Continuing our series on How to stay on track with New Year’s resolutions, this post will deal with how to give up a bad habit. Experts say the best way to give up a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. Studies have shown that replacing one habit with another is much more effective in changing your behavior than simply attempting to stop doing something that may not be good for you. For example, if you want to quit smoking, replacing the habit of lighting up a cigarette with chewing a piece of gum is more effective than simply quitting cigarettes cold turkey.
Since most bad habits are caused by either stress or boredom, you can teach yourself new ways of dealing with both these situations that don’t result in forming bad habits, but it takes making the decision to do so and then sticking with it to be successful. If a habit you have is bad for you, but you formed that bad habit to alleviate stress, then the bad habit also provides a benefit.
The trick to replacing a bad habit with a good one is to find a new habit that alleviates stress in a healthier way. For instance, if you drink an alcoholic beverage to relieve stress and you want to change that habit, consider replacing the drink with a healthy activity like 15 to 30 minutes on the treadmill, or a walk around the block. Taking a break from whatever is causing you stress to exercise your physical body has several benefits, including:
• It offers a change of focus
• It gets you outside
• It increases your circulation
• It can help with weight management
• It gets your muscles moving
• It raises oxygen levels in your blood
• It can increase your energy level
• It can provide mental clarity
If you have made a New Year’s resolution to exercise more in the new year, as well as one to give up a bad habit, you can take care of both in one fell swoop by using this technique. Enlist the help of a friend if possible, and keeping your New Year’s resolutions becomes not only easier, but more fun. Make it a challenge to see who can stick with their commitment longest, and be supportive of one another in your efforts to rid yourselves of bad habits and gain new, better ones. Hold one another accountable, keep track of your progress, and celebrate victories together. Having an accountability partner can be a strong motivator to stick to your guns.
Consider keeping a journal to chronicle your efforts; you may be surprised how much progress you have made when you look back at your entries in a few months. Stay positive, and don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day. Be consistent in your efforts, and before you know it your new, healthier habits will have replaced your old, bad habits.