I am on habit breaking this week. As part of my quest to become more mindful (as well as more of a minimalist in every way) , I run a practice group in York where we peer support each other on our mindful journey. The topic of conversation this week was habit breaking, and boy did it raise lots of issues. I wanted to share it with you because I am pretty sure most of us have bad habits we want to break, and every single person round the table had at least one they wanted to change. So why do we have bad habits, and what can we do about them?
Probably the first disclaimer to make is not all habits are bad. The habit of flossing for example is definitely a good one. Getting yourself into an exercise habit is also positive, but bad habits, those that make us feel unhappy, unhealthy, guilty or negative are the ones that have got to go! Bad habits range from smoking to eating junk food, to telling yourself you’re not good enough, to picking your cuticles to over working, to sitting on the sofa all night watching TV. We all have habits we don’t like, and want to break, but why don’t we like them? Usually they don’t make us feel good. One of my worse is eating junk food. I know it’s bad for me, it makes me feel crap, yet every day I continue to do it, and then I beat myself up about it. Great cycle hey? So that is the habit I want to break.
One of my favourite bloggers Zen Habits has a great guest blog with tips for breaking habits and so I am going to challenge myself to follow these over the next three months to help kick my junk food habit. Many people say takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Some say 30 days. I think three months is a really slow and stead period of time to turn a lifetime’s bad habit into a healthier one.
Here’s some ideas that I am going to be trying, for you to try to ditch the habit you want to break…
Use positive language – The brain apparently doesn’t recognise the word no, or not in a sentence . So instead of saying I am not going to smoke, say I am now smoke free – your brain will have a far easier time believing you. Repeat this often, even if you don’t feel it’s true to how you feel initially. The brain is a funny thing and will actually start to believe what you tell it. This is one you will have to try for yourself to believe it
Meditate – I have a great meditation I have been using to re-train my brain on my bad habits. You can try it here. Meditation helps provide calm, more of a focus, and can help to build positivity and mindfulness. This might even be the good habit you want to create. I think it’s vital alongside trying to break bad habits.
Don’t go cold turkey- Although if you like me are all or nothing – this isn’t likely to work – I have decided to change my habit limit junk food to weekends. That way I am only eating junk food for a small proportion of the week , I still get treats but I also have five days of clean eating. If you’re a TV addict, maybe cut down by half hour increments. Swap a night of TV for a one and a half hour film. Try a book instead, or start a box set, with just two episodes a night.
Change your bad habit to a good one – so if you like me eat junk food – rather than not eating anything, find something you like that you can eat; fruit, yoghurt, smoothies, nuts. Swapping your junk for some thing else yummy will mean you don’t feel deprived. Similarly if you’re a nail biter, or a cuticle picker, start really looking after your nails; regular manicures, massage and hand lotion so you start to love your hands and will be less likely to want to mess them up.
Write it down – A great book I would recommend, The Monk who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma, talks about changing the way you live, and suggests you will only ever achieve what you want to change if you write down. Set it in stone, what are your goals? Do you want to be smoke free in a month? Do you want to be couch to 5k in 2 months? Do you want to lose a dress size, eat more portions of fruit.? Write down your goals, and also write down how that will fill and what you will see. So with my junk food habit. I might write that I am going to limit junk food to weekends, and I will drink more water so that when I wake up I have loads of energy, I feel fitter, and healthier, more able to exercise. My clothes will feel looser, and I have shinier hair and better skin. I am starting to visualise the change which is going to give me more to go on.
Get help – Enlist an app, there are loads out there, below are some I’ve found. I am going to use Habit Bull as it has lots of functions for setting good habits, and I always think it’s better to create a good habit to replace the bad rather than just trying to stop a bad habit.
HabitBull (Android) – an app that helps you break bad habits or create good ones
Balanced (iOS) – Track the things you wish you did more often. Be motivated to do them again and again
Couch to 5k – If you’re interested in getting fitter and breaking your bad habit of not exercising, couch to 5k is helps beginners to get from couch potatoes to 5K distance runners in 8 weeks.
Drink more water – If you want to get into the good habit of drinking more water, apps such as Waterlogged and Hydro Coach and your water intake and remind you to drink more. There are lots more apps like this, so you can find one to suit you.
Tell friends and family if they’re supportive, keep a journal.
So who is going to join me in breaking bad habits? I would be really interested to hear what your bad habits are and the goal you’ve set yourself to try and break them. Let me know and good luck!