Breaking habits that are no longer serving you can be tough. I don’t care if they are behavior patterns, sleep patterns, social media habits, reaching for food to soothe, or having that cocktail/wine at the end of the day.
Habits are things that we do on a regular basis and we need many of them to survive. They become comfortable and often ritualistic. AND we can feel mighty uncomfortable when we are ready or need to change a habit but are not sure how to go about it.
Now, I’m not a behavioral expert BUT I do know a few things about habits just by living my own life.
There were two times when it was time to break a habit that was very dear to each of my toddlers. One needed to give up the bedtime bottle and the other his pacifier which was a constant companion.
I carefully planned out the mission. Each time a little different scenario, but both very successful and without the angst that I had anticipated and had steeled myself for.
I think the key to the success in each instance was I had taken them out of their normal environment and routine. The first time I did this, we were on a fun weekend away and I simply told my 2 ½ year old son that we did not bring his bottle with us. He didn’t like the idea at first but went along with it for the next few nights and by the time we returned home, the bottle and bedtime association had been broken.
Same thing with my youngest about 3 years later. We went on a camping trip and it was there that he put his pacifiers into a bucket and we ‘gave them away’. Again we were away from the normal routine, had many distractions which made it so much easier to break the habit.
It’s much easier to break the association of a habit if things are changed up initially, creating new habits and things to do. People/community can really help as well. AA has been successful for many reasons!
Sometimes when breaking a habit, it’s a matter of changing things around, creating a new and better substitute. Yes, it often means letting something go and making room for something new.
I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks for folks to change their eating and drinking habits, is that they think they’ll feel deprived. Well, if we don’t find substitutes and different activities surrounding the habit/ritual, there’s a really good chance you will feel deprived!
So here are your tools to help put down a habit you’d like to stop and create something new.
Change it up: If you’re used to reaching for a glass of wine or cocktail or carby snack at a certain time of day do these instead: sip on a alcohol-free skinny drink, meet with someone (for accountability) to go for a walk or gym or yoga at the end of the day when you’re normally reaching for the drink or food.
If it’s late at night and not comfortable going out, try 15-30 minutes of restorative yoga or meditation using Down Dog Yoga (app) or take a bath, listen to soothing music. Sometimes just brushing your teeth can help!
Confession: I like a glass of wine while I cook dinner. Sometimes just having someone else cook or getting healthy take out will help me forgo the wine because the activity associated with the wine is removed. I will also reach for a nice skinny lemonade so I get the same sipping routine on something I enjoy.
If your habit is eating carbs/ comfort food, and you’re an emotional eater, the same things apply. You’ll need to switch the bread and crackers to Paleo brands and if it’s crunchy and salt, Paleo has you covered as well. Learning how to make some low-carb sweets at home is always a plus. I have plenty of recipes on my site and here’s a book with great recipes, all in one place.
And taking a pause, taking a few deep breaths to change body sensation is super helpful as well.
Remember, to take it one day at a time. You might find changing up habits and routines surprisingly easy and you may find it incredibly hard, so it’s a good idea to write down why you’re doing it in the first place, to remind yourself when it gets hard. Bite size pieces, taking it one day at a time just make it easier most of the time.
I do like to make changing things up a 21-28 day proposition as we can usually do anything for 28 days. At the end of that period, I like people to notice how they feel and then even, to a degree, play a bit with what they’ve taken out, putting a few of their favorite things back to see how their body responds. YOU get to make the decision on how you want to feel, not me or anyone else. Your body will talk to you very clearly. Our job is to listen.
Set yourself up for wins! Implement anything that you need to make easy to access what you’re trying to avoid non-existent. Remove social media from your phone, remove tempting food, remove alcohol from your household. Park our car a few blocks down the street to get more steps in. Take the Uber app off your phone and walk! Eat only at places that serve healthy options and don’t serve alcohol. Make it easier for you to achieve your goal.
Just a side note: There is a difference between a habit and an addiction. An addiction is a habit that has gotten out of control and affects your life in a negative way-getting in the way of work, sleep, relationships, and health.