All of us have habits, notions we go through on a daily basis, sometimes even without thinking about it. How many times have you picked up a bag of crisps, just because you were going to watch your favourite TV show? The whole point wasn’t the crisp itself, but the activity. Or, in with other words, the habit.
Habits don’t develop or go away overnight, but they aren’t too difficult to change, either. It normally takes between 2 and 4 weeks to integrate a new habit into your daily routine, or to forget another.
Whether you want to become a healthier person and practice self-care, or simply look after yourself by getting rid of your bad traits, you can follow these simple steps. Results aren’t guaranteed, of course, but if you keep at it, there is a very good chance to succeed. Remember, only you can make it or break it, but you don’t need to do it alone.
1. The first step is to determine why you want to do this. If your reason isn’t genuine, or if it isn’t for yourself (i.e. if you want to lose weight for your boyfriend), then your motivation won’t last. Find something that makes you want to do it, not just because you feel like you have to.
2. Because it’s the notion you are going to miss, replace it with a less harmful one. Are you trying to quit smoking? Why not chew a gum instead? Or, instead of grabbing that bag of chips for the movie, swap it for a healthier alternative. It depends on the habit you are trying to change, but remember: giving it up or picking it up straight away can be as harmful as not doing anything at all.
3. Dig a little deeper and ask yourself why you started incorporating those bad traits into your life? Or, to look at it from the other side, why didn’t you incorporate a habit that would make you feel better? There might be an underlying issue. Common triggers are sadness, boredom, lack of self-confidence. Whatever it is, it might need to be addressed first in order to change the habit completely. Remember, swapping it with another habit is only a temporary solution.
4. Buddy up with someone who wants to get rid of a similar bad trait or who is embarking on a journey to acquire the same habit as you. This will help to keep you on your toes, because you will feel obliged to do what you promised. Sure, it puts more pressure on you, especially on a bad day. But for some, this is the only way to keep them motivated and inspired. By witnessing someone else’s success, you automatically want to achieve the same. And if they fail on certain days, that will show you that they are human, too.
5. Keep reminding yourself of the previous steps (i.e. your reasons for doing this). This is especially crucial on harder days when you lack motivation. Try to stay positive and remember that if you made a mistake and went back to your old habit while trying to get rid of it, it’s not the end of the world. As we said, changing habits and getting rid of bad traits won’t happen overnight. Be proud of yourself for all the days you managed to resist temptation, but go easy on yourself on the days when you didn’t.
Guilt is a slippery slope that can easily bring you back into the habit of, well, sticking with your bad habits. Tomorrow is always another day, when you can start all over again. But you won’t start from entirely zero, because that small bump in the road only hindered your progress temporarily. Remember, give yourself some time and some credit. You deserve both.