At one time or another, we've all had that clarifying moment where we wake up one day and realize that we have been perpetuating a bad habit for far too long. We realize it, and think about doing things differently, and maybe we even do for a while, but more often than not, old habits die hard. Whether it's hitting the snooze button for an hour every morning and then having to rush to get out the door, skipping breakfast, or indulging in too much dessert after dinner, all of these habits are detrimental to overall health and well being.
If you find yourself perpetuating some bad habit--or maybe a few bad habits!--don't be too hard on yourself, because habits really are difficult to break. It's not because we're lazy or weak, and there's actually a lot of science out there about why we tend to fall into bad habits over and over again.
In March 2012, NPR put out a piece called, Habits: How They Form And How To Break Themwhich explains how habits form by discussing the psychological three part process. It says that "as soon as a behavior becomes automatic, the decision-making part of your brain goes into a sleep mode of sorts...."
"In fact, the brain starts working less and less," says Duhigg. "The brain can almost completely shut down. ... And this is a real advantage, because it means you have all of this mental activity you can devote to something else."
The idea is that we make things like eating healthy meals and exercising regularly the ones that become automatic rather than hitting the snooze button, which can actually make us more tired in the long run.
So what happens when you want to break an unhealthy habit and replace it with a healthy one? Create rewards for yourself for all those good habits you're trying to start. They can be little things, like promising yourself a coffee and healthy breakfast with friends immediately after finishing a work out. You could reward yourself for waking up with the first alarm by getting yourself some amazing body scrub to use in a long, hot, sense-awakening shower. Looking forward to those showers might be just what you need to get out of bed.
This week, try a little exercise to get those habits changed:
1. Choose one habit you'd like to change, and try to identify the reward you've been giving yourself that makes it difficult to stop indulging. Work on removing that reward.
2. Choose one healthy habit you'd like to begin, and a reward to go right along with it.
Starting off slow an easy is key. Be nice to yourself, and don't get too upset if you slip up once in a while, because we all do!
Good luck with all those habits, and feel free to comment below to talk with others about their habit progress.