Whether our sweet tooth is telling us we need a piece of dessert each night after dinner, or a stressful day at work makes us crave a cigarette, each of us has been familiar with an unhealthy habit at some point in our lives. While we may desperately wish to stop these behaviors, we become so accustomed to them that it is usually very difficult to change– that’s why they’re called habits. Unhealthy habits may be hard to shake for a variety of reasons, but the first step is to understand why you engage in them in the first place. Once you identify the why, you can begin to figure out how you can take concrete steps to get rid of your unhealthy habits. While habits are unique to each individual based on background and circumstances, here are what I believe to be the top ways to get rid of unhealthy habits:
1.) Break Your Psychological Ties: If you have an unhealthy habit that you actually want to do something about, you may find that what’s standing between your desire and your ability to change is your psychological attachment to the particular activity.
Many habits form from ingrained patterns we’ve formed either from inheriting them from our families while growing up, or adopting them as ‘coping’ strategies during stressful times as we’ve gotten older. This association between the unhealthy habit and temporary stress relief is what makes us keep going back for more, even though we know that it’s bad for us. Once you’ve identified that the habit is unhealthy and you are somewhat reliant on it, you’ve tackled half the battle, so good for you! The next step, then, is to try to slowly “wean yourself off,” so to speak, by actively limiting your guilty pleasure activity. For example, if you automatically grab for a candy bar right after dinner because it’s what you always do, try to bring a level of awareness to this behavior and see if you can do it less often. Maybe you cut down to 3 nights a week, and then slowly you will find that you don’t need it to feel full and you will most likely stop craving it all together eventually. It is really important to note here, though, that unhealthy habits as they are mentioned in this blog does not refer to addiction– if you or someone you know has some sort of addictive behavior, please seek appropriate medical advice.
2.) Find A Support System: If you’ve been engaging in the same unhealthy habits for a while, it’s likely that you’ve surrounded yourself with others who either do the same behavior, or are at least complicit with it to some degree. Social pressure can have a huge influence on our ability to make positive lifestyle changes, since it is very challenging to break a habit and stick to it if others around you continue to engage in the same behavior. While you certainly shouldn’t ditch your friends or family, try to seek out a new group of likeminded others. For example, if you’ve become part of the office crew that runs for a quick trip to McDonald’s at the lunch break, try start branching out to other co-workers who you’ve noticed have more healthy habits that you’d like to embrace. Like-minded others who are already engaging in the behaviors you seek to incorporate into your own life can serve as great motivators and support systems to help keep you on track and headed in the right direction!
3.) Be Your Own Ally: While social pressure may steer us away from our goals, sometimes our worst enemy ends up being the voice in our own heads. Self-limiting thoughts such as “I’m not strong enough to change” or “I can never do this” are ways that we can sabotage our own progress before it even begins. Lifestyle changes are not easy, and the prospect of quitting a certain behavior or activity that we have grown accustomed to can be scary, but we each have more strength within us than we admit! In addition to surrounding yourself with others who can support you, try to be your own motivator by bringing mindful awareness to your self-limiting thoughts and beliefs when you notice them pop up. Then, I invite you to ask yourself: is this really true? Is what I think/ believe about myself really, unequivocally true? When you really think about it, most times the answer is no. You may feel like you are not strong enough to change, but that is just the fear talking! When you take a step back to think about it, you will see that you have done so many things in your lifetime, big or small, that you once believed was out of your reach or abilities. If you apply this same perspective to your unhealthy habits, you will be able to push through your self-limiting beliefs and find a support system within yourself. And, if you try to change but slip up a bit along the way, it’s okay! Don’t be too hard on yourself– if you’re doing the best you can, and are kind to yourself along the way, you will eventually reach your goals– just be patient.
4.) Do Some Spring Cleaning, No Matter The Season: It’s never too early to start Spring cleaning! If you find that you are surrounded by an environment that enforces/ enables your unhealthy habits, do a lifestyle cleanse. Unfollow the Instagram accounts that tempt you or distract you from your goals, throw away the leftover candy you’ve been hoarding since Halloween, etc. Whatever your vice is, try to eliminate traces of it from your life so as to not have distractions or make the transition even harder on yourself. If you want to get rid of an unhealthy habit, you need to do away with everything that reminds you of it, too. This can definitely be a challenge, so start out slow and build up to a total cleanse when you feel ready for it. When you’re no longer surrounded by reminders, it will be that much easier to move on and institute lasting change in your life!
If you’re looking to surround yourself with likeminded people with a passion for health and wellness, then join me for an amazing 5-day, 5-night Nourish & Flourish retreat to Tulum, Mexico May 3-8, 2018! Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, or to book!