Developing habits doesn’t always have to be a negative experience. Showering every day, for instance, is a great habit to have, as long as you don’t shower compulsively all day long without a good reason for showering several times a day.
Some habits, though, are not good for you, and you need to know how to rid yourself of them.
You’ve been wanting to quit smoking for years, but pulling out a cigarette, lighting it, and then putting it in your mouth and smoking it has become a ritual you can’t seem to escape. That hand-to-mouth habit has become so unconscious that even the possibility of quitting could cause you to bite your nails, chomp on the skin around your nails, or exchange one bad habit for another – overeating, for instance.
Breaking habits is difficult. One year one of my daughters decided she wanted to quit sucking her thumb. (The Stress of a 6 Year Old Thumbsucker) She tried everything she could imagine to break her habit. What finally helped her? Read on.
What’s the first thing you do when you come home from work? Grab a drink and then another and then another and still another?
You know you need to quit, but the thought of breaking your habits causes you immediate stress. How can you stop drinking when alcohol soothes you so well? But does it really? Do you find yourself becoming more depressed as time goes on? You know that drinking isn’t the solution. Alcohol is a depressant, after all. But what else can you do? How can you find that peace you crave without drinking? Isn’t pseudo-peace better than no peace at all?
The really sad thing about drinking is that, even though you know you’re damaging your liver and other organs, you really don’t care enough about yourself to change your drinking habit. Maybe you don’t want to join Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), because you don’t want anybody else to know you’re an alcoholic (sorry – they already know). Or maybe you’re not ready to admit you’re an alcoholic. If you knew how many others struggled the same way you do, you might be more willing to join AA or at least to seek help.
Binge Eating and Overeating
One of the hardest habits to break is binge eating and overeating. You can avoid alcohol and cigarettes, but you can’t avoid food. However, you don’t have to eat more than your body needs for survival. You can learn to reduce your intake and curb your appetite with healthy options. That philosophy of reduction and replacement has already worked for many people, and you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
When I was in my early 30s I started taking an asthma medication that required me to eat something before I took it. Unfortunately I had to take that medication at bedtime. So though previously I had never snacked before bedtime, I quickly developed a habit of eating late in the evening and it became a habit that lasted long after I needed the medication.
To alleviate my “need” for snacking, thanks to the inspiration I received from my youngest sister, I reduced the amount of food I ate. Reduction helped my sister lose 40 pounds of unwanted weight after the birth of her first baby. All she did was cut her portions and, with just that one technique, lost all the weight she wanted to lose.
Solutions for Getting Rid of Annoying Habits
Drinking, smoking, and especially eating are probably the most difficult habits to change. But substituting alcohol for something else isn’t as difficult as you might expect IF you can get the same high from another enjoyable drink or a different activity. Changing your drink of choice for juice, water, tea, or coffee with added flavorings, such as vanilla (for coffee and tea) or lemons (for water or juice), might at least tempt your taste buds into drinking something healthier. But if your need to get high outweighs your need to get healthy, you need to investigate alternatives for mind-altering activities – not substances.
If you have a drinking problem, avoid places of and occasions for drinking. If one of those places happens to be a wedding that serves alcohol, tell yourself beforehand that you won’t imbibe and value yourself enough to keep your own promise to yourself. Remember, if you give yourself permission to drink only one, and you know you can’t stop at one, you’re setting yourself up for failure by drinking “just one.” Value yourself! Don’t drink at all.
Teach yourself how to replace your old habits with healthy new habits. If you find yourself grabbing a handful of M&Ms before bedtime, first cut your portion to 2/3 of what you normally eat, then cut it down to 1/3. The point is to satisfy your craving without giving in to your habit.
Meditation and running are said to offer a kind of high that is more beneficial to your body than drinking or smoking could ever be. If you learn how to meditate, you might discover that you will receive a feeling of euphoria again and again without that nasty hangover.
Engage in activities that you might never have considered. Instead of grabbing a glass of wine, investigate potential sources of joy. Where do your interests lie? Have you ever thought about taking a class on jewelry making or woodworking? Don’t just think about it. Investigate how you can DO it!
What about online games (other than gambling games)? How about investing in an iPad to play other types of games or puzzles? Can’t afford it? Make a choice to quit your habit and at the end of a month, or however long it takes you to replace the money you normally spend on your habit, reward yourself with a new toy with the money you save!
