Everyone at one point or another will deal with bad habits. For example, not making your bed in the morning when you rush to work or nail-biting. However, bad habits do not define you as a person. You can change bad habits and become the person you desire to be with a little extra effort and awareness.
How Do Bad Habits Form?
Bad habits form from patterns we make when we are on autopilot. They become routines encouraged by the reward of feeling good, like the feeling of eating ice cream. You know it isn't healthy, but it initially makes you happy. It's important to stop bad habits before they become even more ingrained in us, becoming harder to break.
7 Steps to Break Bad Habits
1. Define Specific Habits You Want to Break
Kick start your journey by defining clear habits you want to stop. You may find brainstorming a list to be helpful and then identify your top priorities. These should be specific and doable items. Wanting to be more healthy is great, but it's a broad goal, whereas only eating out twice a month is specific and trackable. Think simple and doable! Do not set your expectations too high at first: start slow.
2. Identify Triggers
Many bad habits form in reaction to triggers. Often these can range from stress or life changes to seeing junk food in the fridge. Identifying these triggers will allow you to be more aware of your bad habits and ask your self "what's going on to cause this?" It is not easy, but taking this step will drastically help you avoid living your life in autopilot mode.
3. Create a Plan
There is no need for you to tackle all of your bad habits all at once. Rome was not built in a day! Take steps one at a time and create a plan - either in your head or on paper - that does not entirely get rid of your junk food eating, for example, but puts in place simple actions for you to substitute your breakfast burrito with a bowl of oatmeal and fruit. Be specific. What actions can you take to reach your goal and change a bad habit?
4. Deal with Triggers
With your plan of action, you can begin dealing with your triggers. This will look different for everyone. For some, this may mean counting to 10 and taking some deep breaths when stressed. For others, it may mean directing anxious energy into listening to music or exercise instead of into nail-biting or excessive alcohol consumption.
5. Use Reminders
Setting a daily alarm to check in with yourself about your stress level or meal-prepping healthy snacks for the work week ahead is much easier than relying on your memory. These simple reminders will propel you on your journey to breaking bad habits.
6. Have Support and Rewards
Everyone needs support, so get a friend to help you along the way, whether they are someone you can call or someone who may even be struggling with the same bad habit. In addition, give yourself incentives for hard work, like a trip to the movies after every five days of sticking with your exercise routine.
7. Be Patient with Yourself
You would not criticize a friend for making mistakes, so don't expect perfection in yourself. Stopping bad habits takes time. Be kind to yourself and you will see progress!
When It's More Than a Bad Habit
Mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, are more than just bad habits and often require professional intervention for effective recovery. If you or a loved one suffer from a mental health disorder, don't be afraid to ask for help.
Brookhaven Retreat is a women-only mental health treatment center that offers customized treatment programs for women affected by depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Contact us today to learn more about our residential treatment programs and begin your journey of healing.