Breaking Bad Habits
If you’re reading this blog, you probably have a health and fitness goal.
Whether your goal is to lose fat, increase endurance, build muscle, or anything else, you have another, more important, goal:
You need to form habitual behaviors that help you and ditch the bad habits that hold you back from success.
When it comes to health, fitness, wellness transformations, and lifestyle changes, we talk a lot about the importance of forming good habits. But, the truth is, you likely have a handful of bad habits that are standing in your way.
Developing good habits is all well and good, but they won’t do much for you if your bad habits are constantly negating them. If you want to make progress and reach your goals, you have to kick the bad habits and replace them with good ones. Otherwise, you’ll be spinning your wheels until you get frustrated and give up.
Here are some tips to help you break those bad habits according to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
Six steps to breaking bad habits
Step 1: Decide to end the habit
The first thing you have to do is decide that you want to break a habit. Decide right now. Be honest with yourself and take a look at your current habits. Take your time with this exercise because they won’t all jump out at you at once.
Spend a few minutes evaluating your habits, both the good and bad ones, then ask yourself which ones are holding you back.
Is it a lack of consistency?
Are you not holding yourself accountable for your actions?
Until you address which habits are holding you back, you won’t be able to make the changes necessary to see the results you want.
Hesitation allows a crack for your excuses to seep through. Stop hesitating. Act now!
Before you read on, write down the habits you want to change so you have a visual reminder of what you’re trying to achieve and so you can look back to see how far you’ve come.
Step 2: Consider the consequences
After you’ve written down the habits you want to break, you need to ask yourself how you will benefit from making this change.
Consider how differently your life will look if you drop the habit. Write down everything you will gain and the different ways your life can improve. Even the small improvements count because, over time, they will add up to be more significant than what you might imagine as you’re initially writing them down.
Also consider: what will happen if you don’t make the change? What will your life look like if you continue with the same habits?
Think about this for the long term. Sure, not exercising might not make a significant difference to your life this week or next, but what about 5 or 10 years from now?
The habit you want to kick might cause health issues down the road if you don’t stop it. Or, if you don’t make a change, you might not be able to do certain things you’ve always wanted to do.
Before step 3, spend some time weighing the pros and cons of making this change. Doing so will help you realize why it is important to you. It will also be helpful down the road when you’re struggling with motivation because you’ll be reminded of why making the change matters and what’s at stake if you don’t do anything about it.
Step 3: Track it
Be mindful and practice self-awareness. Remember, you are in control of your success.
Keep track of when you initiate the bad habit and take note of the emotions surrounding it. By tracking, you’ll be able to determine what triggers the bad habit. You’ll also determine when and why you find yourself doing this behavior on autopilot.
You can’t change what you don’t even know is happening.
Remember, it will take time before you figure out your triggers. Tracking one instance of your bad habit won’t give you all the answers, but as you keep tracking what’s happening around the time you initiate the bad habit, you’ll start to notice a pattern.
Maybe you’re already aware of the trigger, but you’ve never addressed it. By having it down on paper and looking right at you, you won’t be able to ignore the cause, and you’ll be more likely to address the issue.
PRO TIP: Keep a running note in your phone to keep track of the when, where, and why of your bad habits and try to identify patterns!
Step 4: Talk to yourself
If you find yourself wanting to or about to initiate the bad habit, literally tell yourself to KNOCK IT OFF!
Like, actually say it out loud.
Weirdly, it works really well for me, and the risk of looking like a crazy person is worth it, I promise.
Sometimes hearing yourself saying you need to stop what you’re about to do is all it takes to get you to snap out of autopilot and be more mindful of your actions.
Step 5: Replace it
It’s time that you fire your current habit and hire a replacement. It will be easier to find a replacement once you’re aware of what’s causing you to initiate the bad habit.
What can you do instead?
Say you’re craving a late-night snack. That’s probably just because you want to snack on something, not because you’re actually hungry.
Try grabbing some hot tea or flavored sparkling water instead. You might find those replacements to be even better than the snack you were craving.
By figuring out what is triggering your bad habit, with time, you’ll be able to find healthier alternatives that give you the same, or a similar, feeling. Plus, you’ll be proud of yourself for ditching the bad habit and making healthier choices, encouraging you to keep up with the new, better habit.
Step 6: Be prepared
It’s not enough to decide that you’re going to make a habit change. You also need to prepare for what that looks like.
Breaking a habit is hard work, and there will be setbacks. But setbacks are not failures. They’re part of being human.
It takes a surprising amount of effort to get rid of something that is effortless.
Obstacles will appear, and the sooner you accept this, the better off you’ll be! And when the obstacles do come up, don’t just brush yourself off and move on. Pick them apart!
Look at why the obstacle happened and learn from it so you can be better prepared for next time. As much as you may want it to, ignoring the problem won’t help you achieve your goals. Ignoring the consequences is what got you into this bad habit in the first place.
Make a note of when triggers appear (see step 3) and have an “if-then” plan for handling the trigger when it comes up. You’ll find that your obstacles are much easier to overcome if you already have a game plan in place.
You can do this!
Remember that it won’t be easy to break your bad habit. It’s comfortable there, and you can initiate it without even thinking.
It will take a lot of time, mindfulness, and patience, but you can make the change you’re after. Go through the above steps as often as you need to kick the bad habits and replace them with good ones.
Overall, you’ll need to create friction. Make it harder for yourself to initiate the bad habits (e.g., unplug the WiFi if you want to be off electronics by 8 pm).
And for those good habits, make them as easy as possible, so you don’t have any excuses (e.g., wear your gym clothes to bed for an early AM workout).
If you’re really serious about changing your lifestyle and forming good habits, check out my FREE habit formula here.
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