Ask yourself how much money you spend each month on your habits. If you buy a cheap bottle of wine every day, for instance, you’re spending about as much each month as an iPad would cost you. Translate that amount into something you can buy yourself that will replace your habit. Even Xboxes, Wiis, or PlayStations are worthwhile expenses if you enjoy playing games and you think you can quit your habit. You can even play online with friends who have the same game. Or you can dance or exercise using the Wii or a DVD!
Step out of your comfort zone. If you’re used to visiting the same casino or the same bar or the same restaurant, find a new place to haunt. Change is difficult for a lot of people, but if the change could ultimately result in your life moving in a positive direction, allow yourself the opportunity to change your life! Join a club you might be interested in joining. All kinds of clubs exist for all kinds of reasons. Or connect with people who share your interests and activities – aerobics, dance, Bingo, Bunco, golf, fishing, acting, writing, crafting, building, sculpting, painting, volleyball, soccer, cards, board games, and so many other interests could be shared with other people. If you’re drinking, smoking, or binge eating, you’re in a rut, and only you can get out of it!
Can’t find anybody to share activities with you? Look online. Ask your other friends if they know anybody who shares your interests. Open a group on Facebook or some other social networking site, and start your own club. Connect with like-minded individuals. But beware of scams and sites like craigslist; however, if you need to start there, make sure you guard yourself. (Related reading: How to Detect a Scammer When You Get a Reply from an ad You Placed on Craigslist)
Exercise and Your Health
You don’t have to commit to an hour every day. Even five minutes a day can change your life and your attitude. When I was a kid I loved to cartwheel around the block. I loved to run. As I got older and my physical limitations prevented me from engaging in those activities, I had to change my ideas of exercise. I bought an exercise bike and a treadmill. But to be honest, I rarely use them.
I stretch, though. I use is a product called a Back Bridge that allows me to stretch my back. I call it my Chiropractor in a Box. Because of my back and other problems, the ability to stretch my back on the back bridge has allowed me to walk for extended periods of time without pain. I also occasionally lift weights for a few minutes several times a week.
The trick is not to look upon exercise as exercise, but to consider it fun. Stretching has benefits and when you exercise for even a short time, you’ll automatically feel better about yourself. If your knees are still working and you enjoyed jump roping as a kid, add jumping to your exercise routine. If you can afford a FitBit, invest in one. Or find a pedometer app for your phone that will allow you to keep track of your steps. You can challenge yourself every day to move! Bending, stretching, walking, dancing – all movement is beneficial.
As soon as somebody suggests eating healthy foods, the majority of individuals, especially those who indulge in sweets, think they must replace their meals with flat, tasteless, cardboard-tasting products. But something exists in one grocery aisle right now to help your food taste better – spices. Try adding them to your meals.
Fruits, vegetable, whole grains – yes, you’ve heard before about the health benefits of eating them, so if they are boring to you, spice them up! Unsure of which spice to use? Check out the Quick Guide to Every Herb and Spice in the Cupboard, located on the linked web site, and educate yourself about ways to improve the taste of your food.
Another suggestion for healthy eating is to eat slowly so you can recognize when you’re full. Many of us continue eating long after we’re full just because everything looks so good. If you can’t stop, it’s because you are eating too quickly. Savor each bite!
Contacting friends through social media is not the only way to stay connected. BE with your friends. Meet in the middle if you must, but get together and communicate. You form relationships by RELATING! Read Want to Meet Some Online Friends? Use the Meet in the Middle Tool! for information on how to find the midpoint between your address and the address of the person you want to meet! I’ve used it and I’ve met some great people!
Sometimes our focus is too often on our problems and not enough on solutions to fix those problems. We admit to ourselves, “I drink too much”; “I eat too much”; “I need to quit smoking.” But what we need to ask ourselves is HOW to quit our habits. What can we do TODAY to stop? What methods can we use to break our habits and employ healthier lifestyles? We need ACTION, not thought. “It’s the thought that counts,” doesn’t count when it comes to changing our habits!
Your habits are ruled and fueled by your behavior. The way you conduct yourself, the way you behave is the image you present to others. Only YOU can change your behavior. Only YOU can find the right tool to fix your problem. What will it take for you to break your habits? How will you change your behavior to reflect those changes? Inspiration and help are everywhere. All you have to do is look for it.
Want to know how my daughter broke her thumb-sucking habit? She made a choice. She decided to quit. She resolved to quit. And she challenged herself to live up to her own expectations.
Be your own hero! You can do it too!