Tuesday, March 3, 2020

How to Break a Bad Habit

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I've already talked a lot about making and sticking to new (good) habits, but now it's time to focus on breaking up with the bad ones.  For good.  Bad habits are the things you do on a consistent basis that are detrimental to your life in some way.  And even though we know they're bad for us, they can be really hard to quit.  Here are a few ways to make it easier:

Make Changes to Your Environment.  Removing triggers that lead to bad habits can be one of the easiest ways to stop a bad habit.  Always eating junk after dinner?  Don't buy the junk.  Don't bring it in your house.  Be like Miranda on Sex in the City and put it in the trash and cover it with dish soap if you need to.  Too much time on social media?  Turn off notifications.  Delete the apps from your phone.  Making changes to your environment can stop a bad habit in its tracks, so it's always worth a try.

Pay Extreme Attention to Bad Habits.  The main thing about habits is that they're just that - something we don't have to pay any attention to.  Say your bad habit is watching television for two hours every night.  It's because your brain sees this as some sort of reward, something that makes it feel good.  It's usually triggered by something.  Often with the TV habit, it's triggered by simply coming home and feeling tired from a work day.  Your brain says 'okay feel better from work day by binge watching shows.'  Start to pay attention to how you actually feel while you're doing it.  It's probably not great.  Guilty that you're being really lazy and not completing other tasks you wanted to get done.  Achy because your muscles hurt from sitting in the same position all night.  Recognize how bad it's actually making you feel so you can be motivated to correct it.

Decide Using the 5 Second Rule.  With a bad habit, the decision making part of your brain turns off and it becomes automatic.  Instead, force yourself to consciously make the decision.  Just by recognizing and voicing the bad habit that's about to happen, you're often able to make the better choice instead because you're actually cognizant of it.  You can use the the 5 second rule to make this happen.  All it means is to give yourself 5 seconds to get up and do the thing.  You can watch Mel Robbins' talk on this.

Progressive Extremism.  The idea is picking new semi-extreme identity and progressively making that identity more extreme.  In practice, for me, it looked like this: I knew I wanted to cut sugar (outside of fruit) from my diet.  But that seemed like such a huge leap.  Although extreme, it was too extreme to stick to right off the bat.  Instead, I picked one thing to ban for 6 months.  Cookies.  So my extreme identity was 'I don't eat cookies.'  The next step was to cut out other types of desserts as well, so no brownies or fudge, etc.  Then no desserts after dinner (the only time I really had them anyway) to no sugar in other areas, like sneaky hidden sugar in coffee creamers and salad dressing and bread (it's everywhere.)  I just adopted more and more 'extreme' identities until I got to that 'I don't eat added sugar' goal.

Have you tried any of these?  How do you break bad habits?

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