Nail biter? Have a hard time turning down sweets? Have a problem with procrastination? Or worse? It's okay, we've all got a habit that we'd like to ditch. The problem is that human beings are prone to create routines. According to the National Institute for Health, routines help us go on autopilot so we can focus our mental energy on other tasks. Despite our brains' best intentions, our routines can backfire. Is there a way around it? Read these tips to break a bad habit that threatens your well-being and happiness.
Don't Pull the Trigger
When it comes to bad habits, like knuckle cracking, there's usually a trigger emotion or situation that causes it. Many negative habits come from stress, uncertainty or fear. Once you analyze what your trigger is for bad behavior, you can start on the road to eradicating it. How? Create a journal of the feelings and circumstances that surround specific incidents. You don't have to do it indefinitely. Try it for a week or two. Read what you've written about your habitual problem and take a mental note of the triggers that cause it. The next time a trigger situation pops up, you can employ methods to change your ways.
Replace the Habit
Using a replacement behavior is one way to stop an offending habit. Pick something that's less damaging than the habit you're used to. In this way, you start to create a new routine. Read on for a couple of classic ways to replace.
Heidi Hanna, a Ph.D. and performance coach, says that deep breathing brings positive endorphins to the brain and helps relieve stress. It also helps your muscles relax and can reduce inflammation. In other words, it helps remove tension in the moment. Meditation, which involves deep breathing, can help too. To meditate, focus on a singular thought or positive vision to draw your thoughts away from your urge to engage in the habit.
Use A Rubber
According to Susan Jaffe, MD, New York City-based psychiatrist, an effective trick of the book is to leave a rubber band around your wrist. Snap it in place when you're about to commit your boo boo. The snapping sensation, which is uncomfortable, can retrain your mind to associate negativity with your habit. Just don't snap too hard! You want a moment of discomfort, not to inflict pain on yourself.
Using a reward is actually a method that works for me time and again, especially with procrastination. Something a dear cousin taught me when she's also itching to avoid work is to use whatever behavior she'd rather be doing as a future reward. For example, if you have a tendency to hit up theFashionSpot before you do your chores (right?), let the site be your reward after your work is finished. I've found this helps me keep perspective on my goals and priorities, as in what I want to do right now, can also be done later, and more enjoyably, after the job is done.
Above the Influence
Not only are humans creatures of habit, we're creatures of imitation too. What we find ourselves surrounded with, is what we find ourselves doing and thinking about. If you'd like to cut back on your weekly intake of cocktails, for example, take a break from the friend who invites you out for happy hour every other day. This doesn't mean sacrificing your friendship. A little time away could be what you need to gather your personal resolve. The next time you hit up your favorite watering hole, try ordering a non-alcoholic beverage before your friend meets you. You don't even have to mention that your drink is a "virgin." Conversely, seek out situations that reinforce positive behavior. Maybe it's time to reconnect with your gal pal whose favorite post-work activity is yoga.
One of the best ways to find your inner strength is to be influenced by positive role models. I'm a major fan of inspirational quotes (that I keep near me always on my Pinterest boards and computer desktop). Need some reading? Consider a biography of a successful individual, the book will detail a person who persisted even in the face of uncertainty. This is one way to use our imitation tendency to great effect.
Practice Can Make Perfect
Finally, when you find yourself reaching for that extra cup of coffee or chocolate cupcake, remind yourself of this simple fact: we can retrain ourselves to break any habit. Science has proven it. Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University, likens our willpower to a muscle. When you work it out it gets tired and sore but over time the muscle gets stronger and better than it was before. That's how you can think of your ability to control your habits. Persistence and practice will pay off.