Some bad habits will kill you, literally. Drug abuse, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption are a few of the lifestyle habits that can chop years off your life and create a lifetime of health problems.
And there are habits that will slowly kill you in other ways. These bad habits include activities such as drinking too much soda, watching too much TV, getting too much sun exposure, and not getting enough sleep. But sometimes we slip into bad habits because we’re lazy and we just like being comfortable all the time, even if our habits can lead to long-term discomfort.
In my adult years, I’ve had a lot of bad habits. I drank too much (soda, coffee, alcohol, etc.), I watched too much TV, I didn’t sleep enough, and I didn’t exercise enough. The results of this sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle resulted in me being overweight, overstressed, and overwhelmed with life.
Over the past few years, I’ve worked on eliminating most of my bad habits, so that I have become healthier, happier, and more content with my life. It hasn’t been easy, especially in the beginning of trying to eliminate my bad habits, but with practice comes progress and with progress comes persistence.
Here’s a few things that I don’t do much of anymore:
- Drink soda, including the “guilt-free” diet sodas.
- Check email after 6pm.
- Watch TV.
In place of not doing the above things, here’s what I do instead:
- I drink more water.
- I get more sleep, with at least 7-8 hours each day.
- I read and write.
So how do you break the vicious cycle of bad lifestyle habits? Here’s the five-step process I’ve used to stop my bad habits:
- Eliminate your triggers. You need to cut your habit cold turkey, so you don’t coax yourself back into your bad habits. Make it easy to resist temptation by eliminating the temptation altogether. If you want to watch less TV, cut your cable service. If you want to drink less soda, don’t have any sodas in your house. If you want to stop eating too many sweets, then don’t buy any desserts at the supermarket to take home. What’s out of sight will be out of mind. Get rid of the things that feed your bad habits.
- Substitute with better stuff. By eliminating your temptations, you’ll need to fill the void with better things. Cut coffee from your diet? Sleep more instead. Not watching TV anymore? Read, write, or spend time with your family. Stopped smoking? Chew some gum or go for a run to ease your cravings. Stopping bad habits helps you form good habits.
- Keep it up. Breaking bad habits isn’t easy. Persistence is key. You have to recommit yourself daily to make things work. If it helps, keep a journal to track your progress. There will be setbacks, temptations, and missteps, but don’t give up. It’s a long road to success, so take everything in stride.
- Enlist the support of others. Your rate of success will increase considerably when you have someone to report to, whether he or she is your spouse, parent, sister, brother, friend, or whoever can keep you accountable. If you’re really keen on changing your bad habits, make your goal a public one on Facebook or Instagram and let all your online friends cheer you on as you make progress.
- Take a break sometimes. Everything is better in moderation. If you’re on a strict diet, take a “cheat day” every week. One day of indulgence will give you the boost you need to keep up your diet for the long-run. If you’re trying to stop your excessive alcohol consumption, once you have control of your impulses, reward yourself with a glass of wine or a beer once a month. You’ll discover that you can have that drink without needing more, now that you’ve taken control of your bad habit.
It’s not easy to break bad habits, but with fortitude, perseverance, and support, you’ll be able to regain control of your life again. And when bad habits are broken, you’ll feel stronger, healthier, happier, and more capable of taking on even bigger challenges.
With each step on your road to a better lifestyle, you’ll gain more confidence, increase your momentum, and keep moving forward. And once you’re really moving, you’ll figure out that changing your direction wasn’t so hard after all.