We all fall victim to bad habits at one point or another. Whether it’s eating too many of the 'wrong' things, skipping a certain session or even turning up late, habits are easy to form and hard to break. Thankfully, we don’t have to be at the mercy of our bad habits - changing them is definitely possible if you have the right strategies! Here is a basic guide to identifying bad habits, breaking them, and making good habits part of your everyday life.
In order to succeed at breaking habits, we need to figure out what exactly we’re talking about. A dictionary definition of ‘habit’ is: “an acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.”
The key words here are ‘acquired’, ‘regularly followed’ and ‘almost involuntary’. In contrast to other instinctive or reflexive behaviours, habitual behaviours are acquired and learned. In order to become habitual, the behaviour needs to be repeated regularly. Finally, once a habit is fully developed, it becomes almost involuntary. With these factors in mind, we can begin the task of building up good habits or breaking down the bad ones.
The first step in building up a new habit is to plan how you are going to integrate this habit into your life in a way that can be repeated regularly. Whether it’s waking at a new time, starting a new workout routine, or improving your dietary habits, the process of acquiring a habit starts with a plan. Make sure that you’re doing the thing you need to do regularly. Take the time to integrate it into your daily routine, and make the process realistic. For example, if you’re used to waking at 7:30am, but want to start waking up at 5:30am and training, you’ll need to plan your day around going to bed around 9:30pm rather than 11:00pm.
The key to breaking bad habits is creating new habits to replace them. Analyse the existing habit; when and where you do it. Ask yourself what you can replace it with in these circumstances. You don’t have to just choose one thing either. Be creative!
A big part of breaking habits is mindfulness and willpower. For anyone who has never given mindfulness meditation a go, the benefits are truly there - mindfulness meditation is a great way to both improve your willpower and to improve your faculties of self awareness.
Building up new habits and breaking down bad ones is a complex process. Different approaches work for different people. Some people respond well to gradual change, while others prefer a short sharp shock. Whether you're creating positive change to reach your goals or wanting to break a bad habit in general, it's important to figure out what works best for you!