Updated: Jun 15, 2021
Habits: What are they, and how are they created? How can we break the negative and add in the positive? Think of where you are right now. How happy or unhappy are you? Would you describe yourself as successful and thriving, or unsuccessful and struggling? Are you hopeful or fearful? Healthy or unhealthy? Whatever your answers are result from your habits.
As James Clear put it, "Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits" (1).
What are habits?
repeated behaviors that we develop over time
can be positive or negative
consist of a process "Cue (Reminder), Routine, Reward" (1, 2)
Positive Habits: The reward is great, and there are not any negative consequences.
Wake up, brush my teeth and wash my face.
Get my tea ready and make a gratitude list.
Juice my breakfast.
Feed the cat.
Meditate for one minute, before I leave the house.
Take my supplements with each meal.
Go to sleep at 10pm.
Negative Habits: There's a reward, but not so pleasant consequences follow.
Drinking Alcohol Daily/Binge Drinking
Eating Sugar and Drinking Caffeine to Stay Awake
Being a Couch Potato
Eating Processed Foods
Now that we have established what habits are, let's take a look at how to break them.
How to break a habit.
Awareness: Define what the habit is and know what triggers it (e.g. overeating; stress).
Prevention: How can you lessen the chances of acting out the negative habit? (e.g. With overeating: portion control/eating slowly & increasing water intake, recognize when you are getting stressed and have an effective way of dealing with it such as coloring, painting, yoga, walking, meditating. It is important to have something to channel your energy into. Face it head on and avoid escaping.
Replacement: Switch your "bad" habit with a better one (e.g. instead of drinking alcohol, drink tea; instead of eating candy, eat a fruit bowl).
Perception of Pros & Cons: There have to be more Pros to stopping the habit than Cons (see example).
Habit to Break: Smoking
Pros to Quitting Be Healthier Feel Better Breathe Easy Run Easy I won't smell. My clothes won't smell. Save Money White Teeth Good Skin Won't be a slave to the cigarette. More socially acceptable/professional not to smoke.
Cons to Quitting Part of my routine/Gives me comfort Enjoyment Calms my nerves I don't eat as much. When I drink alcohol, I like to smoke.
Note: It is important to be honest with yourself when writing the Pros and Cons list. Write as many as you can think of. If you need help coming up with more Pros, try googling the subject and see what others have said. To break a habit, it is important to have more Pros than Cons, and there has to be value behind the Pros list. For instance, with our example of quitting smoking to Get Healthier, it needs to be important to me to get healthy for the Pro to be motivational.
How to Add a Positive Habit to your Lifestyle
1) Pick a habit that is simple and easy to attain.
Example: My goal is to get healthy.
Habits that support my long-term goal.
Start my day off with a glass of lemon water.
Walk for 20 minutes each day.
Drink herbal tea rather than coffee.
Make a fresh, whole food meal for dinner.
2) Have a reminder.
It takes time to develop a habit, so until your new habit becomes second nature, it is helpful to have a reminder- something that cues you to action.
James Clear discussed how making a list of daily habits and experiences that happen to you, gives you plenty of options for possible reminders.
Example of daily habits:
Brush my teeth.
Read my email.
Sit down for dinner.
Example of daily experiences that happen to me:
I get a text message.
I hear a commercial on the radio.
The sun rises.
Alarm clock goes off.
I reach a stop sign.
Now, pair your new habit with a current daily habit or experience.
Example: My goal is to be happy.
I will write a gratitude list while having my coffee. (new habit with current habit)
When I'm driving and come to a stop sign, I will take the opportunity to think of something I am grateful for. (new habit with daily experience)
3) Pat yourself on the back.
Whenever you complete the new habit, congratulate yourself. If your goal is to get healthy and you work out, take a moment to appreciate your accomplishment.
Additional Ways to Break/Add in a Habit:
Cut out triggers
Support (groups, friends, family)
Surround yourself with information that supports your goal (podcasts, books, videos, posters).
"Surround yourself with people that live the way you want to live" -James Clear
Visualization (see yourself how you want to be)
Remember yourself before you developed the habit
Additional Help for Breaking a Habit:
Neuro Emotional Technique & Psycho-NeuroBiology
For more information on how to break a habit call the Nutritional Wellness Center at 856-499-2160.
Resources & Recommended Reading:
1) Clear, James (n.d.). www.jamesclear.com 2) Duhigg, Charles (2014). The Power of Habit
Additional Recommended Reading: Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza
“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” -Brian Tracy