Here’s the thing about habits, they’re tricky. And a lot of our habits (good and bad) are unconscious, so we rarely realize we’re doing them. This is why breaking bad habits can take quite a bit of work for some of us.
So what is a habit? Well, a habit is defined as:
“a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior” or “an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary”
Based on its definition, habits can become so ingrained in our minds that we don’t even notice what we’re doing. But the mindful act of realizing that you are engaging in a bad habit is one of the first steps in working to break it! And that’s exactly why I’d like to share with you some useful tips on how to break bad habits and build even better ones.
Finding an alternative mindset
You see, the key to creating healthy habits that actually last is all about finding alternatives. And that doesn’t only mean alternative habits, it can also mean alternative ways of thinking. Because sometimes going cold turkey on a bad habit can do more harm than good.
For example, I used to love enjoying a nice warm cup of coffee every morning, but I don’t rely on it like I used to! In the past, I thought I needed coffee everyday to jumpstart my energy and focus, which I didn’t want to do. So, in order to break this habit, I focused on what I was gaining from cutting back on coffee, rather than what I was depriving myself of. I looked for fun ways to infuse my mornings with energy, like taking my dog Bella for a walk, instead of having coffee.
I was getting better sleep at night, feeling much more hydrated, and I didn’t feel like I absolutely needed coffee to keep me going throughout the day. But I had to be mindful of it. I knew it would be hard, but cutting back little by little and replacing feelings of lack with feelings of empowerment is what motivated me to continue.
And now, while I still enjoy a cup of coffee every once in a while, I was able to get myself out of the habit of relying on it, to the point where I can indulge on my terms without feeling like I’m overindulging and reverting back to an unconscious routine.
Visualize new behaviors
And this can be applied to all kinds of habits you are experiencing and trying to break. Similar to coffee, I’m also a cheese lover — honestly, aren’t we all? ;-) But I recently decided to cut back on my cheese and dairy consumption because I knew it just wasn’t agreeing with me at this time in my life. It was starting to become more of a comfort food than a healthy one.
This one was really tough, and still is! So I use visualization to see the behaviors and foods I am replacing cheese with to regain focus on what I’m getting from cutting back. And the benefits of cutting back alone have proven to be incredibly beneficial to my overall health. It’s these tools that allow me to remind myself why I’m cutting back in the first place.
Remember, it’s not about putting unnecessary pressure on yourself to go cold turkey on a bad habit. It’s about being present and staying mindful about the habits you’re engaging in and creating those alternatives for success. A habit is a process that develops over time, so when you can see yourself practicing the good habits, you retrain your brain to make them involuntarily.
Know your triggers
Similar to practicing mindfulness, we must also pay attention to our habit triggers. Unfortunately, a single habit can often be perpetuated by a trigger. Maybe you’ve had a long or stressful day and decide to pour yourself a drink to calm your nerves. Or overeating if you’re out socializing with friends or coworkers. Personal development is all about doing the inner work to uncover your higher, more in-tune self. So whatever the trigger may be (stress, uncertainty, low energy, etc.), it’s important to get to the bottom of why a habit continues to come up in your life.
Self-awareness plays a big role in creating and sticking to healthy habits, instead of lingering in mindless behavior. If you are familiar with my teachings, you already know how much I value the practice of meditation, especially when it comes to creating positive change in your life. Through meditation, I’m able to get clear on what’s going on inside, mentally, physically, and emotionally. And staying aware and in tune with my higher self has worked wonders in uncovering those emotional triggers for bad habits.
This instead of that
I recently had alcohol reduction specialist, Georgia Foster, on my podcast, and she talked about her 7 Days To Drink Less Program that is designed for those looking to better manage drinking habits. In the episode, we discuss the importance of finding the kind of alternatives that allow you to plan ahead, making it hard to give in to temptation. Things like having a “mocktail” while hanging out socially, or alternating between alcoholic beverages and water to keep yourself hydrated, are the realistic things we can do to combat temptations before they even happen.
As I mentioned before, if you’re wondering how to stop bad habits, we can ditch the idea that we must overcome a bad habit by completely stopping or going cold turkey. That’s why finding realistic alternatives or substitutes that work for you is a great way to keep on track toward your habit-breaking goals. Here are some examples:
Habit: Mindless spending
Alternative: Set a daily spending budget
Habit: Consuming too much coffee or caffeine
Alternative: Opt for decaf coffee
Habit: Immediately checking your phone when you wake up in the morning
Alternative: Take 5-10 minutes to meditate each morning
Habit: Eating too much junk food
Alternative: Prepare pre-portioned snacks ahead of time
Habit: Spending too much time on social media
Alternative: Set screen time limits to keep you on track with productivity
Habit: Watching mindless TV after a long day
Alternative: Go for a quick walk in your neighborhood to relax and unwind
As you can see, one simple change over time has the power to elevate your overall well-being and replace the habits that aren’t serving you anymore. We all truly have the power to create healthy habits and finally stick with them! And if you’re ready to boost that inner power even more, don’t forget to check out my Daily Flow System! It includes powerful techniques, exercises, and neuro-scientific mind tools to awaken superhuman levels of productivity, focus, and creativity. So are you ready to get in flow? Combat those debilitating habits once and for all, with the Daily Flow System today!
Natalie Ledwell is a best selling author, speaker and successful entrepreneur. She's passionate about helping others to achieve their greatest dreams and ambitions through her personal development programs and her online TV show, The Inspiration Show.