How to Kick Bad Lifestyle Habits
Habits can be your best friend or your nastiest nemesis. They can make life easier or hinder healthy progress. Either way, your habits are the result of repeated behaviours that serve you in some way. We all have both good and bad habits, but how can we tip the scales in our favour and ditch the bad habits?
- Recognise the WHY
Does looking for a snack to avoid the pile of washing or diving into the ice cream for solace after an emotional day sound familiar? You’re not alone. We are all guilty of reaching for food for the wrong reasons.
Boredom and stress are precursors for the formation of bad habits. Recognizing when you’re bored and stressed will help you identify habits that you turn to for ‘comfort’. We love food, but it’s important to remember it’s there to fuel your body not fix your emotions.
- Identify your habit triggers
Have you ever noticed that when you hang out with fit, healthy, positive people that you naturally start making choices that fit in with those people? The converse is true too. If you get tired and grumpy in the afternoon do you turn to sugary snacks for a pick-me-up?
Habits have three main parts – the trigger, routine and reward. Your current environment is a trigger for both your good and bad habits. It could be the people you’re spending time with, your family or work set-up, or the situations you find yourself in.
Changing your environment can break the cycle of the habit. Identifying the trigger, like the afternoon slump, means you can adjust the routine (the sugary snack) of your bad habit.
- Plan a habit attack
You’ve identified the ‘why’ and the triggers of some of your bad habits. Now what?
Attacking your bad habit with the all-or-nothing approach is setting yourself up for disaster. Instead, plan your bad habit attack by stealthy infiltration. Choose a substitute habit that will serve in the place of the bad habit. If drinking sugary drinks is your vice – replace with a funky fruit infused water or if you turn to food for comfort, try drawing or dancing instead! Beware though, your substitute habit has to provide sufficient ‘reward’ to satisfy, so choose something you enjoy.
- Be a rebel and change your mind
Let’s face it, not everyone likes to get hot and sweaty with exercise or salivates over a salad. Even though we know these things are good for us, we often get into the habit of avoiding them because we perceive them as being imposed on us.
If you view regular exercise and healthy eating as a chore, you are going to find changing your habits very difficult. However, if you change your mindset a little towards them being a choice or a reward for your body, then you start to form new (good) habits around exercise and food.
- Celebrate your wins
You’re starting to see some progress with healthy habits. Remember to celebrate! Rewarding yourself reinforces the good habit. This builds a stronger neural pathway where your brain steers you towards the ‘good’ habit because of the release of the ‘feel good’ hormone dopamine. The feel-good factor always wins over guilt. Remember to reward yourself in a healthy way. Ditch the donut reward and opt for a massage or some new workout gear.
- Speaking of guilt…don’t judge!
A little reality check to finish off. You will probably fail. But that is ok.
Your bad habits have been formed over a long time. Give yourself time and don’t judge yourself too harshly if you find it difficult to overcome some of your bad habits. Failure is a life lesson, not a life sentence. Most importantly just be consistent at ‘trying again’. Small steps forward add up to better habits in the long run!
Words by Kylie McCorquodale BSc (Biomed) Dip.Ed.
Kylie McCorquodale is a health writer who specializes in medical, fitness, wellbeing and educational content. Her passion for healthy living is balanced by a penchant for wine and chocolate. Kylie trains daily for triathlon and is willing to dive into the deep end of almost any adventure.