Bad habits waste your energy and time. They disrupt your life, risk your health and stop you from achieving your aims. So why do we do them? And what can we do to break our bad habits?
Most bad habits are triggered by just two things: boredom and stress. A wide range of bad habits, from drinking too much to spending too much time gaming or wasting hours on Facebook, is often a response to boredom or stress.
Sometimes stress can be caused by an underlying fear or belief that you will need to address before making changes. Although it can be difficult, you need to be honest with yourself if you're serious about warning to overcome bad habits.
Once you have recognised the triggers for your bad habits, you can learn new, healthier behaviours as an alternative way of coping with boredom or anxiety.
All your behaviours, both good and bad, are there for a reason and benefit you in some ways, although they might be harmful to you in others. Because a bad habit provides you with some kind of benefit, it's not easy to just stop doing it. The secret is not to eliminate harmful behaviour but to replace it with something healthier.
The benefit of a bad habit may be biological, such as with alcohol or drug dependency or smoking. It may be emotional, for example, when you stay in an unhealthy relationship. It may be physical and a way of coping with too much stress, such as when you pull your hair, bite your nails or grind your teeth.
These reasons also apply to less severe habits. For example, do you find yourself checking your social media feed as soon as you turn on your laptop? This habit wastes time, slows up your productivity and often leads to increased stress. But at the same time, it helps you feel connected, and so you keep on doing it.
So it's tough to "just stop". Instead, you have to replace your bad habit with a new, healthier behaviour that offers a similar benefit.
Let's look at the process of breaking bad habits differently. Here are a few tips to try:
Make a plan about what you're going to do when you're bored or stressed. Whatever your bad habit, you need to know what you're going to replace it with. What will you do when you get a craving to pop out for a ciggie or raid the biscuit tin? What can you do to avoid the first drink of the evening (tip: try a relaxing bath or go for a walk instead). What will you do instead of scrolling through your Facebook feed? (tip: write a couple of sentences for work instead)
Bach Flower Mixes support you when you're trying to break bad habits. They are formulated with pure flower essences to help suppress cravings and reduce stress and anxiety. Bach Flower Mix 58 is an ideal supplement when you're quitting smoking while Bach Flower Mix 62 supports people who are addressing their relationship with alcohol.
If you're trying to quit smoking, then don't hang out with friends who smoke. If you can't resist nibbling on cookies, don't keep any in the house. If you have identified a trigger such as stress for your bad habit, try to find other ways to relax.
Maybe you've tried to lose weight but not told anyone about it? You might think then it won't be so embarrassing when you give up on your diet. But you're more likely to succeed if you pair up with a friend - you can keep tabs on and support each other. And knowing that another person expects you to achieve your goal will help to keep you on track.
Visualise yourself shopping for healthier food, choosing new clothes, or throwing away your cigarettes. You are mentally building a new identity for yourself: whatever behaviour you aim to quit, imagine yourself beating it and savouring the win.
You haven't always had bad habits, so you don't need to transform yourself into a new person. You just need to go back to the person you once were. You don't need to give up smoking; you just need to go back to being someone who doesn't smoke. Don't think of yourself as giving up alcohol, visualise returning to being a non-drinker. Even if it was a long time ago, you know you can live without these bad habits because you've done it before.
When you're trying to break bad habits, it's all too easy to judge yourself for any minor slip up and feel that you'll never succeed. Try using the word "but" instead:
Everyone slips up sometimes. Instead of beating yourself up for failing and giving up on your goal, be kind to yourself. You'll soon be living a better, healthier life: the secret to success is getting back on track and persevering.
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