By Cammie Jones

“Old habits die hard” is the quote that sticks out in my mind because it is so very true. Replace the word “old” with “bad” and you have a story there! So, what can you do to break those negative habits and make a change for the better?

1. Understand How Habits Are Formed

What is it that triggers you to engage in a bad habit? Is it the carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer that tempts you every time you open up the freezer door? If it’s as simple as that, remove the trigger and don’t purchase ice cream at the grocery store. Really take a look and analyze how your bad habit began and find ways to eliminate it.

According to the self-improvement blog Pick the Brain, every bad habit has a cue that falls into one of the following five categories:

• Location

• Time

• Emotional State

• Other People

• An immediately preceding action

When you start a bad habit, try to note the cues and then when you begin to see similarities, you can figure out what is causing you to do it. Then, take action to change the habit to a beneficial one or end it completely.

2. Go Slow and Make Small Changes

Going “cold turkey” may not be the way to end a bad habit for good. It may come in small steps to totally eliminate it from your routine. Melanie Pinola, author of Top 10 Ways to Break Bad Habits, (lifehacker.com) suggests using patience. “So, be patient with yourself and instead of making dramatic adjustments, try focusing on one habit and the smallest steps you can take to trick your inner caveman,” she says. If you are dealing with a food or diet issue, don’t buy ice cream at the store or substitute it with low-fat frozen yogurt.

3. Change Your Environment

If every time you go to the grocery store, you hit the Starbucks at the front entrance and always get a Grande Mocha Frappuccino, then change your grocery store to one without a Starbucks and see how that goes. I am not saying that getting a coffee drink is a bad thing by itself but if it is becoming a habit and one that you seem to not be able to pass up, then make a change. Remember to analyze your habit, looking closely at the five cues mentioned above and see if the location or any of the other cues is helping to cause the behavior.

4. Set Trigger & Improvement Goals

This sounds more complicated than it really is. Setting small trigger goals can help you continue with a good behavior. For example, if you usually grab a bag of salt and vinegar chips when you walk in the door from work, set out some fresh fruit or cut up veggies in the fridge with hummus that you can snack on instead. If you tend to miss your workout in the morning, set your clothes out the night before so you when you wake up, they are right in front of you as a gentle reminder.  In addition to this, make improvement goals that will keep you in check and make them specific. If you are trying to lose a few pounds, set a goal of losing one or two pounds by a certain date and then note it you did or did or did meet that goal. If you did meet then, pat yourself on the back and make a new goal.

5. If You Fail, Try Again

It is a little easier to implement a new, good habit than to get rid of a bad habit. If you fall down on your goal one day, start again the next day. Don’t allow yourself to give up because you will mess up (we are all human) so try not to be so hard on yourself. Pick up where you left off and understand what happened so you can avoid it next time and have a plan to get back on track.

Bad habits begin and end with a psychological reward that we feel benefits us. When we realize that in fact these habits are harming us or our relationship with others, then we have incentive to stop them.  It won’t be an easy road, but it is possible with a little positive thinking, prayer and a game plan in hand!

This article appears in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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