The Astonishing Power of Habit & How To Make it Work in Your Favor
First of all, wouldn’t you agree that when you hear the word “habit”, you instantly think of bad habits? I mean, most of the time when the word even comes up, it’s due to the fact that we want to get rid of a bad habit. This is part of the mindset that I think gets us off on the wrong foot with this whole thing.
When you give it even a little bit of thought, it is clear that everything we do is based on habit. That’s what allows us to go about our day and not think through every little thing. I don’t argue with myself over whether or not I am going to brush my teeth, I just do it. I don’t ponder the idea of using my turn signal or not, I just do it (bad example? Don’t be that guy! Use your freakin’ turn signals #petpeeve). I don’t have to think about bringing my phone with me when I leave the house, it’s an automatic thing. I don’t have to think about doing something with my hair and makeup before I leave the house (you’re welcome) : I just do it.
We all differ in our habits, the ability to easily create new ones and on which are more important to us. But, we all have habits that are deeply ingrained in us and in our routine.
Here are some tips to help you along the way:
- LET GO OF IDEAS THAT MAKE CHANGING HABITS HARDER
First of all, I beg of you to get the “it takes 21 days to form a habit” crap out of your head. Let it go. I have never read/heard any scientific evidence that this little idea is anything more than just cute. Truly though, it can make habit forming so much harder. Do this for me: think LIFESTYLE CHANGE. Don’t set your eyes on just 21 days. Likely, that time will come and pass and then it will be a big relief (even subconsciously) to let go of all the progress you’ve made. Because, let’s face it: it’s hard changing habits! Instead, think of the awesomeness that will happen in your life because this new habit will be part of you.
- REPLACE THE BAD HABIT
I cannot emphasize this enough! If you don’t purposely replace the bad habit with something that serves you better, you’ll unknowingly replace it with something just as bad, if not worse. Think about it: you’re doing it (whatever habit it might be) for a reason!For example: I have the habit of munching at night. I get very snacky, even if I’ve had dinner and I’m truly not hungry! What I have come to realize about myself, after trying to majorly restrict myself and feeling miserable, is that it’s a form of relaxing for me. It is part of my nightly ritual once my kiddo is in bed and I’m not longer focused on “work” and what all I NEED to be doing, to just take care of me for a bit. Isn’t that why we snack? It gives us happy feelings. It truly does. Food releases all those awesomely wonderful happy chemicals and that’s why we treat it like a drug without even realizing it. So, rather than trying to take the habit away and hope it sticks, I have another plan that works better. I change the habit. I do a few things: I LOVE baths and an epsom salt bath in the evening really makes me feel more calm, relaxed and like I am doing something good for me. I exercise a lot, so it truly is therapeutic. I also still allow myself to snack, but it’s purposeful. I love a glass of wine in the evening and will do something like air popped popcorn (with real butter & sea salt!) with my hubby or a frozen Greek yogurt bar. It’s controlled, rather than mindless! No regrets then.
I am a big proponent of recognizing hard work and celebrating it! Make a chart of what you will do when you’ve reached small steps with your habit. Choose a that will help inspire you to keep going and help make that habit even more a natural part of your life. Obviously a donut would not be the choice to make if you’ve lost 5 pounds from eating better! A health magazine or new workout top would be, though!
- GO PUBLIC
Now, for this one I don’t mean posting on Facebook that you will never be eating sugar again starting NOW. That can backfire and then you feel ashamed when you slip up. Rather, announce that you have accomplished “fill in the blank”. Let’s say it’s been 7 days since your last soda: celebrate!! 2 weeks of smoking half as much as you used to and it continues to go down: tell us! You’ve exercised 5 out of 7 days for 3 weeks in a row: hello!!This is when you let the world know what’s going on, because the encouragement you will get will totally propel you forward! AND, you will inspire people along the way as well. Pretty awesome!
- BE REALISTIC
Let’s me real about how hard it really is to change habits. Why oh why would you try to change 7 at once? Really. “I’ve never exercised before and I LOVE fast food, but starting tomorrow I’m exercising 7 days a week, tracking ALL my food, eating no sugar, giving up fast food, drinking 64 oz of water a day, eating 5 cups of veggies AND no more staying up until midnight: bed at 9pm!” GOOD LUCK to ya. Start with one thing. Focus on that and I am tellin’ you, other habits will change as well without you even realizing it! You might stop drinking so much soda simply because you’re exercising more and just don’t have the same cravings, for example. It’s awesome how this stuff works!
Also, like my example with nighttime snacking, I am being realistic by recognizing it’s part of my ritual and it doesn’t have to go away: I just have to change how I do it. I’ve learned that trying to totally do away with it is not what I am interested in. If you’re not all in, it just won’t work.
So there you have it. This is all just my opinion and what I have noticed in myself and clients I’ve worked with. I want to hear from YOU! What works for you? What hasn’t worked for you?
Are you currently working on a habit and in need of some accountability? Connect with me! I’d love to offer some support and help you celebrate along the way!
Happy Spring, Friends!