From the moment we wake up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night, our activities and routines are made up of habits. In fact, how we eat, socialize and exercise are also part of our habits.
While habits are an adaptive feature of how our brain works, there are times when they can lead us astray, whether it is taking a cigarette break when stressed or turning to alcohol to up the mood.
Bad habits can affect everyone, but once that particular fixation becomes repetitive and time consuming it is time to nip these behavioral vices in the bud.
Acknowledging a certain impairment is the first step on the road to recovery, and with time and effort these eight tested ways will further show you how to change the instability in your life by overpowering bad habits with new ones.
Try to Understand the Habit Loop
Habits generally have immediate or latent rewards. Habits with quick rewards are easier to pick up as opposed to those with delayed rewards, which are difficult to maintain and commit to. For example, checking your iPhone is far easier compared to going to the gym to exercise.
The Habit loop is a neurological action that governs every habit. Understanding its three basic elements of cue, routine and reward can go a long way in understanding how to change bad habits and replace them with good ones. At least, this is what research studies carried out by MIT in the 90s revealed.
Use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT, is the most researched form of therapy and unlike other types of psychotherapy, it concentrates on solutions, rather than the past experiences of the individual. Since it works by training the patient to be their own therapist, it can be used to treat a wide range of issues, including breaking bad habits.
Whether it is a minor problem like nail biting or an irregular sleep pattern leading to depression, CBT can be useful in targeting the cognitive patterns that lead to these issues. Most importantly, CBT also plays an active role in building mental wellness.
Nowadays, with the advent of online therapy sites, CBT is even more accessible than ever. You can practice it for cheap, without even having to leave your home. There are even sites such as Online-Therapy.com who are completely dedicated to CBT, and offer a wide selection of self-help tools to compliment their talk therapy packages.
This simple practice basically involves observing the impulses related to bad habits without reacting to them or judging them in any manner. Mindfulness can help develop a sense of awareness about your feelings, thoughts and actions. Once you become aware of what triggers these routine behaviour changes, you will find it easier not to act on the urges.
Practicing mindfulness can also help you to focus on the ways the bad habits are affecting your life, and as soon as you start to recognize these effects, the more you will be driven to strive on changing that habit.
Give Importance to Personal Growth
Personal growth can be seen as a result of a direct effort made to improve oneself. Also referred to as self-improvement, the main aim behind personal growth is to improve one’s habits, behavior and actions. Some of the examples of personal development could include:
- Learning how to take control over anger
- Learning to overcome the urge to procrastinate
- How to break the habit of laziness
- Teaching oneself to be more responsible
- Developing new skills or learning new ones.
- Changing one’s mindset
- Learning to adopt a positive attitude
- Will radically change how you spend your free time.
- Learning resilience
- Defining success
Make Health Your Priority
Personal growth demands self-discipline and a firm commitment which means prioritizing what is good for your body, rather than what is easy. Treating your body with the care it deserves is all a part of individual development and the elimination of bad habits.
By making your health a priority, all you need to do is exercise and eat a balanced and healthy diet and stick to it. This useful self-improvement offers an excellent opportunity to easily obtain a healthier lifestyle
Challenge Your Fixed Mindset
In a way, our mindset affects the way we behave and our attitude to life and everything around us. So it is important to understand that your mindset should not be set in stone and you should be able to shift attitudes whenever you want.
So do not let setbacks get you down, rather just try a different approach. Take feedback from someone with experience and make changes accordingly. After all, you can learn as much from your mistakes as you can from success.
Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress helps you identify your strengths and discover areas where you can stay on course. Your feelings can make a big impact on the role of making your new habits stick. All of us face setbacks, but the key is to stay on track as soon as you can.
You can use online tools like NIH body weight planner to monitor your physical activity plans so as to achieve your personal goals within the specified time period. Moreover, by recording your progress, you can remain focused in order to meet your goals.
Create an Optimal Environment
We all know how genes influence habits, but their utility is more often than not determined by the environment you are in. So you will need to set up an environment that favours you genetically and makes it easier for you to build better habits. Like, if you are sucked into watching a lot of Netflix, you should consider changing the fixation. Once you are aware of this behavior, change your environment so that you don’t get tempted.
Rearrange your furniture in the living room, to avoid facing the TV, to promote another habit rather than just admitting that too much TV is bad for you. Try and keep your home tidy, even if tidiness is not your strong point. The object is to recognize your potential for growth and don’t let the genetic code be a hindrance.
We all have quirky habits we think of getting rid of every night by some pep talk, but when the next day dawns, the feeling of guilt and defeat overcomes all these things which you cannot resist. This is totally logical, because the brain does not make changes easily. However, with intent and a bit of modification in behavior, breaking an unhealthy habit is possible.
Want to unlock greater wellness?
Listen to our friends over at Wellness + Wisdom Podcast to unlock your genetic potential with Dr. Ben Lynch: