Sometimes I feel like my life revolves around habits, both good and bad. I wake up, write while still in bed, drink warm lemon water, take my dog out, go to the gym…
It’s almost as if each habit is a trigger for the next. If I miss a step, I’m more likely to miss another. And then another. Next thing you know, my day is all over the place and is more likely to spiral downwards.
Thankfully the reverse is true too. If I stay true to my habits, for example, going to the gym in the morning, I’m more likely to continue to make good healthy choices throughout the day. So now I make sure I have enough time to start my day right.
It wasn’t always this way.
My habits used to be far different. I’d wake up, eat ice cream and cereal, go to work, meet friends for a drink, go home and watch lots of TV and then go to bed. I’d always try to talk myself into the gym at some point but it rarely happened.
There used to be little to no healthy habits in my routine.
Let’s Talk About Habits
If you’re the visual type, watch the video from Facebook Live where I talk about kicking habits to the curb or read on below.
According to the dictionary, a habit is “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up”. It’s something you do on a daily basis without even thinking about it. It’s second nature.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, it’s a habit. Aristotle
But did you know it only takes 30 days to create a habit? That means it only takes 30 days to break one too.
This is good news! It means we can start breaking bad habits and creating new ones in a very short time. It also means that for each healthy habit we create, we’ll start doing it without even thinking about it.
Start brainstorming now. What are some of your daily habits? Think of the good as well as the bad. What is it that you find yourself doing over and over? It may take a minute to realize what some of them are seeing as how half the time we do them on autopilot.
Which of those habits you just thought of are bad?
For some of you, that’s reaching for a donut with your coffee, making a pit stop at the vending machine on your break or stopping to pick up fast food on your way home from work.
Half the time, we don’t even realize that our actions are rooted in habit and not desire.
My biggest bad habit was always dessert. I’d reach for something sweet after every meal on instinct. It didn’t matter how full I was or even if I really wanted it, I’d eat it. My dessert of choice was typically ice cream but if there wasn’t any, I’d find something else. Whether that was my roommate’s cupcakes or the container of frosting in the fridge, there was no way I was walking away without dessert.
Part of my bad habit was certainly sugar addiction, but it was more than that. My ice cream habit was rooted in my very essence.
Another one of my bad habits was binge-watching TV after work. It wasn’t that there was anything I really even wanted to see. It was just something I did at that time of night without thinking about it.
Now that you know what your bad habits are, next time you reach for that donut, stop and think. Do you really want it or are you reaching for it out of habit? Now, what can you do instead?
Replace Bad Habits
I can attest that the easiest way to supersede a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. It was the first thing I did to start breaking my old bad habits.
For me, that meant instead of reaching for dessert after every meal, I’d “treat” myself after every meal. So instead of always having something packed with refined sugars, I’d allow myself something else I enjoyed. It took some time and it certainly wasn’t easy but now I feel satisfied by reaching for a handful of nuts or dried fruit instead.
If the bad habit you want to break is coffee every morning, try replacing it with warm lemon water. If your bad habit is stopping by Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a donut, stop going to Dunkin Donuts and start making your own coffee at home. Make a healthy breakfast treat in advance to have on hand to have with your coffee.
Be a Broken Record
The only way to create a new habit is to do something over and over again.
If drinking warm lemon water in the morning instead of coffee is the new habit you want to create, then, in the beginning, do it each and every day. Set a reminder on your phone if you have to. Do it until you don’t have to think about doing it anymore; do it until it’s second nature.
It may seem redundant (like a broken record) to do something so religiously but this is how you ingrain a habit into your bones.
Do it every day. For 30 days.
Choose One to Three Habits at a Time
We’re all victims of instant gratification so sometimes we get something in our head and we want it all at once. Then we end up trying to go the extreme and force ourselves to change everything immediately. But it’s hard for most people to go cold turkey when it comes to overhauling our entire life as we know it.
If you try to change everything all at once, chances are you’re going to fall flat on your ass.
To prevent setting yourself up for failure, choose one to three bad habits to change per month and you can add more habits for every following month. By the end of the year, just think of not only how many bad habits you’ve kicked, but how many good ones you’ll have created. That’s a big deal!
Do the Hardest Thing in the Morning
This has been a game changer for me.
Going to the gym, for example, used to be the hardest thing for me to do. But then I started to do it in the mornings and dragging myself there every day. Now it’s pre-programmed into my day and rarely even occurs to me not to go.
More recently, writing was the hardest thing for me, so I started writing first thing in the morning before I even got out of bed. Bam. I’m now writing several days a week.
Let Your Habits Gain Momentum
Creating habits, both good and bad, are like either an upward or downward spiral. The more you do it, the easier it gets. The easier it gets, the more bad habits you supersede. And it keeps going up, up, up and until you’re living a far healthier lifestyle than you thought was possible.
The best thing about it is, you don’t feel like you’re following rules or restricting yourself; you’re simply creating good habits.
A Personal Challenge
Download the free pdf that accompanies this post. This exercise will help you recognize your bad habits and help you to choose one to three to do away with immediately. It’ll help you replace them with good healthy habits that can nourish your body for good.
Now if you print it out and do nothing, nothing will happen. I know that’s not what you want for yourself.
I challenge you to get started today. Not Monday. The beginning of the rest of your life is in your hands and can begin as soon as you start.
Imagine looking forward to exercise, having a positive relationship with food and truly loving your body.
It all starts by breaking bad habits and creating good new ones.
After you complete the exercise and start your new habits, all that’s left is to watch your life change, one small change at a time.
Get started creating better habits today by downloading your free worksheet here.