Why Bad Habits Seem To Creep Back Without Warning
And how to break them, once and for all
Have you ever tried to go on a health kick?
You know the one – exercising more, eating healthier, avoiding alcohol, eliminating chocolate, and so forth. How did you do?
It’s not uncommon for people to have difficulties sticking to or keeping up their health regimens. A lot of individuals start eating healthier or working out, but a lot of them quit in just 48 hours.
People who begin to eat healthier or exercise are more likely to fail by a large margin. Furthermore, only 20% of individuals achieve their new year’s resolutions.
So healthy is not for everyone?
WRONG! Completely incorrect. Anyone can be healthy.
If you doubt this or have any negative beliefs, put them aside for now (return to them later). You might go awry for one of four reasons:
not knowing what to do (or not having the knowledge, which is more likely);
a lack of accountability and support;
taking on too much;
not knowing what you want to accomplish.
Notice that motivation is not there. You haven’t begun your health kick in the first place if you lacked motivation.
You rely on your habits – your natural, inborn actions and thoughts that you have developed over time. As you begin to make alterations, your subconscious mind will resist, thus pulling you back to your bad habits.
What are bad habits?
A bad habit is an annoying little gremlin that keeps you doing things you no longer want to do. Basically, it keeps you performing activities that you really do not wish to do anymore.
You put healthy food in your fridge and keep finding sugary treats there overnight. You know, having free food would be quite advantageous, but it would be difficult to resist your favourite chocolate bar, a glass of wine, can of beer, pizza, and so on.
Bad habits always tell you that ‘you would rather do/have me than that thing you mentioned.’ Oh my!
They are linked to everything from sleeping longer to failing to work out to meeting up with friends late to consuming too much food. Right up to having an excuse not to do something as you think it will be harmful if you give yourself a break.
Everything that you do creates an excuse or barrier to what you should be doing.
Bad habits are not the actual problem
I realise this sounds a bit nuts, but it’s not about whether you have a favourable or undesirable habit; rather, it’s about why they creep back in. Every person has a bad habit, but it’s how they handle it or if it manages them.
Carrot cake is one of my most loved treats. I can buy a slice (or whole cake) from a supermarket and finish it in one sitting. It’s not particularly healthy (especially if you know the ingredients list), but healthy eating is not about restrictions. It is about maintaining control.
So, regardless of whether I buy an entire carrot cake or only one slice, I maintain control over it.
Let us say I really wanted some carrot cake on a Wednesday. Instead of going out and buying it straight away, thus giving into my bad habit and temptation, I keep myself disciplined and don’t buy it.
Instead (and this is how I keep myself eating healthy without refusing those treats or cravings), I set myself a day over the weekend when I will buy one and enjoy a slice. And of course some the following day too. This allows me to enjoy foods I love, maintain a healthy nutritional intake (remember, it is all about moderation and balance), and without any negative feelings of failure.
Managing your gremlins
What makes bad habits gremlins that creep back is not the habit itself, but the feeling or thought it creates.
Like if you’re feeling bad, the habit is to eat some chocolate to feel better, but the gremlin is the feeling of failure, low self-worth, and ‘what’s the point’.
Remember how I said “if you have any doubts or negative beliefs about this, let’s put those on hold for a moment” – these are your gremlins of doubt creeping in. The things telling you that you can’t do it because it is hard, painful, uncomfortable, new, for someone else…the list goes on.
How to break bad habits
Ok, this is the hard bit as it does take some work. Not only do you need to build new habits but you need to replace the old ones, and that includes the feelings or thoughts that go with them. It is exactly the reason people hire a coach to help, but you can do it yourself if you follow these 3 steps.
1) Write down your goals.
Sit down and write down exactly where you want to be, and make it a SMART goal – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and within a Timeframe. And I mean shape it – what it would feel like, what it will change for you, everything. One goal can take up a whole page of A4 easily.
If you are finding this hard, try to break through the uncomfortable barrier and really allow yourself to create something here.
2) Record your gremlins.
Yes, they get a part in this too, so on a second piece of paper write them all down. Basically, you have to be ready to tackle any obstacle when it does appear.
But be warned, if you find this easy, it is likely you have not been truly honest with yourself. Your mind will naturally try to protect you (it’s the reason we have fears) so take your time here. Let go of your inner fears and doubts, even if it is just between you and the piece of paper.
3) Design your plan.
The ‘how to make it happen’. Something you will have done before but with a twist as you will now have the actions ready to fight bad habits.
Using a third bit of paper, in landscape orientation, write your goal clearly at the top, then draw 4 columns underneath and complete as suggested below:
Left-hand column set out what you are going to do:
- join a gym
- get some new healthy recipe ideas
- start home workouts
- walk every day at lunch
Second column, how you are going to build your new healthy habits – remember SMART!
- I am going to walk for 30 minutes every lunch hour as soon as my lunch hour starts.
- With the app on my phone, I am going to track the steps and time it takes (Android and iPhone both have them).
- I am going to ensure I elevate my heart rate so a conversation would be difficult whilst I walk (a way to monitor intensity).
Third column connect your gremlins up to each habit you are building, and writing them out clearly here helps build your strength in facing them.
- ‘if it rains then I won’t do it’
- ‘my colleagues will think I am crazy – maybe they’re right!?’
- ‘it won’t really affect my health if I miss a day’
- ‘I’ll just do it later if work is busy’
Fourth column, write down what you are going to do to cancel that gremlin. This is where affirmations are a big-game changer.
Here are some examples of these gremlins:
- My workout is not affected by the weather as I am dressed suitably.
- My colleagues are entitled to their opinion, but I am doing what is best for me.
- I care for my health every day as I am my number 1 priority.
- I am entitled to my break time which is my time, so I always have time for what is good for me.
Say goodbye to gremlins!
As you can see, being healthy is not about just building healthy habits. It is about building healthy habits and taking control of bad ones.
If you think past doubt just disappears and never comes back, be very careful. A bad day or tough moment can always trigger old feelings or thoughts to resurface. Just if they do, you will be in control and squash them.
Do this as often as you need to and always refer back to give yourself a reminder.