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Quit Bad Habits: How to cut out the bad stuff and bring in the good
Imagine what life would be like if we could take all of our bad habits and throw them out the window.
No more coughing from cigarettes, no more sore cuticles from nail biting, no more dollar bills being stuffed in the swear jar. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Quitting bad habits is one of the most common resolutions, which is why we’ve saved it for #8. Now, for those who are wondering why we’re still on this New Year’s Resolution kick when it’s nearly Spring, remember that resolutions often melt with the snow.
We know how hard it is to stick to a resolution and not lose motivation a few months in. That’s why we’ve drawn this blog series out and made sure it could work as a reminder for our friends who are beginning to lose sight of their 2015 goals.
So, for those who resolved to quit a bad habit and are finding it difficult to stay disciplined, we’ve compiled a few tips and a handful of sound advice to help you out. We may not be able to through bad habits out the window, but in this blog post we will learn how to…
Get in the Mindset to Quit
A major part of breaking the cycle that leads to your bad habit is to get yourself in the mindset to quit. This goes beyond the motivated boost you feel when you decide to quit. We’re talking about a mindset that will lead you to quitting that bad habit once and for all.
Check out this animated video by WellCast, a YouTube show dedicated to helping people find mental, emotional and physical paths to wellness. In this short sketch, we are given a nice breakdown of why it’s so hard to leave our vices behind and a quick method of how to overcome them for good.
As we saw in the video, there are a few important takeaways for quitting bad habits: Use the worksheet idea, make sure to substitute bad stuff with good stuff, and get support from friends and family. There were also some hints at the kind of mindset needed in order to overcome our vices. First, there’s awareness. We need to be able to break the repetition of our bad habit and be aware when we are falling back into our familiar ways.
Second, we’ve got to have a mindset that is resolved to fight the temptation of the dopamine! We know, we know, cracking those knuckles is so satisfying, but move away from how it makes you feel and move into the awareness of what it’s doing to your fingers and bones (i.e., higher potential for arthritis).
Lastly, we must have a mindset of confidence. In order to kick our bad habits to the curb, we must believe that we have the ability to change. Like it’s said in the video, human beings are amazing at changing our actions and ourselves. Keep that in mind!
Common Bad Habits & How to Shake Them
Not everyone shares the same bad habits, but there are some poor practices that are more common than others. Use this list to help shake your bad habit and try sharing your challenges and successes with others, chances are they’re trying to forgo the same vice (remember, there’s no reason to make this a solo mission. Get others involved and make it a group effort!).
Snacking…When You’re Not Even Hungry
Munching away on potato chips can be a mindless activity. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re doing it and, worse, you’re not even hungry to begin with. In order to cut out the unnecessary snacking (not to mention all the fats, calories and carbs), try waiting to eat until you hear your tummy starting to rumble.
If you wait for your body to tell you when it needs food, and not the other way around, it will be easier to get into a better eating schedule and to cut out this bad habit. Also, try becoming more aware of why you’re going for that bag of Doritos in the first place. Is it because you’re stressed, bored or angry? If so, then close the pantry and walk away.
Final tip: Make sure that your big meals (b-fast, lunch and dinner) are full of healthy, nutritious foods that will leave your body satisfied and your stomach content.
Zoning Out in Front of the TV
There must be something magical about that glowing screen because so many of us are drawn to it like moths to a light bulb. Hours go by without us realizing that we haven’t moved from the couch and, what’s worse, that we’ve been mindlessly snacking all the while! Clearly, this is a gateway bad habit and we must get rid of it ASAP.
Here’s an idea that may seem extreme to some: Take your TV time and turn it into activity time. Go for a walk, go to the gym, turn on a yoga video and stretch out in your living room. Trust us, actually exercising is much better for you than watching reruns of The Biggest Loser.
If you need a softer approach, then try setting a cap on your TV time. Only watch TV for up to 2 hours each day and make sure to leave the snacks in the pantry before sitting down on the couch. Another good idea is to get up and do something productive during commercials: clean the living room, get dinner started, make some phone calls, or fold laundry. Simply standing up and moving around will break the trance of the television and help to reduce this bad habit in your life.
Spending $$$ & Piling Up Debt
We’ve always wanted to try that thing where you freeze your credit cards in a block of ice so you won’t use them…but, we’re not entirely convinced that’s the right route to take to quit this bad habit.
This is a really important one to cross off the list, because financial stress can lead to some serious mental and physical turmoil (and lead to forming other bad habits!). The first step is to get control of your spending by setting a strict budget and sticking to it. One method is to create different envelopes for regular spending needs, such as groceries and gas, and putting the budgeted amount of cash in those envelopes for each week. Once the envelope is empty, that’s all you can spend for that allotted need/want.
Another basic step is to simply get educated on budgeting, investing, credit cards and banking options (automation for paying bills is a great way of staying on track!). The more you know the more you can be aware when you’re slipping into bad spending habits and, thus, step away from the ATM when need be.
