“I’m going to start working out again,” “ I need to start eating healthier,” “I need to drink more water.” Do any of these statements sound familiar? I remember that for months I was telling myself that I needed to eat healthier, stress less, and sleep more. But then, in a rush, I would be picking up the closest bagel in sight and load up on caffeine. My plans for good habits would go right out the window.
Good habits feel good
It feels like every week, we proclaim a new health, fitness, or personal goal we want to achieve, but when the time comes to act on it, our willpower weakens. The reason is that when you want to make a change to your lifestyle, it might not be enough to set a goal; you need to turn it into a habit to ensure the changes stick.
I incorporated the changes I wanted to see into simple habits that fit into my lifestyle, rather than looking at them as huge and daunting tasks. Then I could make the changes I wanted to see without having to think twice. I was inspired by the books on this list and I’m sharing some tips you can use to break the habit loop and incorporate new rituals.
Recognize bad habits
Before you can change your habits, it’s essential to reflect on the daily habits that you’re not proud of. They can be an action or a lack of action.
Some people bite their nails, some eat foods that don’t work for them, and others find that they procrastinate habits that contribute their goals. Pin-point your unhelpful habits, and narrow in on the ones you wish to break.
Recognize what sets off your habits
Do you find you bite your nails when you’re nervous? Do you eat when you’re bored? Do you procrastinate when you’re tired? Try to connect your bad habits to a specific emotion or event that tends to trigger your actions. Once you know what this is, you’ve identified a big part of the problem, and you’re well on your way to reversing these habits.
We often set off bad habits when we want to experience a feeling, like joy, happiness, or an energy boost. The key is to switch out the bad habit for a positive one that can give us the same or similar feeling. The action that sets you off to perform a bad habit is called a “cue” Once the pattern has been cued, you’ll effectively start doing whatever your bad habit is.
Exchange your ‘bad habit’ cues
Whenever I want a work break, I find myself drifting over to Twitter or social media. The reasoning behind this is not because I need to be updated on what is happening on social media. The underlying factor is that I want to feel distracted or experience the hit of dopamine that accompanies seeing a like or comment on something I’ve posted.
While trying to kick this habit, I realized you have to replace the reward you would receive from doing the bad habit, and align it with doing something good.
Now, when I realize I’m procrastinating and need a second to relax, I think twice about going on Instagram, and instead, I take a quick walk or do a yoga pose to stretch out. This has a lot more health benefits than scrolling through the Facebook feeds of people I haven’t seen since college and delivers an equivalent boost.
It takes 21 days to form a habit
When I got sick of waking up and wasting my mornings on social media, only to realize that I was running late for my meetings and feeling negative about my own life compared to the inspo I would see on Instagram, I decided to do something about it.
I started using a daily wellness journal, and made my morning alarm a daily wake-up message to remind me to start my day focused on my own goals. I’ve become so accustomed to starting my day feeling centered and present in the moment, rather than feeding into the click-bait on my Twitter feed.
It took me weeks to get used to waking up and not flipping between my top apps, but now that I’m used to it. I feel weird now if I’m tempted to do my scrolling before I do my stretching and focusing on what I want to accomplish that day. The joy, happiness, and relaxation that comes from just being me, rather than getting sucked into comparison, has replaced a bad habit with a good habit that makes me feel centered, accomplished, and full of gratitude for my own life.
It’s also a good idea to start a 21-Day Cleanse as a way to reset your habits, clear your mind, body, and energy for a fresh start.
Written by Reese Evans
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