Monday, May 17, 2010

6 Tips for Changing Habits

1. Become aware of the habit: Awareness is crucial for breaking bad habits, if you're not aware, then nothing can change. Noticing that you do something regularly that you may want to change is the beginning of the process for changing habits. Your habit may also be affecting others in a negative way which may give you additional impetus for changing it (smoking is a good example).

2. Changing is a matter of making a decision: Sometimes you will be willing to decide to change a habit and sometimes you won't. If you have a health problem, it's a good idea to look at any resistance you may have to changing your habits. Eating or drinking the wrong things can have serious consequences which may drive you to think about changing. Once you've made the decision to change, your direction becomes clear.

3. Make a commitment to change: Here's the hard part of changing habits - making a commitment. That means, you will do whatever it takes to let go of your old behavior and to introduce new behaviors that serve you better. You've looked at your old habit and you now see that it's time to do something different.

4. Continue to take daily action: Habits are with you every minute of every day, even when you aren't thinking about them or doing them. This is because when you're not thinking, when the time comes, you will act out your old habit unless you have vowed to take consistent daily action to change. The best way to do this is one hour or one day at a time rather than thinking about all the days you will have to be different. Often, not smoking just this one cigarette is possible and reasonable, while not smoking for the rest of your life may send you straight to your pack of cigarettes! You may find that simply stopping the old habit is easier than letting go gradually or vice versa.

Every time you take another step toward breaking the habit, give yourself a small reward. As you take your daily actions to your new habit, remember that consistency is critical. Taking an occasional action will not work.

5. Try a healthier substitute for the old habit. Sometimes it's easier to substitute something else for the old habit instead of trying to get rid of it entirely. Of ten, you may find you're attached to the process involved in the habit. For example, I love having a warm drink in the morning so I substituted tea (a type I really like) for coffee. That way, I still got my warm satisfying drink. Here are some more examples: Herbal tea instead of coffee, a mouth spray or chewing gum instead of smoking, raw fruit instead of candy, lemonade made with fresh lemons and lo-cal sweetener rather than soda.

6. Don't give up: As you go through these steps, you may find yourself wondering whether all this effort is worth it. You may think that changing habits is too hard or that you don't have the strength to change. In this case, you're just coming up against resistance, which is often called the "comfort zone".

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