We All Have Bad Habits
It’s true. We all have our vices, whether we want to believe it or not. For some of us, our bad habits might be blatantly obvious, like sneaking out for a cigarette and lying to our children about it. For others, our bad habits are more subtle. We check our phone in the middle of a conversation with our spouse. Maybe we bite our nails. We eat our feelings. Or we stay up too late night after night creating an exhausting life.
The dictionary defines a habit as a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
I know that for a lot of people, it’s easier to accept a bad habit than to give it up or change your ways. But I honestly think that it’s the psychology of it all that’s holding us back.
Instead of breaking bad habits, we should focus on creating better habits. This is often the route we take with our kids, yet when it comes to our own faults, we seem to overlook this more successful route.
The Example of Potty Training
Alright, alright. I know you yourself have been potty trained for a long time. But let’s take a look back at that stage. Toddlers have a very bad habit, in a sense, of going to the bathroom in their pants. It’s something they’re used to. It’s something that makes their lives messier and more difficult. And it’s something that’s socially unacceptable as they get older.
And yet, when we’re potty training our children, we don’t scold them or make them feel embarrassed when they fall back on this habit that is literally second nature to them. In fact, we don’t focus on the bad habit at all. We focus on the successes—the woohoo moments and the “You’re-getting-there!” hugs. We focus on the progress and the creation of a new good habit. This is often the opposite of what we do with our habits as adults.
Dieting has to be the biggest hurdle and habit for a lot of us. I know there are so many times when I used to try so hard to keep on a strict diet. Then, the first time I “messed up,” I’d throw in the towel and quit completely. “Well, I failed. So much for trying.”
It doesn’t have to be that way!
Creating Better Habits
In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk about how it takes 28 days to create or break a habit. And while you can’t expect to change your whole life in that little amount of time, I can attest that this theory holds up. The idea is to take a look at your bad habits and counter them by creating better habits.
Maybe you have a bad habit of staying up until midnight every night, and it’s causing you to be a mommy zombie in the morning. I get it. Those evening hours (without the kids awake!) are so nice. It’s helpful to get as much as we can out of them. Breaking this bad habit might make you say, “Okay, I’m going to start going to bed at 10 pm every night.” But inevitably, after a couple of days, you’ll likely be pushing 10 pm a little farther and a little farther until you decide that going to bed earlier just isn’t for you.
Instead of looking at it that way, encourage yourself to go to bed just ten minutes earlier. Make it your goal to be in bed by 11:50 pm, and congratulate yourself each morning when you’ve had ten extra minutes of sleep. Soon, getting to bed by 11:50 pm will be more naturally fitting. Then you can challenge yourself further by setting a goal of 11:40 pm or 11:30 pm. Change takes time, and practice makes progress. But instead of trying to break your bad habit, encourage yourself by making healthy new habits.
A lot of people are guilty of checking their phones too often. I’m not sure there are specific guidelines on how much is too much, but I know that a lot of us are guilty. Smart Phones are ridiculously distracting.
A lot of times I will check my phone to see if I missed any important calls, and instead, I’ll see something else that will distract me. Before I know it, I’ve been engaged with my phone for 15 minutes straight.
What’s really helped me in this department is my FitBit Blaze. I used to constantly check my phone to make sure that my children’s schools hadn’t called or anything like that. Now I wear my FitBit Blaze, the calls come right up on my wrist making it vibrate, and my phone rarely has to come out of my purse.
5 Tips for Creating Better Habits
Though a lot of habit formation is trial and error, here are some useful tips that are helpful for everyone:
Turn OFF push notifications on your phone.
Seriously, taking away this one distraction will help you live a healthier, more focused life.
How many times have you taken out your phone to take a picture of your child only to be accosted with a push notification from a Facebook friend that will only take two seconds to respond to, but then you turn around and the moment with your child is gone? So frustrating! What used to always get me was thinking of something to look up online, like a specific recipe. I’d pick up my phone, see a dozen push notifications, check them, and then totally forgetting why I picked up my phone in the first place! Urgh!
Create only one new habit at a time.
We all want to better ourselves, but we didn’t get our current habits overnight, and we’re not going to change them overnight either. Focusing on one habit at a time will give us a better chance of success.
Mark your progress.
Giving yourself a substantial way of seeing your own progress will help you continue the trend into the future.
I recently started doing an exercise program through FitStar for Fitbit. I knew that with my busy lifestyle, it wasn’t something I could do every day. But I set a goal of four days per week, adding a little heart sticker to my calendar for each day I worked out. Seeing my calendar fill up with little stickers has been great motivation! Which leads me to…
There’s a reason why incentive-based jobs are booming nowadays. It’s our human nature to want to feel like we are working or competing for something tangible. As those stickers add up for me, I have little rewards lined up for myself (usually new leggings, haha).
Remind yourself that it’s okay to fail.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again. The same techniques don’t work for all of us. If sticker motivation isn’t your thing, try to find something that is. Pinterest can be a great place to find motivational ideas and quotes.
No matter what you do, trying gets you one step closer to a better you.