Sure, breaking bad habits is easier said than done. But we’ve got a few tips to help you get rid of those daily digressions that are no longer serving you.
First, it’s good to focus on the positive. Write down every single good habit you partake in. Eat an apple every day? Floss most days? Drink plenty of water? Walk to the mailbox instead of drive? Wash your hands frequently?
Writing all of your good habits down will change your perspective. No longer will the crutches and obstacles impeding your health and happiness seem as burdensome.
Hopefully, you’ll come up with a laundry list of good habits, which will prove you’re not as unhealthy as you think you might be.
Visualize how your bad habits physically affect you
Now, to confront the demons: It’s critical to be aware of what your bad habits are and the full extent to which they are causing disharmony in your life.
For example, if you smoke a pack of cigarettes every day, you’re probably aware that smoking is bad for you, but chances are, for every “cancer stick” you smoke, you’re not thinking about the physiology that occurs with every cigarette consumed.
If you know this vice is detrimental to your health, mentally picture yourself with one of the many deadly conditions and diseases that smoking causes and how it would affect you and your family and friends.
Perhaps if you focused on how you’d look with a tracheotomy tube or having to talk with a voicebox (satirized and made popular by the "South Park" supporting character Ned) each time you smoked a cigarette, it would perhaps help you cut down and eventually quit.
This bit of advice might sound like tough love, but tobacco addiction is a life and death matter and a bad habit you’ll be glad to break.
Recite an affirmation each time you’re about to partake in your bad habit
Continuing with the smoking cigarettes example, right before you light up, try to say out loud, or even in your head, an affirmation — even if you don’t believe it. Try this one: “I enjoy a superior state of well-being and health. I have the choice to continue to be healthy from this moment forward.”
Combining visualization of what your bad habit can physically — and psychologically — manifest if you continue indulging in it, along with saying positive daily affirmations can help you eventually break your bad habit.
It’s especially important to state the affirmation every time before you’re about to indulge. Make it as automatic as reaching for that cigarette or extra bonbon.
Speaking of candy ... I don’t smoke, but I do eat lots of sugar
What about less egregious bad habits? Maybe you’re not one of the approximately 35 percent of American adults who are overweight, but you do overdo it with junk food.
Many people struggle with overindulging in simple carbohydrates that convert easily into sugar, or just plain sugary treats that cause a rush of energy and then eventually a sugar crash.
What kind of energy do you want to have?
It’s important to visualize how you want to feel during the day. If you genuinely enjoy the rush you feel from drinking three cups of coffee in the morning, while skipping breakfast and then ultimately hitting the proverbial brick wall at 2 p.m., you probably won’t break the bad habit of drinking too much caffeine, which can wreak havoc on your adrenal glands.
But if you do prefer to have steady energy throughout the day without crashing in the afternoon, you’ll stand a good chance of kicking your sugar addiction.
Eating more often and making sure that you consume some protein and a little natural fat with every meal will help keep your blood sugar levels steady and you’ll feel satisfied for longer. Instead of feasting on candy bars and countless other junk snacks, you’ll find that you only need a tiny portion to satisfy your sweet tooth. Hopefully, you’ll go with something healthy like a piece of fruit or a tiny wedge of dark chocolate.
Shortly after you start the good habit of eating more frequent, smaller well-balanced meals, you’ll be able to conquer your sugar habit.
Get the 'dope' rush
Overeating, drug addiction and other bad habits can cause a surge and then an eventual long-term suppressed level of the pleasure chemical in our brain, dopamine.
Exercising can bring about the “natural” high feeling, which will hopefully replace the false pleasures our bad habits use to trick us.
Exercise, visualization and positive affirmations can all help in trying to break bad habits. It won’t be easy, but at least you’ll have a few tools to start with.
Judd Handler is a wellness consultant and health writer in Encinitas, Calif. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related on MNN:
- 12 tips for kicking the refined sugar habit
- Easy psychological tips to help you lose weight
- How I quit coffee