Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Why unhelpful habits come about and how to make the 'giving up' process easier on yourself

Several weeks into the new year and old habits don’t seem to be budging? According to the US News, around 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February, which means a whole lot of wasted gym memberships. But how did these bad habits come about in the first place?

According to psychologists, we are all ‘cognitive misers’, so our brains are trained to take shortcuts, rendering as many behaviours (helpful or unhelpful) as automatic. Essentially, habits are meant to be difficult to change. Put simply, habits are responses to our needs. For example, we might eat lots of unhealthy snacks to make ourselves feel comforted or relaxed. By simply switching to a healthier option, although it’s better for us in a nutritional sense, it wont necessarily meet our needs in the same way and we are likely to slip back into our more appealing routine. To avoid this, we need to find an alternative way to meet this need, allowing us to break free from these unhelpful habits so strongly bound to us. There are various ways in which we can make this process easier for ourselves…

1. Plan for change

Make a list of things you’d like to change and why. Be as dramatic as you like with this part, just get it down there.

2. Make realistic goals (one habit at a time!)

If you plan to give up five things at once, you’re putting too much pressure on yourself which could result in failure. Choose one habit you want to give up and write it down. If you don’t want to write it, say it out loud…"I am choosing to give up…" and stick with it. Repeat this in your head or out loud throughout the day to really drive home your passion to see this through.

3. Take a gradual approach to breaking your habit

Going cold turkey isn’t always the best approach, so go with what works for you. Giving up something completely from the outset can set up the negative feeling of, ‘one mistake = FAILURE’. Leave yourself some wiggle room and remember nobody’s perfect!

4. Tell somebody about your plan

Share your plan with someone and keep them updated with how you’re doing. If you’re not one to bring it up in conversation, choose someone who you know will make the effort to ask how it’s going, and will provide you with support.

5. Be patient

Realistically, life changes are unlikely to happen overnight. This is OK. Always remember the progress you've made (no matter how small)  and don’t beat yourself up!

6. Practise Mindfulness

Giving up old habits is difficult. Despite how hard we try, our minds can often wander back to that familiar cigarette smell or the taste of a cold glass wine on a Tuesday night. Try bringing yourself into the here and now through the practice of mindfulness. Find out more here >

7. Reward yourself

Even small victories should be rewarded. Giving up an unhelpful habit is a challenge, so remember to regularly congratulate yourself with a small gift for getting so far in the process. Good Luck!


If you're still struggling with goal setting and achieving, why not book a session with one of our experienced life coaches to help you on your way? Find out more on our website.

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