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The Best Way To Break Bad Habits

Did you know that 90% of our behaviour is made up of habits?

Yes, that’s right – not conscious and deliberate action – mind numbing, thought-free habits!

If they happen to be habits that work for us (like putting our clothes away or placing the car keys in the same place each night) then that’s great. But all too often our habits are part of our behaviours that we would very much like to change – if only it wasn’t so hard!

Change isn’t easy. Some are harder than others. The first step is making the decision to change.

Let’s presume that you have decided that the cost is more than the benefit of the habit (or habits) in question. You have made a firm commitment to change and have looked into the various options available to you. You have worked out quite clearly why you want to make the change and have a great picture of what life will be like when you have succeeded.

The next step is to look closely at what may get in the way. Forewarned is forearmed so to speak.

Barriers to change come in many shapes and sizes but generally they will fall into one of the following four categories.

• Behaviours• Situations• Thoughts• Feelings

Let’s start with behaviours. This is really just another word for our habits! In other words, we get in our own way, we trip ourselves up – all those other clichés are right. How hard will it be to change what we do?

Step 1: Work out what it is that we do that prevents us from having what we want. For example, we want to lose weight but start each morning with a large whole milk latte and two pieces of toast. Not good. How easy will it be to change this particular habit? Only you can answer that.

Step 2: Instead of striking it off the list, find a replacement. Decide to have breakfast at another café, or even better, eat at home with food that you have planned in advance that you know is of higher nutritious value and less likely to be worn round your middle.

Situations are things that create the framework of our daily lives.

Step 1: Work out whether any situation is likely to affect your chances of success, A situation that could be a barrier is living in a country that has long cold winters and makes exercise much less accessible.

Or it could be the job you do that demands long hours and lengthy drives in traffic. You know you would like to go to the gym but at the end of the day there simply is not enough time left and your energy is low.

Step 2: Can you change this situation? Perhaps not, but I bet there is a way you can modify it to find another way of exercising or doing whatever else it is you want to do.

Our thoughts have a fair amount of control over what we do. If we tell ourselves something often enough, chances are we believe it. If it’s a positive belief, then that works for us (unless it’s delusional). If it’s a negative belief, then the spin offs can be deadly.

Step 1: Work out whether you have any habitual thought patterns that could be getting in your way. Catch yourself thinking the thought.

Step 2: Challenge that thought. Is it realistic? Is there proof that this belief is correct? Or is it slightly faulty or exaggerated? Would there be a better way of thinking?

Step 3: Learn to substitute faulty thoughts with more realistic ones.

Our feelings usually come straight from our thoughts.

Step 1: Taking the above action can help. Some feelings are more complicated to analyse. Fear, anger, resentment, anxiety can have deep-seated causes and often not be recognized for what they are.

Step 2: Become more self aware and challenge the way you think, Understand how you feel about the old behaviour and the new behaviour before you begin a significant change. For example, “Realise I am quite scared of losing weight as I am not sure how people will react to the new me.”


• Look at your current behaviours and pinpoint the ones that will be hardest to change.

• Analyse your situation and find out how it could work against you.

• Listen to your internal voice. What are you saying to yourself that may be getting in the way?

• How do you feel about the change you want to make? Is there a different way of looking at things that could make your plan easier?

Barriers or obstacles get in the way constantly for everyone when they attempt a new way of living. They are often referred to as “excuses”. Some are but others are real.

Learn to pick the difference and work steadily away at the real ones. Barriers can be removed, or at the worst – jumped over.

Chris, myHealthCoach

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