For many of us, Lent is a time of giving up bad habits - at least for a while. If you've been promising yourself that you're going to ditch a bad habit for a while but have never quite got around to doing so, it could be time to take the plunge. To help ensure your success and make the process a little less painless, check out these ten ways to break bad habits.
Change one thing at a time
You may have a few vices you would like to be rid of, but it is important that you don't try to break all your bad habits at once. You're not superhuman and trying to kick a smoking habit, give up chocolate and stop biting your nails all at the same time is probably going to be hard to achieve. Instead, prioritise and pick the habit you most urgently need to change first. Also, try to set a definite goal to work towards rather than a vague "I'm going to stop being so unhealthy". Identify what exactly it is you need to do (or stop doing) and make that your focus.
Take it one day at a time
Setting out to break a bad habit with the thought of "I can never do so-and-so ever again" can be extremely daunting; instead, tell yourself, "I won't eat junk food/ smoke a cigarette/ have a gossip for the rest of today". Concentrating on kicking your habit one day at a time makes it seem a lot more achievable, and each day that you beat that habit will inspire you to try again tomorrow. For added motivation, try charting your success on a calendar, marking each day that you have resisted your habit.
When trying to kick a bad habit, it is important to tell at least one person about it so that you have somebody to be accountable to. When you are craving a cigarette on your lunch hour it is far easier to give in to your craving if you have nobody to answer to than if you know your colleague is going to quiz you later. You could even consider starting up a blog so that others can follow your progress - having to write about your lapses for others' viewing may help you think twice about giving in.
Recruit a friend
Even better than just telling someone about your goal, if you know someone who's been talking about giving up the same bad habit for a while, or who has been inspired by your decision, why not talk them into getting onboard too? Having someone else who knows what you're going through is great motivation as you will always have someone to call for a moan or some support when the going gets tough.
Prepare for weak moments
Although it is great to go into this positively, being too confident - and failing to prepare for those moments of weakness - could be your biggest mistake. Don't rely on being too disciplined to fail; instead accept that we all lack willpower at times and try removing temptation to prepare for those weak moments. Clear the cupboards of chocolate, stay out of stressful situations, or get some distance from friends who encourage you to drink, for example - make it as difficult for yourself to indulge your habit as you can.
Replace your bad habit with a good one
Cutting something out of your life entirely can be difficult, inconvenient and even plain depressing. To compensate for the sudden gap in your life, try finding substitutes for your bad habit that help to ease the pain. For example, swap junk food (like crisps) for healthy snacks (such as popcorn), or try replacing swear words with other, more innocent phrases (think Ross and Rachel's "boohockey" and "brother pucker" in the sitcom Friends). You could also try taking up a hobby to compensate for the time you previously spent indulging a TV or shopping habit or hanging out in bars.
Set regular reminders
Our bad habits are often so deeply ingrained in us, sometimes they can catch us unawares. To help prevent those accidental slip-ups, try setting yourself regular reminders to resist those habits. You could paint your nails, for example, as a reminder to stop biting them, or set a reminder on your work computer not to slouch. If you have a tendency for thoughtless snacking, try sticking motivational quotes on your fridge or cupboards as reminders.
Reward your success
The key to breaking bad habits is to make the process as enjoyable and rewarding for yourself as possible. If you are having difficulty focusing on the long term benefits of breaking bad habits, arrange small rewards for yourself as you go along to help to keep you motivated. For instance, for every time you don't give in to your habit, treat yourself to a relaxing bath, an hour of your favourite TV show or a small purchase you've had your eye on for ages.
Don't let setbacks get you down
It's easy to let one small wobble ruin all your best intentions, so it's important not to let any lapses get you down. So, you caved in and had a cigarette, indulged in a gossip session or ate your body weight in chocolate? Don't dwell on it. Just because you have given into temptation once it doesn't mean that you will again, and it doesn't mean that you have failed. Put the past behind you, pick yourself up and carry on - we know you can do it!
Remind yourself why you're doing it
In order to successfully break a bad habit, you have to be sure of your reason for doing it. There's no point in giving something up just because you think should, as you will have no motivation to keep going next time weakness strikes. Find a solid reason for breaking your habit that really means something to you - such as improving your health, appearance or relationship - and keep your goal in sight. Reminding yourself regularly of the bigger picture and the reasons why you are doing this will help you to carry on and stay strong in moments of weakness.
