Whether you are conscious of the fact or not, our lives are built around a series of habits, both good and bad. If you want to change the way you live, you need to change these habits, but many people trying to do so go about things the wrong way.
Rather than trying to eliminate a habit completely, which may prove difficult, a better approach is to try to replace bad habits with good ones that enrich your life. This is because all habits have triggers and generate rewards in our minds. If you can identify the trigger and replace the reward with a better one, you stand a far better chance of making the new habit stick.
Identify the trigger
Sometimes the stimulus that drives you towards a bad habit will be obvious. For example, you may reach for the donuts every time you get stressed at work or bite your nails when you get stuck in traffic. Other times, the links may be subtler and will take more time to identify. It’s important to invest as much time as necessary in identifying your triggers, you cannot move on to the next stage without doing so.
Identify the reward, then replace it
Once you know what sets you off on the path towards your bad habit, you then have to work out why your brain finds it rewarding. Again, this may be obvious as in when you eat a donut, you feel good because carbohydrates help to reduce the level of the stress hormone in your body.
However, replacing the donut with a piece of fruit will provide you with a similar burst of flavor but will be a far healthier option. Look at all areas of your life and implement similar replacements.
No matter how much willpower you have, you may find that you can’t overcome all of your bad habits on your own. In such cases, it may be worth enlisting the help of friends, family members or colleagues to keep you accountable.
Much of the time we act on our habits without really thinking about them, so having someone call us out when they see our reaching for a box of sweet treats or taking a cigarette out of the packet is sometimes all that is needed to bring us back into the moment and reinforce our resolve.
Sometimes you may require outside help to overcome bad habits, especially those that may be harmful to your health. If you or a friend or relative need help cutting down on drinking and, in particular, are worried about yourself or someone else getting behind the while intoxicated, consider fitting a car breathalyzer as this will prevent a vehicle from being started unless the driver is under the legal limit and therefore safe to drive.
If you find yourself spending more money than you can spare on items you don’t need, consider cancelling your credit cards or switching to making all your purchases with cash. If you find yourself overeating, remove all the snacks from your house and prepare portion-controlled meals in advance, so you only eat the right amount of food at each meal. There is no habit that cannot be broken; all you need to do is have the willpower to do so, and keep yourself in check.