We are creatures of habit. Think of your morning routine. Every weekday I get up, make coffee, brush my teeth, wash my face, get dressed (while drinking my coffee), eat breakfast, and head to work. Always in this order. The details vary, but I usually do the exact same thing every day.
I like it because I don’t have to think. A predictable routine is extremely comforting. The problem is that we get comfortable with bad habits. When a bad habit becomes a part of your daily routine, you lose consciousness of it. Auto-pilot kicks in.
Becoming accustomed to a bad habit makes that habit seem much harder to give up than it really is. You don’t want to change. When you try to give up a bad habit, it leaves a void in your routine that leads to restlessness and urges. The best way to fill this void is with a good habit.
The first step in the process is deciding to give up the bad habit. You can’t decide to give it up because other people say you should. The drive to change must come from within. The drive is created by understanding how the bad habit is harmful.
I used to have a bad habit of snacking non-stop, even when I’m wasn’t hungry. It’s absurd when I think about what I was actually doing. I spent hard-earned money to lose touch with my body’s natural hunger and satisfaction signals. Because I bought junk food, I also flooded my body with unnatural chemicals & ingredients. If I didn’t change this habit, my chronic overeating and unhealthy extra pounds could have lead to diabetes, heart disease, and other serious health conditions.
Once I realized the harm that I was doing to myself, my bad habit became much less appealing. But giving it up still wasn’t easy because most bad habits aren’t all bad. I did some research and self-reflection and realized my chronic snacking was a maladaptive strategy I used to cope with difficult feelings (like stress, anger, sadness, or boredom). The desire to move away from discomfort wasn’t bad, but I needed a better way to satisfy it.
Next, substitute a Good Habit. Giving up a bad habit shouldn’t be unpleasant, but it is when we feel like we’re denying ourselves. We need to fill the void in our daily routine with something that isn’t as harmful, and we also need to reward ourselves to maintain our motivation.
In my case, I wanted to stop chronic snacking. It was tough because I missed the taste of junk food and the comfort it provided. Fortunately, there were other ways to fulfill my desires that weren’t as destructive or expensive. I decided to:
- reacquaint myself with hunger. I kept a journal and waited to eat until my body physically craved food.
- eat for the right reason: because I was hungry- not because I was stressed, bored, angry or sad.
- ban unhealthy food from my home. I replaced junk food with real food: fruits, veggies, nuts, lean meats and whole-grain products.
- start planning snacks like meals. When the urge came around, I didn’t feel as restless and the urge was easier to resist.
Different things work for different people. The key is finding a better way to satisfy the desires you used to satisfy with the bad habit.
If you can replace a bad habit with a positive, enjoyable habit, the change is much more likely to stick. Once you are able to feel satisfied without harming yourself, you’ll wonder how that old bad habit seemed so enjoyable.
What’s the one bad habit you plan on kicking to the curb this week? Leave a comment and LMK!