TL;DR – With the new year just a week away, it’s the best excuse to kick out the bad habits and start afresh!
Are some of your habits affecting your health or productivity at work? If they are, all the more reason why you should kick them off in the new year!
Habits are developed when enjoyable events trigger the brain’s “reward” centres. This is where many fall trap to vice habits like overeating, smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, gambling, excessive gaming or use of social media.
Pleasure-based or vice habits are harder to break because they release a chemical called dopamine when the activity is being done. And when we are not doing those things, dopamine creates the craving that reminds us to do it again.
How are habits formed?
Habits are formed through repetition; when we do something often enough, it becomes a normal part of our daily lives. Simple tasks like brushing our teeth become something that’s second nature and our mind is on auto-pilot mode when we are executing the task. This is because our brain does not have to use our conscious thought to perform the activity, and this frees up our brain to think about other things. And that’s why while brushing our teeth or showering, we come up with the best ideas.
Fortunately, our brain is adaptive, and we can train our brains to cut out bad habits and cultivate new ones. Here are five ways to get you started in breaking the habit:
1. Focus on why you want to stop the habit
Don’t underestimate the power of determination. It is important to set your mind right when deciding to kick a habit. List the motivations and reasons why you need to change. Stick this list in places you will regularly see. Your list will serve as an encouragement and remind you why you have to keep trying.
2. Identify your cues
Keeping track of your daily routines so you can trace a pattern. Asking yourself these questions can help you find the reason for the behaviour.
- Where does the bad habit take place?
- When does it happen? Specifically, what time?
- How does it make you feel when you exercise the habit?
- Were you doing it alone or with someone else?
- Is there a common event that takes place before you give into the habit?
3. Replace a bad habit with good ones
Identifying where the habit usually happens and knowing what triggers it can help you plan to decrease the chances of it happening again.
For example, let’s say you are trying to kick the habit of spending too much time on social media. Planting your living room with magazines or books, or items that will get you started on crafts will set a cue to your brain to pick up something else to do. You could also change the charging point of your phone, preferably far away from the couch so you won’t be tempted to scroll through social media while your phone is being charged.
4. Manage your stress
When we are stressed, we tend to fall back on bad habits because it is an easy way to release dopamine. Your bad habits were tried and tested so your brain will register it to be the quickest way to ease your mind and make you feel good when you get overwhelmed.
Having enough sleep and regular exercise can help to moderate stress. Social interactions can help to lower your stress levels, so you can also try talking to your family or friends. They can also keep you accountable for your progress in kicking the bad habit.
5. Reward yourself
It can be exceptionally difficult to break a habit, so it is important to acknowledge how far you’ve come. Small rewards like giving yourself a treat or celebrating the milestone of not falling into the bad habit for a month can boost your confidence and spur you to keep up the momentum.
You will be less likely to fall back into your old ways when you are focusing on the progress you have made.
Acknowledge that it takes time to break a habit especially if it is an old one. So don’t be too hard on yourself when there are slip-ups. Learn from your slip-ups and be honest with yourself on how you allowed yourself to the setback. Consider changing your approach or consult a friend to help you stay on track again.
Click here to read how you can start the year right.