From our friends over at Vega:
Humans certainly are creatures of habit. While we strive to implement healthy lifestyle habits into our day, part of the struggle is often breaking those old bad habits. Many bad habit — like eating junk food or smoking — elicit a response from you brain’s reward center, creating a vicious cycle. If you’ve got some bad habits standing in the way of optimal health, it’s time to break the cycle.
Repetition of a behavior leads to a habit, and routines (habits) can become hard-wired in the brain, giving us a sense of reward (which is what often keeps us coming back for more). The good news is we have much more brain power that can help us do what is best for long-term health. Just like increasing strength or endurance through exercise, the act of resisting temptation will build up willpower muscles over time, and ultimately make you stronger.
Here 10 steps to breaking bad habits:
- Keep it simple:
Getting rid of every bad habit you have while trying to create new healthy ones may be too overwhelming. Start with the one habit you’d like to get rid of most — then work out simple rules to help you create healthy habits (complex rules will only give you anxiety).
- Become conscience:
Take a hard look at the why or what has you dipping into bad habits. Does work stress make you bite your nails? Boredom or anxiety have you reaching for junk food? Work on developing awareness to identify the root of the habit you want to break to truly enact lasting change.
- Pick a date:
Pick a date for stopping your habit — the sooner the better — and write it down on a piece of paper or your calendar to give time-based structure to making your changes permanent.
- Consider the obstacles:
Be aware of your potential barriers, and write down ways to overcome them. If obstacles are situational, find a friend who will be a habit buddy to back you up when you’re in a situation of potential temptation.
- Think positive:
You may find your brain is kicking around some negative chatter creating doubt in your abilities to really break a habit. It may be difficult in the beginning to replace those negative thoughts with positive ones. In your mind when negative chatter gets loud, tell it where to go — say “Stop!” or “Cancel!” to stop those negative thoughts in their tracks.
- Get leverage:
The first 30 days of breaking a bad habit can be the toughest. Create some leverage for yourself by making a public commitment to your friends and family to help keep you on track. Set up a new reward if you make it through the first 30 days – like a massage or a new pair of shoes — or even have a friend hold on to a meaningful sum of money or something of value to you for 30 days to give back to you if you are successful.
- Push past the pain:
You may have moments of weakness, desire to backslide, or uneasiness about breaking your bad habit but push past those few initial days of discomfort and know that it WILL get easier.
- No excuses:
Set this new change up as an absolute non-negotiable with no-exceptions — and be firm. You’ll never get over the hump of breaking the cycle if you let yourself make excuses for reverting back to your old ways.
- Change your environment:
You may have to change your routine or environment, especially if they promote your bad habit. Hanging around smokers can be difficult if you’re trying to quit, or if that bakery you pass on your commute is too tempting you may have to take a new route.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help:
Enlist a buddy with the same goal to help you, a support group, or a healthcare professional if you are struggling or in need of assistance.