We all have bad habits; it’s a fact of life because we’re human and imperfect. The good news is that bad habits can be changed with some discipline and work. A change in bad habits doesn’t happen overnight but by simply acknowledging the bad behaviour, we take the first step toward change.
Here are some tips for changing bad habits into good habits:
1. Keep the temptation out of sight.
If you have a problem with overeating junk food, for example, keep those tempting foods out of your home. Avoid those particular aisles at the grocery store. Step away from the snack table when you’re a guest at someone’s house. If your temptation isn’t visible, then you’ll get used to not having that temptation around you, which in itself forms a good habit of not overindulging.
2. Reward yourself.
If you want to stop biting your nails, schedule a manicure or a day at the spa after 6-8 weeks away as a reward to yourself for having avoided biting your nails. Now use this reward as a way to keep your bare nails (temptation) out of sight thereby eliminating the biting behaviour altogether. Also consider rewarding yourself for incorporating a good habit into your life as well, and choose small, simple rewards that fit your budget.
3. Give yourself a consequence for the bad habit.
If you have a habit of swearing like a sailor like I do, try charging yourself a fee for every swear word that comes out of your mouth. Collect that money in a jar or bank and when you haven’t added to it in a month, take that money and give yourself a reward. Tell your friends and family, too, so they can help keep you accountable. Sometimes we’re so used to doing bad habits that we don’t even notice when it happens. Giving yourself a consequence forces you to be more aware of your behaviour and eventually eliminates that bad behaviour.
4. Keep track of your daily habits.
Whether you choose good old paper and pen or a sophisticated app on your phone, tracking your habits puts them in the forefront of your mind and you’ll also feel more accomplished at the end of the week. For instance, if you’re exercising daily, mark down what you did and for how long. If you’re stopping your procrastination habit, mark what time you started work. If you’re unplugging more, use a paper calendar to write down when you turned your phone or computer off and how long that lasted. Visual cues that you’re succeeding in busting these bad habits can go a long way to make you feel proud and accomplished, which will positively reinforce this new behavior.
5. Choose an accountability partner.
Do you have someone who can help monitor your success? Do you have a nutritionist who can help create healthy meals? Do you have a business partner or friend who you help turn your business struggles around? Keeping your struggles and goals to yourself often makes it easier to cheat; however, if you tell other people what you’re trying to accomplish, then you’ll focus more on the new behaviour, which eventually will overtake the bad behaviour.
One quick tip: Don’t try to change multiple bad habits at once. Choose one behaviour to focus on and work on that first. When you feel that bad habit has been changed for good, work on changing another bad habit – or work on incorporating good habits into your daily life.