Biting Your Nails
The world is full of nail-biters. In fact, WebMD reports that 60% of kids and 45% of teens bite their nails, and this bad habit is one that stays with us into adulthood. This is another one that is triggered by stress, anxiety, boredom, and those other poor feelings that cause us to start chompin’.
The first tip for kicking this habit is an oldie but a goodie: Put bitter-tasting nail polish on your nails to deter you from biting them. Another idea is to get regular manicures that keep your nails trimmed and too pretty looking to risk ruining (note: these ideas can also work for boys/men, just use clear nail polish or none at all...a quick dip in vinegar will go a long way).
Need a more dramatic approach? Try keeping a rubber band around your wrist and snap it whenever you feel yourself going in for a bite. Also, remember that our bad habits often have a root cause. Figure out what has you stressed/angry/irritated and find ways to reduce or alleviate the issue. This will often lead to a more relaxed, contented mindset that helps us stay away from bad habits.
This is the big bad boss of bad habits and the most common vice that people try to quit. That being said, we can only offer rudimentary tips in our humble little blog. But, we can encourage you to seek more professional, personalized help by consulting your physician and other qualified medical professionals.
If you are trying to quit smoking, whether with supplemental medication (like nicotine replacement alternatives) or cold turkey, make sure you have a support system that can be by your side when you’re itchin’ for a drag. Another tip is to write down the reasons you need to quit smoking. Keep this list at hand wherever you go to remind you of the consequences of smoking, the positives of turning away from this bad habit, and the people you are quitting for (including yourself!).
Alright, potty mouths, it’s time to stop wasting precious dollars by having to stuff them into the swear jar each time your kid catches you cussing. Don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you to wash your mouth out with soap, but we are going to tell you to take this bad habit seriously if you really want to quit it.
Rather than having your child monitor your bad language, enlist your spouse, friend, or coworker to be you “sponsor.” This person can gently remind you each time you slip up and, eventually, you will start to monitor yourself. This is also a vice that is caused by triggers… like that guy who just cut you off on the freeway, or the table leg that had the nerve to get in your walking path.
Learn to work through the immediate rage by having some other outlet than swearing. For instance, try counting to ten or clenching your fist and then slowly relinquishing the anger as you loosen it again. Or, try the nail-biting method and snap a rubber band on your wrist each time you feel a curse word bubbling to the surface.
Lastly, always keep in mind who’s in earshot. You wouldn’t want your grandma, your boss, or your kids hearing your foul-mouthed tongue, so being aware of your surroundings is a key factor in curbing this bad habit.
Drinking alcohol isn’t a bad thing, as long as it’s in moderation. For those who need to cut back on their drinking, we have a few simple tips.
But for anyone who has a serious drinking problem, please seek medical help and counseling. This is far too big an issue to go it alone, and certainly not within the realm of a blog post to fix.
The fact is you don’t have to be addicted to alcohol to want to cut back from drinking in excess. Create a plan to drink in moderation by using these tried and tested methods:
Pace yourself: Limit your drinking to one drink an hour rather than downing it all the moment you arrive at the party or bar.
Get support: Make a commitment with significant other to hold each other accountable to only consuming X number of drinks in the night.
Set a limit: Have a maximum number of drinks you allow yourself for one night. This may mean one glass of wine in an evening at home or three drinks over the course of the night at a neighbor’s party.
Fill up on food, not booze: Make sure you are eating while you drink in order to slow down alcohol absorption.
Choose a healthier alternative: A glass of wine at night might calm your nerves, but a cup of herbal tea will do the job just as well, if not better. Consider healthy alternatives to your regular drinking and incorporate them into your routine and social outings.
Working Wayyy Too Much
If you’re not up for moving to Denmark (where they have a 37-hour work week…and are also one of the happiest countries in the world) then try these tips for cutting down on the amount of time your spend working. First, spend a few days and track how much time you are spending working, with family, cleaning/doing chores, running errands, exercising, relaxing, and sleeping.
Now, we bet there’s going to be a big discrepancy between those fun things like relaxing and sleeping and those necessary things like working and grocery shopping. For the areas in your life that are getting the least amount of time, make them your priority for one week. Be disciplined and go to the gym rather than cleaning the kitchen, or take a nap rather than getting those Sunday emails out.
By making a radical shift in your priorities for one week you will be able to see realistic ways that you can adjust your routine and create a more balanced system between work and play. Another idea that you can put to use right away is to adjust your work schedule and work for 90 minutes and then take a short break to walk outside, grab coffee, or watch a funny YouTube video. Then, get back to the grind. After another 90 minutes, take another break and so on until the workday is complete. This has actually been known to increase productivity and it won’t make you feel so drained by the time you get home!
Your Turn: Tell Us How You Kick Bad Habits
This blog post was both challenging and rewarding to write. We all deal with bad habits and resolving to quit them is not always an easy process. We look forward to hearing from our readers about this topic! Leave a comment or reply on Facebook.
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