Helping people make healthy, consistent habits is a huge part of our mission. It just is. Naturally, this means breaking some bad habits. Once you eliminate a bad habit, however, it’s easy to revert to unhealthy practices if you don’t put something good in place.
That’s where this article comes into play. We’ll cover ditching bad habits, but we’ll also highlight things you can do to fill the void.
Find the Triggering Event
Not every bad habit is an addiction and not every bad habit is that obvious. That being said, every addiction starts with a bad habit, and what was a minor idiosyncrasy can turn into a full-fledged gambling addiction. In either case, small or big, recognition is the first step in eliminating something harmful from your life.
So ask yourself this: Is there a trigger?
Are you endlessly scrolling social media out of boredom?
Are you sleeping in because you feel like something is missing from your life?
Buying things you don’t need because you’re trying to make yourself feel better (aka Retail Therapy)?
Of course, there’s also biting your nails, smoking, drinking, and dozens of other bad habits*, and regardless of what habit you’d like to work on, there are two steps you absolutely need to start with:
- Recognize the bad habit.
- Find what triggers it.
It’s a type of reverse engineering if you will. Recognizing the bad habit helps you work backward and identify what triggered an impulse in the first place, and until you do this, you can’t properly address it, resolving the bad habit you’re wanting to break.
*This blog cannot adequately address problems with gambling and drinking. Please reach out to a helpline, counselor, or other certified professional or program for assistance.
Stop Suppressing Thoughts About Your Bad Habits
Once you’ve identified those habits, stop suppressing your thoughts about them.
This tip might seem counterintuitive but think about when someone says to close your eyes or keep a straight face – all you can actively think about is opening your eyes or breaking a smile.
Even if you’re actively trying to snuff out certain thoughts, studies have shown a correlation between “the tendency to suppress thoughts [and] the number of attempts to quit” a bad or unhealthy habit.
In other words, the more you tell yourself not to think about your bad habits, the more likely you will want to engage in those habits.
That’s why experts advise you to actively think about the habit and what’s causing it. Of course, other factors can contribute to keeping a bad habit in your life (physiological, social, environmental, etc.), but this is one thing you can actively control.
What to Focus On to Shed Your Habits
That being said, there are certainly better things to fill your mind with; don’t let the bad habits control your every move. To clear up any confusion, you still need to stop suppressing your thoughts about the habits, but you can, and should, turn toward more positive avenues.
We believe that positivity triumphs over negative behavior. When it comes to our thoughts, though, what does that look like?
Rather than telling yourself not to munch and snack on potato chips, crackers, or other empty carbohydrates (because the more you tell yourself not to, the more you’ll want to), have a hydrating electrolyte drink mix, or another wholesome snack and move on. (Fun fact: Hunger is often misconstrued as being thirsty. A lot of the time, you just need to drink a glass of water.)
Or, you could participate in a completely different activity altogether to help yourself walk away from those negative thoughts.
If you have an issue with sleeping in, rather than thinking about how unproductive that is, find a valid reason to get up on time – find a purpose. That could look like a self-help reading session, a morning walk or stretch, or even a high-intensity workout. If you find yourself wasting time in the morning scrolling through social media (and we all do it!), read a book or simply be alone with your thoughts.
Embrace boredom because this is where creativity thrives! Rather than turning to your phone or the television to entertain you, learn how to entertain yourself.
You’d be amazed at how much time is wasted on your phone and what you can do with that time. Read a book, learn a new skill or trade, talk with a person in real life.
Whatever it is, refrain from turning to your phone and instead, fill that void with a more productive endeavor you might not have sought out otherwise. If you have to, fast from social media because, as the great Osho said, “Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence.”
How You Stress Yourself Out
Easier said than done, we agree, but stress promotes habits at the expense of goal-oriented performance. Just as poor nutrition and stress correlate, so do lifestyle and stress.
Life is stressful. Are you an individual who operates at a more urgent, higher pace and thrives in competitive situations, loving the most intense workouts possible? That’s great! But when you feel impatient – getting upset and linking your self-worth to achievements – these are red flags you’re putting unhealthy amounts of stress on yourself.
Stress is an unsustainable way of life, and if you’re reading this and seeing that statement as a challenge to prove us wrong, you’ve actually just proved the point you need to slow down.
Even if you’re not adding stress to your life in this manner, you’re probably dealing with the fact that there never seems to be enough time in the day for family, work, and the hundreds of other reasons that send your heart rate up and your anxiety levels above the clouds.
So, how do we slow down?
Slow down and get rid of stress by taking up meditation. By alleviating stress, you can break down bad habits. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
If you’re new to meditation, here’s a good starting place: Block out a portion of your day where you can be alone with your thoughts and breathe. Create a calm atmosphere where you can put energy into how you breathe, suspending your breath at both the top and bottom.
- Breathe in for three seconds
- Hold for three seconds
- Breathe out for three seconds
- Hold again for three seconds
Listen to your breath. Feel your breath. Listen to your thoughts, and feel your thoughts. If they stray, that’s OK. Just try to refocus on your breath. It’ll get easier the more you do it.
Try Yin Yoga
Another way to slow down is by taking up yoga – not Power Yoga or some other intense form but rather Yin Yoga.
Yin Yoga is a slow-paced, meditative practice where stretches and poses last for minutes at a time, targeting deep connective tissues. This allows you to turn inward and tune into the relationship of your mind and body.
In this practice, you access your parasympathetic nervous system which helps you calm your body and lower your heart rate.
You can practice Yin Yoga anywhere, anytime. The key is holding each pose for an extended length, two to five minutes, breathing from your diaphragm, and focusing on the moment.
When in each pose, avoid fidgeting or moving around as best as you can to release fully into the posture. Push yourself to a point where you feel a deep sensation (comfortable discomfort), but never stretch to the point of pain. If you can’t do the pose perfectly or have trouble sitting still, don’t worry. Yoga isn’t about being perfect, it’s about learning more about yourself and your body.
In both instances, you may want to take up a class. It doesn’t matter if it’s online or in person; the point is to find a coach that can help properly guide you through these new practices if you choose to pursue them.