Do you remember as kids, when the teacher told you there were assigned seats?
Ugh! The worst! You were stuck sitting in the same desk, next to the same people everyday. Your best hope was that one of the people you were sitting by was your friend. But, it usually didn’t work out that way, because the teacher worked it out so your friend was across the room. How did they always know?
As adults, we have so many choices. Yet most of us choose the same seats. Every damn day.
We take the same route to work, talk to the same people, read the same things, watch the same things, eat the same combination of foods, wear the same few outfits each week, and so on. If you stepped outside your life and really watched yourself, you would see that for most of us, there isn’t much variety in how we do things.
“Habits are important. Up to 90 percent of our everyday behavior is based on habit. Nearly all of what we do each day, every day is simply habit.” – Jack D. Hodge
We are creatures of habit. It is human nature.
Habits aren’t a bad thing. However, we can get stuck in patterns that aren’t working for us. Changing our habits can be an incredibly powerful force in our lives. The great news: breaking bad habits doesn’t have to be difficult.
Here’s how to get started.
5 Scientific Ways in Breaking Bad Habits Forever
1. Know your why.
Why do you want to change?
If you pick a superficial reason, you are likely to fail. Try to find a solid motivation or underlying reason for your behavior. The stronger your why, the more likely you will stick with your habit change on those days when you question your motives.
For example: if you are breaking bad habits about eating because you want to look good, that motive might not last long. You will have days where you decide that you look great and are okay eating the way you always have. If you change your eating habits because you want more energy or want to improve your overall health, those motives have longer staying power.
For more inspiration on your why, watch Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk “Start with Why”.
2. Have a cue.
A cue is a simple reminder. It can be as simple as a note (e.g., drink a glass of water, stretch, meditate, etc.) on the bathroom mirror, in your car, in your planner, or on your desk. The visual reminder will help you remember what you are working toward.
I tend to work on a new habit every few months and incorporate a word into one of my many passwords. This way, I have a constant reminder of what I am working on. Put the intention out there that you are working on breaking bad habits for the next few weeks/months.
3. Create a routine.
When you are starting a new routine, start small to build momentum. At the beginning of the year, it is typical for people to go big. For instance: they add a gym membership, a trainer, buy supplements, and do a change in diet. The trend is for the changes to last a few weeks and then to stop.
It is too much at once and NOT sustainable. Research shows that starting small, with ONE thing, builds momentum. If you want to add exercise to your routine for example, start with something you enjoy. Start small and build up. Let yourself build momentum when breaking bad habits so you don’t burn out.
4. Prepare a reward.
Build things into your life that reward you for your efforts. You can build the rewards into your cues so that you have a visual reminder that a reward is on its way. When breaking bad habits, you may need external rewards to motivate you before the internal rewards kick in.
Make a list of things you enjoy and make a point to provide them for yourself. They can be simple (e.g., a cup of your favorite beverage, time with friends, watching a movie, buying a favorite book, etc.) or even extravagant.
To learn more about cues, routines, and rewards, check out “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.
5. Get support.
We are not meant to do life alone. Find other people who are embarking on a habit change like you, so you can find motivation in difficult times and get support from them. You will be inspired by their efforts, and you’ll help to inspire them as well.
If you don’t have anyone in your inner circle who is willing to support your efforts, hop online. There are incredible communities supporting growth and change in others.
For more information about NOT doing life alone, check out the online community developed by The Angry Therapist.
Curious in breaking bad habits?
Why are our habits so important? As Ovid put it:
“Habits change into character.”
Let’s take the time to think about the seats we are sitting in everyday. Are they serving us? If not, let’s work together to find new seats.
Remember: we have the power in breaking bad habits.