You know what they are. Every time you do them you think, “I really shouldn’t be…” Fill in the blanks! Drinking this, eating this, smoking this – the list goes on and on. We all have habits we would be healthier without. So what do we do about them? How do we kick the habits for good? Here are ten tips for kicking unhealthy habits and living a better life.
#1: Acknowledge and own the habits. There’s no sense denying them; they exist, your friends and family know they exist, so own them. Say aloud, “I need to stop!” Once you’ve acknowledged it, it begins to lose its power. It’s certainly much better than ignoring your unhealthy habits or hiding them.
#2: Let go of shame. Don’t be ashamed of your unhealthy habits. No one is perfect and we’re all striving to improve ourselves. Everyone has something they need to work on. Once you stop feeling ashamed of it, you can move forward and take control of your habits.
#3: Understand where the habits came from. One of the great tools to kicking a habit is to first understand where it came from. For example, if you have a tendency to eat a lot in the evenings it could stem from your breakfast habits. Once you know the reason behind your habits, they’re easier to change. In the example of the late night eating, a simple solution may be to develop a resolution to have a good breakfast every morning, rather than trying to stop eating at night.
#4: Understand why you want to get rid of your unhealthy habit. Do you want to feel better? Have more energy? Look better? Extend your life? When you understand why you want to get rid of your unhealthy habits, it is easier to find the right motivation to help you achieve your goals. For example, if you’re motivated to look better, maybe an old picture of yourself when you liked how you looked would work as appropriate motivation.
#5: Set reasonable goals. Lofty goals don’t serve anyone. If you want to get rid of unhealthy habits, establish goals you are fairly certain you can attain. That doesn’t mean they have to be easy goals, but it is important that they are attainable.
#6: Replace bad habits with good ones. One of the best and easiest ways to get rid of unhealthy habits is to replace them with new habits. For example, earlier we mentioned late night eating. Rather than struggle with cravings while you’re sitting on the couch each night, brew a cup of green tea and change your habit to a good one, one that is healthy and beneficial for you.
#7: Seek support. Sometimes we just need a little help. We need an extra hand, a little encouragement, or someone to listen to us when we’re having a tough time. Support groups, friends and family can all be a great resource when trying to kick old habits.
#8: Stay positive. A good attitude is extremely helpful to kicking unhealthy habits. It helps to be able to focus on more positive thoughts when you’re trying to get rid of habits that are detrimental to your health. Before you set about accomplishing your goal, it helps to come up with a few methods for staying positive. Find what makes you happy and make note of it. When you’re having a negative thought or a tough moment, pull out your happy thought or your happy trigger and use it.
#9: Reward yourself. Reward yourself for accomplishing the small steps along the way and for making it through the tough times. For example, if you’re trying to cut out after dinner snacks and one particular evening you’re really craving something other than the tea you’ve been drinking, and you manage to avoid the bag of chips on the counter or the ice cream in the fridge, then you could reward yourself by getting your favorite coffee at the neighborhood coffee shop in the morning.
#10: Plan your success. Rather than trying to wing it, it is helpful to plan how you’re going to attain your goal. If you want to eliminate your habit of getting fast food for lunch each day, or you want to stop drinking coffee in the morning, how are you going to do it? Break your goal down into smaller, more manageable steps for easier success. For example you could stop going through the drive-thru four days out of the week but still go with your co-workers on Fridays. After a week or two of success, you may even find that you’re ordering a salad rather than a burger.
Small successes give us confidence for larger ones. You create a pattern of success and strength.