We all have some habit that we would like to change. Whether it’s mindless TV watching, eating too many sweets or not doing enough to stay fit – the list includes any behavior pattern that we consider to be undesirable. We should remember that there’s not only a bad side to habits, instead habits can also be beneficial because they help us to navigate us our daily lives: habits provide a framework for our days. The older we become, the more habits we have. Habits allow us to do things without having to think so much about doing them. Things get done or not done without the need to repeatedly look closely at our original motivations. What is a big advantage can unfortunately also be a big disadvantage – that’s why it’s so important to stay flexible, develop habits with intention and question our motivations at the start.
Here’s an example: I recently wanted to stop drinking coffee with my breakfast. That was really not as easy as it might sound. I do have to admit that it was definitely easier than it was to give up smoking a few years ago! Below you’ll find some tips on changing specific habits:
It is important that you clearly make a decision about the habits you want to change. If you have really decided to change an unwanted habit, then you’re more likely to put that into action more quickly and more effectively. It’s always a good decision to make positive changes in your life…and it’s clearly something you’ll never regret doing.
The more stubborn a habit is, the more difficult it will be to give it up. That’s why you shouldn’t leave how you’ll change a behavior to chance, rather you should plan your next steps and decide on a plan of action. I made a plan to avoid drinking coffee during the week – only on Sundays. When I plan things in advance, it becomes easier to integrate new ways of doing things into my everyday life.
It’s helpful if the habit that you would like to give up is replaced by another habit. Concentrate on your new activity and not on breaking the old habit. In effect, you are overwriting an old habit with a new one. Don’t think things like “I shouldn’t do that”…instead, think to yourself something like “It’s great that I’m doing something different!” That makes your approach to your intended outcome a much more positive one.
Using your mental power is also helpful here. Imagine how good it will feel to wake up and not reach for a cigarette first thing in the morning and instead go for a relaxing jog around your neighborhood. Maybe you could think about how nice it will be to have a cup of flavorful tea instead of your usual coffee. Make use of the power of positive and pleasant mental images. This kind of visualization exercise will also provide a big boost in terms of motivation. That’s another way to prevent sliding back into your unwanted habits.
If you try to quit smoking, drink less coffee, do some physical activity every day and at the same time eat fewer sweats, it can be too much of a good thing all at once. Moreover this lowers the likelihood that you will actually do what you wanted to do, leading to even lower motivation in the end. Concentrate on changing one or two habits at a time. If you do that successfully, you can move on to the next changes you’d like to make. Taking small steps is a lot easier than trying to do everything at once.
As you know, change will involve putting your self-discipline to the test. Try not to give up right away, even if the going seems tough. Be patient with yourself and keep in mind that it will take a while before your new habits become established. Don’t fall victim to your own internal resistance to doing things differently. We learn through repetition because people are also creatures of habit. Once you stop thinking so much about your new behavior and it start happening more or less automatically, you’ll know that you’ve successfully integrated your new way of doing things.
Unfortunately there’s no silver bullet or magic formula for changing habits. Nonetheless, I hope that my tips are helpful for you. What bad habits would you like to change? Maybe there’s a good habit that you recently gave up on? How difficult was it for you, and what did you learn from the change you made…whether for the better or for the worse? Leave a comment or write to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Keep at it!