We all have habits, some good and some not so good. These are behaviors that we’ve learned, and that occur almost automatically. And most of us want to either break bad a habit, or develop a good one.
For most people, it takes about four weeks, maybe less in some cases, for a new behavior to become routine or habit. That’s what statistics say, but to each his own. I think it just depends on the person. Everybody is different and does things at their own pace. And truthfully, breaking bad habits can be easier for some people but harder for others.
The following steps can make it easier to establish new behavior patterns.
1. The first step is to set your goal. Especially when you are trying to stop or break a habit, you should try to phrase your goal as a positive statement. For example, instead of saying “I will quit snacking at night”, say “I will practice healthy eating habits”. You should also write down your goal. Putting it on paper helps you to commit. It can also help if you tell your goal to someone you trust.
2. Decide on a replacement behavior. (If your goal is to develop a new habit then your replacement behavior will be the goal itself.) This step is very important when you are trying to break a habit. If you want to stop a behavior, you must have a superior behavior to put in it’s place. If you don’t, the old behavior pattern will return.
3. Learn and be aware of your triggers. Behavior patterns don’t exist independently. Often, one habit is associated with another part of your regular routine. For instance, in the snacking example the trigger may be late night television or reading. You automatically grab a bag of chips while you watch tv. Many people who smoke automatically light up after eating.
Think about when and why you do the thing you want to quit. And then take some baby steps to turn it around. It’s easy to do things when you’re not consciously committing to rid yourself of them or it’s just so comfortable it’s like second nature.
4. Post reminders to yourself. You can do this by leaving yourself notes in the places where the behavior usually occurs. Or you can leave yourself a message on the mirror, refrigerator, computer monitor or some other place where you will see it regularly. You can also have a family member or co-worker use a particular phrase to remind you of your goal. Finding support may not be the easiest thing, so make sure you are depending on YOU.
5. Get help and support from someone. Ahh yes, we just mentioned this so let’s chat about it. Any job is easier with help for the most part, this is obvious. It works even better if you can form a partnership with someone who shares the same goal. An accountability partner is what you should consider. Find someone you know will keep you on your toes and motivated.
If you can’t find someone in your own backyard (friends or family) then broaden your horizons. It won’t hurt at all. There are all kinds of support groups for stuff like this. And if you’ve never heard of one, you’d be surprised. You could also do some social networking to find accountability. Explore the globe a little bit. I’m quite sure you’ll find people who are in the same boat as you, ready to tip over if they don’t get some help.
6. Write daily affirmations. Write your phrase or sentence in the present tense (as if it were already happening), and write it ten times a day for twenty-one days. This process helps make your goal a part of your subconscious, which will not only remind you to practice the new behavior, but it also keeps you focused and motivated.
You can also keep a list of daily affirmations by your computer or on your wall and say them out loud every day. This is also a great strategy that affects your subconscious in ways that you wouldn’t believe. But keep in mind, saying without believing won’t work. You have to do both. Yes, you have to do the actual work.
7. Reward yourself for making progress at set time intervals. Focus on your goal one day at a time, but give yourself a small treat at one, three and six months. You can do this weekly if you want to. The rewards don’t have to be big or expensive, and you should try to make it something that’s associated in some way with the goal. Doing this provides you with both incentive and extra motivation.
I hope you found some of these tips helpful. Following these steps is no guarantee of success of course. Depending on the habit it may take several tries to finally make the change. But if you stick with it, you can do it!
Can you think of any habits that you’d like to change?