Leave those bad habits behind you and step into 2022 with the mission to change and to adopt some new habits that are beneficial to your health and lifestyle. The New Year is a time to break bad habits and replace them with healthy ones, but we all know that is often easier said than done.
First of all, focus on what it is that you want to stop, whether that is smoking, drinking too much alcohol, biting your nails, or eating too many sugary foods. Once something has become a habit you find that you rely on it to calm yourself when you become stressed or anxious, so it is important to replace that habit with good ones. However, it is not a good idea to try and break all your bad habits at once!
Try using the ‘SMART Goals’ system. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound and it is an excellent way for you to set goals and to have the means by which to achieve them. To successfully break a habit, identify why you want to change and write those reasons down. How will life improve if you stop that bad habit and what will happen if you continue with those same bad habits. Keep this list with you in case you need to look at it for motivation and to monitor your habit and look for patterns. Defining each of the five SMART characteristics can help to outline a pathway to reaching the goal. The more well-defined that pathway becomes, the easier it is to follow.
Establish realistic goals and maintain them by having a strategy to help in times you feel challenged. Understanding the trigger that starts you reaching for that bad habit is crucial. Maybe you find yourself having that cigarette or glass of wine when you are bored? Analyse why, when and where you mostly engage in your habit and how often you do it. It’s crucial to understand your behaviour if you want to change it. When we perform the same actions over and over again, we begin to lose awareness about them as our brain goes into autopilot. Awareness provides the foundation for change.
The key to stopping the cycle is knowing how the habit is formed and breaking that habit at the ‘reward’ phase. You need to replace a bad habit with a new habit that provides a similar benefit. Choosing a substitute for your bad habit requires planning ahead. Prepare yourself to be uncomfortable and to experience some bad cravings. Don’t forget to establish incentives and reward yourself! Use the money, time or energy you’ve saved from opting out of your bad habit to treat yourself to something nice, such as a new piece of clothing.
The next time you reach for that extra piece of chocolate, or just one more glass of wine, ask yourself how it really makes you feel and is it worth it… and then go for a brisk walk!