Someone who took my 30-second survey commented that they’d like to know how to break bad habits. I thought this was a GREAT topic. How many of us know it’s the bad habits we have that are holding us back from where we want to be? I do.
Before we talk about how to break a habit, thought, let’s break down what a habit is in the first place.
Put simply, a habit has a few personality traits (note: this is NOT an academic or clinical definition of a habit, and that’s OK for the purposes of this discussion):
It’s probably easier to talk about habits if we have one specific we’d like to break in mind. Let’s take the one I hear about the most often: Snacking. (And I don’t the once-in-a-while, I’m-on-vacation-so-I’ll-have-this-special-cookie snacking.) Does snacking fit the above criteria:
Now, I think simply saying, “I’m going to break this bad habit by doing this thing instead,” may be cheating you out of a very important part of the process. Yes, you have to figure out how you’re going to break the bad habit but first wouldn’t it be interesting to find out WHY you’re engaging in it to begin with? I would argue that until you know why you’ve got this habit, finding a more beneficial habit to practice in its place may be like putting a bandaid on a wound that actually needs stitches.
So let’s talk about a simple way to create awareness around the habit:
Now let’s say you’ve just gone through this exercise for a few days or a week (or more). Are you seeing any patterns? Are you snacking around the same time every day? Are you being cued by certain emotions? Is there a particular food you’re craving? Are you feeling anything physical before you eat your snack?
Here are the most popular triggers I’ve heard for snacking (does any of this sound familiar?):
Those few triggers above are each pretty different, right? But now you can see that knowing what’s triggering your habit can help you start to figure out which more positive, beneficial habit you can practice in its place! What might help you cope with stress? If you’re bored, what habit could you create to help you get out of your boredom? What can you do earlier in the day to prevent you from feeling hungry or dissatisfied a few hours after a meal?
So I’ll leave you with this for now. If YOU are someone who feels like they have a bad habit they want to break, try the above and let me know what you find out!