should give you the results you want..
**If you decide to change a habit that could affect your blood
sugar or diabetes medication, always talk with your doctor.
T. McDonald is a
lifelong student of alternative health, goal setting and inner