Breaking a habit is pretty simple. But it’s not easy.
Think about it; all you have to do is interrupt one pattern and replace it with another. Take the “bad” behavior habit and replace it with a good one. That’s it. That’s all you have to do.
Then why is it so hard?
Well, change isn’t easy. It’s something that often feels uncomfortable; it’s scary and uncertain- and our brain is designed to protect us from things that are uncertain.
Your life right now, is a sum of all your habits. Everything you do every day, is a habit. We operate on habits and most of them operate on autopilot.
If you want to make a change; no matter how small or big, you will never do it if you continue to do the same things you’ve been doing your entire life. Every change begins with the same thing: breaking one habit and replacing it with another.
ONE HABIT AT A TIME
Start small. Start with small changes that will be easier to adapt to. The truth is, if you think you can change your life and form a bunch of new habits at once, your expectations are unrealistic. Starting a new habit is easy, but making it stick is a different story- this is why you should try to only form one habit at a time. Forming a new habit, changing up your routine takes a lot of focus and whether you’re working on a social, fitness, work, personal or a diet habit- make sure that you’re working only on one at a time. Don’t try to change everything at once- you’ll feel overwhelmed and frustrated.
Your dreams and goals are probably different from mine, but I’m guessing you’ve probably told yourself the same thing I’ve been telling myself for many years: “I can only achieve this when the time is right“. And you wait. And wait. Next thing you know the years pass by and you still didn’t get in shape, you still don’t get up early in the morning, you still feel miserable at your job, but don’t do anything about it. The only way for any big change to happen, is through small, daily habits and behaviors you change. You want to get in shape? Start walking every day. You don’t need to wait until you have enough money to hire a personal trainer, if you can’t afford it right now. Start walking every morning for ten minutes. Then make it fifteen, then twenty minutes. That simple change is what will bring you closer to your “big” goal.
DON’T SKIP TWO DAYS IN A ROW
When forming a new habit the most difficult thing for most of us is actually sticking to it. If you’ve ever tried to develop a workout routine, then you probably know that the excitement and drive can sometimes wear off after about a week or so. You skip two or three days, and next thing you know, you’ve stopped completely.
It’s been proven by research that skipping a day when changing a habit doesn’t have a big impact on your long-term goals. You shouldn’t expect yourself to be perfect, it’s okay to slip up- as long as you get back on track. Skipping two days in a row, is a different story- skip a couple of days in a row, and you’ll feel discouraged. That’s why it’s important to….
If you want to change your eating habits, you have to make sure that you’re prepared. Make sure that you have a healthy snack in your bag, don’t keep any “bad” foods in your pantry and hold yourself accountable. You want your environment to be designed for success.
Be prepared for potential setbacks; think of the things that might get in your way. If you know you’re going to have a long day and by the time you get home you’ll have no energy for your daily workout, do it in the morning. Get it out-of-the-way. Make sure that your day has some room for those new habits you want to develop; you need to schedule them in and plan ahead.
There are a few books that I can say changed my life. The 5 Second Rule is one of them- and I only finished reading it this week. I already started applying this rule and can tell you this: it works. The book is written by Mel Robbins, and if you haven’t seen her TedTalk yet, you need to.
In her book, Mel talks about the 5 Second Rule– a form of metacognition she designed that has helped her switch gears and form new behavioral patterns. The idea is this: if you have an impulse or a thought to do something (like “Maybe I’ll go for a run“) and don’t act on it, physically get up and do it within 5 seconds, your brain will stop you from taking action. Mel says that counting backwards “5-4-3-2-1” the moment you feel an instinct to do something, gives you immediate control over your actions. Counting backwards requires focus and concentration and counting “5-4-3-2-1” activates you prefrontal cortex- part of your brain involved in decision-making and planning. The point is, you don’t really need to understand how this works, you just need to try it.
Reward yourself every time you hit a milestone. Whether it be buying a new lipstick, allowing yourself to binge-watch your favorite TV show, getting a manicure or buying new workout clothes- make sure you give yourself credit for making your new habits stick and celebrate your wins, even if they’re small. Remember that every big change, begins with a single step.