Let’s face it, the quality of your life right now is a result of the quality of the habits you’ve developed over the years. If you often feel vital and energetic, most likely you eat healthy meals, exercise regularly, and give yourself sufficient rest. If you often feel happy and optimistic, most likely you have positive mental and emotional habits that help you effectively manage your inner and outer world.
On the other hand, if you often have low energy, feel moody, anxious, stressful, pessimistic, or scattered, it’s very likely that there are some negative habits that prevent you from feeling fully engaged, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Most people know that healthy habits are the key to many of their challenges in life, from fatigue, to being overweight, to PMS, just to name a few. Yet not many people succeed in breaking their negative habits.
Why? I think it’s because they’ve taken on an impossible task.
A bad habit is almost impossible to break because it takes vigilance and an energy that few of us have.
Think about the chocoholic who has to resist the temptation to eat a chocolate bar every minute of every waking hour. Talk about exhausting!
Thankfully, there’s a better and more effective way. And that is developing a healthier habit to automatically “crowd out” the old, negative habit. Here are five tips to help you develop a healthier habit without the usual struggles of breaking an old and persistent negative one…
Have a strong enough why.
Nietzsche said, “If you have a strong enough why, you can almost always figure out the how.” It’s so true. To break a negative habit, you first need to ask yourself why you want to break it. When you recognize the consequences of your negative habit and its effects on something you value deeply, such as your health or your family, you’re connected to a powerful spiritual energy that’ll help you move mountains.
Focus on cultivating a new habit, not breaking an old habit.
Forget about the negative habit you want to break. Instead, clearly articulate the new habit you want to create. For example, say your old habit is that you eat a box of cookies as a snack whenever you get hungry. Instead of focusing on refraining from gobbling cookies, focus on your new habit, which is to eat a bowl of fruit or a handful of nuts whenever you get hungry.
Create an environment that supports your new habit.
Our environment has a great deal of influence on us, from what’s in our fridge, to the people we spend time with, to the television we watch and books we read. Take an inventory of the stuff in your current environment that doesn’t support your new habit and throw it out, replacing it with things that will support and nurture you.
Include enjoyment and reward.
It’s human nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Very few people have the willpower and discipline to do things they don’t enjoy consistently. For your new habit to work, you need to find some enjoyment in doing it. If you hate joggling, don’t force yourself to do it. Find something you enjoy instead, whether it’s dancing, walking your dog, or whatever.
And reward yourself regularly. It’s not fun to cut out cheesecake in your life if you love it. Speaking for myself, I admit that I’m crazy about cheesecake. So I’ll set a goal for myself, and when I achieve it I’ll buy a small 7-inch cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory and reward myself. Mmm… It’s such a joy to have a small piece every night. It’s even better to share it with my love.
Monitor your progress.
Have you heard the saying, “Wherever attention goes energy flows?” It’s true that whatever you track will grow. So I encourage you to monitor your progress on a daily basis for the first 30-60 days, the most crucial period to acquire a new habit. And don’t condemn yourself if you fall short of your plan. Just note it, learn from it, and do better the next day.
One last thing – and actually the most important thing – is to believe that you can whatever you set out to do. And yes, YOU truly CAN if it’s really important to you.