Bad habits are bad for a reason. They’re either harmful or time-consuming or something else that gets in the way of you living your life to the fullest. And we can’t have that now, can we? Absolutely not, because once you break your bad habits and change your way of thinking about them you’ll have both energy, time, and motivation to do anything you want!
It might – and should! – take some time, but these tips and tricks will provide you with the tools you need to start making a permanent change for the better – right now! It will require some thinking as well as some doing, but you won’t have to rely on just willpower. Don’t believe us? Well, better keep on reading, then!
Pro Tip: Breaking bad habits either won’t work or will be a gazillion times harder if you don’t actually want to, so do your best to minimize any conflicting feelings!
As it so happens, we have another post about what habits are and how they work, but here’s a neat little summary, just for you!
Habits are automatic responses to stimuli. That’s it. Would you like to hear it in plain English, too? No problem: habits are things that we do without even thinking about it after something specific has happened. So, if you grab your phone after hearing a beep, that’s a habit. So is drying your hands after washing them. Or perhaps your evening runs after work. Knowing what they are makes them easier to deal with, so let’s hop to the next part, shall we?
Not all habits are bad, of course, but we all have some that aren’t very helpful, and that might fit better in the bin. And now, it’s time to find yours. Do you say no to things because they might be out of your comfort zone? Spend way more time in front of various screens instead of getting things done and also some new experiences?
Whatever it is, big or small, identifying it is the first and therefore one of the most critical steps. It’s very likely that you already know your habits – why else would you be here! Once you’ve got it, write those stupid habits down – give your brain a heads up that you’re onto it!
Habits, good or bad, give us a reward of some sort. When you check your phone, you get info or entertainment from it, and not doing so might leave you with an unsatisfied feeling of not having done what you’re supposed to, or that dreaded fear of missing out. Both of which kind of suck.
What you need is a replacement for those unwanted automatic reactions, something that you would want to do instead. Saying no a lot is an easy one: make it your choice to try to replace negative responses with affirmative ones! Habits are hard to eliminate but much easier to replace.
What you can do: Once you have identified your bad habits and the reason you do them (i.e. the reward that they give you) it’s time to find a substitute! Watch too much tv? Try reading instead. Snack too much? Swap it for fruit and veg, or even just some water!
It will be super-tempting to dive in head first and try to refurbish and renovate Rome in a day, but it’s actually a lot smarter to give yourself a date when to start and then use that time to do some prepping and analyzing, so you know what you’re up against.
Quite an important step, this one (we will most likely be saying that about all the steps, just you wait and see). What is it that triggers your habit in the first place? It could be your phone notifications, going straight for the sofa when you get back from work, or a sensation of worry or nervousness. Once you know, you’ll soon be ready to do something about it!
If you have a reason to want to break your bad habits other than that you ‘should’ it will give you both motivation and purpose. Remind yourself of how your habits make you feel: both the bad and the improved versions! Do you really want to get a headache from all the screens or miss yet another adventure? Didn’t think so. Do you want to feel satisfied and like you’ve accomplished something? Hell yes!
What you can do: Observe your bad habit and write it all down: when do you do it, why do you do it, what happens before and after? Try to find a pattern that can help you see it more clearly!
Time to get physical! Kind of. Not really. But it’s definitely time to start doing: you’ve hit the date that you decided on, and now it’s time to convert those words into actions! Hopefully, you’ve done your planning and prepping, so this shouldn’t be too difficult. In theory. You will have bad days, but that’s okay as long as you give it your best on your good ones!
Have a look at your notes and your environment. What can be done to make it super-hard to do those things you want to stop doing? Perhaps you can turn the sound on your phone off, or cancel your Netflix subscription; out of sight, out of mind is the strategy we’re using here. Make it difficult, boring, painful – whatever works (or doesn’t work!) for you!
Pro Tip: For good habits do the opposite. Make it easier. Always forget to schedule some time for your kayaking adventures? Try blocking out the same time slot each week. It’ll become a habit much faster, trust us.
This is not at all as bad as it sounds: it just means that perhaps you can reward yourself (read more about good rewards here) of some sort after having reached a small goal. Or that you might want to consider punishing yourself if you slip, with, say, a fine. Then you can use the money to get you that reward. Genius!
What you can do: Be kind to yourself. Give yourself pep talks and pats on your back. Keep track of how you’re doing to identify what can be improved, and set small goals. And, try to have fun while doing it!
Your brain is in charge of everything. Your thoughts, reactions, perceptions, actions, emotions – do we need to go on? It also loves your bad habits. Like, the real deal. Why? Because brains are lazy. They like comfort and knowing what’s gonna come next. The unknown requires more energy, which your brain wants to preserve as much as it can. Pretty stupid for such a smart organ, but what can you do. Yeah, what can you do?
Your brain wants to go sit on that sofa even more than you do so instead of trying to resist the urge, try to make it easy to do the substitute that you’ve decided on. Leave your book on the floor in the hallway so it’ll be the first thing you see when you walk through the door. Have the kettle loaded and ready to make you that cup of tea or coffee that goes so well with reading. If your brain can’t find too many excuses, it might actually be okay with the new habit!
You’re not going to fundamentally change: you’re just going back to the old you! Because you didn’t check your phone every 20 seconds as a child, did you? And you didn’t spend all your time on the sofa a couple of years ago? That’s right, so you just need to return to that. Another awesome way to trick your brain is to think “I’m going to be someone who hikes” rather than “I’m going to quit binge-watching TV.” You might not be what you eat, but you definitely are what you think!
What you can do: When you feel a craving or some nerves, try to tell yourself that it’s just your mind playing tricks on you. Make plans for when you fail or get close to. You are your brain, not the other way around!
We certainly do – don’t forget that when times are hard and you feel like you’re struggling! We’re only a message away, so drop us a line or two when you want some kind advice. Or some tough love. We do both.