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How to identify and break bad habits

bad habits with food
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Bad habits exist and perpetuate in an eternal cycle. Take smoking, for example. We smoke, then we feel bad about it. We tell ourselves we won’t do it again. But, inevitably, the craving comes round again and we find ourselves lighting up another cigarette. Then we feel guilty…and the cycle repeats itself, over and over. 


But no more. If you’re here, that means you’re ready to break your bad habits and smash a hole in that eternal cycle. It’s time for a change. It won’t be easy, but we’ve got some tips that will help get rid of that annoying quirk of yours. Whether it’s constant snacking when you want to get lean or one too many glasses of wine in the evening, we’re here to help you take that habit and kick it – hard.


Can we change our habits?

It really is possible to change your habits, but go easy on yourself if change doesn’t happen overnight. Habits are habits for a reason and most of them are good for us. But if you want to start shifting unhealthy behaviours then you need to start loving yourself enough to make the change.

Want to know the reason for your bad habits? Boredom and stress. We’ve all been going through tough times recently. But while some habits are keepers, others could be masking deeper issues. The good news is those late-night online shopping sessions or endless snacking binges can be replaced by new and healthy behaviours once we identify the habits we want to change. And, most importantly, once we stop beating ourselves up about them.


How long does it take to break a bad habit?

Twenty-one days, right? Wrong. There is no magic time limit on breaking a habit. Because what you’re aiming to do is alter your behaviour or establish new pathways in the brain that are stronger than the old ones. Sometimes you have to make a new habit to break the old one – for instance, if you smoke you need to start replacing cigarettes with chewing gum. 

You can get a good headstart on breaking a habit in 21 to 28 eight days. But getting the new habit to stick may take up to three months or longer. It depends on the habit and your personality. So if you’re trying to alter your eating habits a flexible meal plan will give you the time you need to make a lasting change. 

How to identify bad habits

What’s the first rule of identifying bad habits? Don’t beat yourself up about them. After all, habits like cleaning your teeth or going through your skincare routine have a positive function. The habits you want to change can be addictive so you need to rationalise them. And how are you going to do that? By writing them down. Now, ask someone you trust to check whether they’re behaviours you need to change. 

The next step is to work out whether there is an underlying cause behind your bad habit. Do you spend too much time on your phone because you want to avoid interacting with people? Do you comfort eat because you’re feeling stressed-out and anxious? 

Start addressing these causes first, and then set out a plan of how you can improve your behaviour. 

Replace the bad habit with something else

How can you substitute your bad habit with a new behaviour? Think about a replacement behaviour you can use when you start to get stressed and reach for a cigarette or open the fridge door. Try breathing exercises instead of reaching for your lighter. Or, pack your fridge with healthy essentials instead of empty snacks.

If you’re finding it tough, try this. Come up with just one reason why you don’t need this habit. Bringing that reason into your conscious mind will emphasise the reason for change and make you more likely to quit.

Remove Triggers

Want to make your behaviour change stick? Avoid the triggers that can reawaken old habits. If having a drink down the pub makes you crave a cigarette, steer clear – at least until you’re secure in your new behaviours.

If snack food is a trigger then throw out those biscuits and crisps and opt for something healthier. Change the environment and you’ll start changing the outcome.

Be positive

So what’s the best path to success? Make positive changes that keep you on the right track. How can you stop going back to being the old you? Maybe you might need a quit buddy. Or someone to start that soup cleanse with and celebrate all the little wins. 

Visualise crushing that old habit and enjoying your new success. You don’t need to be mean to yourself. Try a quiet positive voice that says it might feel good to do something good today. And tomorrow. And maybe the day after that. Before long you’ll realise you’ve been making that positive change every day. And that new habit? It’s stuck without you even noticing. 



by Tawny

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