Need some extra motivation? Check out these 20 motivational quotes.
Want to kick your bad habit but can’t quite work up the motivation? Check out these 10 surprising benefits of kicking your bad habits.
There are many advantages to quitting smoking, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer and younger looking skin, however a less well known benefit of going smoke-free is that it can improve your memory. According to a study by Northumbria University, smoking causes individuals to lose one third of their everyday memory, with smokers performing significantly worse in memory tests. However, the researchers also found that kicking the habit restored the ability to recollect information – a great incentive to quit.
We all know that sugar is bad for our health, but research suggests it may also be making us stupid. Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles found that when rats were fed a diet containing high-fructose corn syrup they were less able to remember their way through a maze they had been trained to navigate, as the sugar disrupted their ability to think clearly and recall information. According to the researchers, a high sugar diet could have similar effects on human brains, altering our ability to learn and remember information. Struggling to tame your sweet tooth? Check out these 10 ways to beat sugar cravings.
Spending hours in front of the television is not only bad for your waistline, research also suggests it can shorten your lifespan. Researchers from the University of Queensland found that for every hour you watch TV you may shorten your life by as much 22 minutes! With many of us spending a number of hours each day in front of the box, giving up your TV habit could mean adding precious months or even years on to your life.
You may stock up on anti-ageing creams and slather on the sunscreen, but you could still be inadvertently indulging on a major cause of skin ageing: sugar. Yes, sadly our favourite sweet treats are up there with sun exposure and smoking when it comes to causing wrinkles. When blood sugar levels are high, a process called glycation occurs which damages the collagen in your skin. Once damaged, the normally springy collagen hardens, leading to wrinkles and sagging. Rather than wasting money on expensive skin creams, keep your skin looking youthful by cutting out sugar. Check out these 7 ways to beat wrinkles for more tips for youthful skin.
Worrying is a natural part of life for most of us, however if you find yourself frequently sweating the small stuff and dwelling on problems you can do nothing about, it may be time to ditch your bad habit. A study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that those people more prone to negative emotions such as worry and anger were at higher risk of dementia. So, overcoming your worries through counselling or relaxation techniques will not only improve the quality of your life, it could also improve your brain health. Check out these top 10 ways to relax for tips on dealing with stress.
We all know about the health benefits of giving up alcohol, but becoming tee total could be just as beneficial for your financial wellbeing. Studies across the world have estimated the shocking costs of alcohol on our bank balances, with research suggesting that the average American spends $100 a month in bars and liquor stores, a typical Australian spends $1612 per year on alcohol and the average Brit spends a total of £58,201 on alcohol in their lifetime! Thinking of all the things you could buy with that money instead is great motivation to quit.
Cakes, doughnuts, burgers, pizza... Many of us wonder how we would cope without them. However, if you are thinking of jumping on the healthy eating wagon, spur yourself on with the thought of this unexpected perk: ditching junk food may actually make you happier. While your favourite treat may cheer you up short term, recent research results published in the Public Health Nutrition journal reveal that regular consumers of fast food are 51 per cent more likely to develop depression. Swap that pizza for a healthy salad and shake off the fast food blues.
Want to lose weight with minimal effort? The good news is getting more sleep could help. Many of us fall into the habit of prioritising daily tasks and errands over sleep, or staying up late watching movies or chatting with friends, however research suggests that getting an early night could help to keep you slim. Research by a team at the University of Washington found that getting less than seven hours sleep a night was linked to a higher body weight. They also found that the longer you sleep, the less impact the obesity gene has on a person’s weight.
If you’re struggling to swap your TV habit for workouts, bear in mind that getting active doesn’t just improve your body and health, it can also help you to achieve your goals. A study of people training for a marathon in New York found that regular exercise improves people’s goal-setting, organisation and discipline – both at work and in other areas of life. Kicking your laziness habit could also help you to ditch other vices; a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that smokers who exercised were twice as likely to quit and stay cigarette free than those who didn’t do any exercise.
Social media sites have become a bad habit for many of us, with them being a major source of procrastination. However, studies suggest that keeping your Facebook habit under control could help you to bag your dream job. A study conducted by Career Builder found that 37 per cent of hiring managers from various industries checked prospective employees’ social media pages before offering them the job, and one third of these had been put off from hiring candidates by things such as inappropriate photos and “poor communication skills” displayed on these pages.
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