How to change a habit
Experts agree it takes 21 days to break a bad habit and form a new
Daily Activities To Help Change Habits
"I should change, but I've tried and failed." Does this sound familiar? Often,
changing habits does seem insurmountable. Many of us simply don't have enough
motivation to change our habits - all of our bad habits - in a way that would
truly affect our health. We cling to them because we see them as rewards.
But your habits determine your health. Below
is a strategy and focus on daily activities to help you change and eliminate
It Takes 21 Days To Break A Bad Habit
To begin with, choose one unhealthy habit you wish to eliminate or change. Or,
choose a healthy habit you want to adopt as part of your behavior. If it is
a habit to eliminate, you may wish to go "cold turkey" or have a gradual tapering
off. Caution: If it is a drug or chemical habit you are planning on eliminating,
be sure to obtain an expert's opinion as to whether you need to taper off usage
as opposed to quitting cold turkey.
Now that you have decided which unhealthy habit
to eliminate, or new habit to adopt, decide on the date you will begin your
behavior change. Give this date a good deal of thought and then write it down.
For example, "On February 15, 2001, I will become a non-smoker."
In order to ensure behavior change, experts
agree that it takes a minimum of 21 days to change a behavior. Again, look at
the date you are planning on changing your habit. Count ahead 21 days and mark
that date down. Now, make a commitment that you will follow your plan for 21
Your target date has arrived. It is the first
day of your 21-day cycle. Here are some helpful suggestions for habit change:
- Write down your goal. There is magic in the
written word when it applies to you. Experts recommend stating your goal in
positive terms, such as "I want to be lean and physically fit," instead of
"I've got to get this flabby body out there huffing and puffing." So, begin
with writing down, as a positive goal, the habit you will change.
- List your reasons for changing or eliminating
your habit. Writing it down will force you to think out in specific terms
what this habit represents in your life and the meaning you believe your life
will hold for you upon changing the habit. This will also help with your commitment
toward taking positive action.
- Find substitute routines. For example, if
you are changing eating habits and you have identified a particularly difficult
time of the day when eating habits are poor, create an activity, a new routine
for that time.
- Talk to yourself. Tell yourself you're making
progress. Remind yourself that you are moving closer to your goal.. Talk to
yourself throughout the day about how you are going to avoid triggers that
can get you off track and make healthy substitutes.
- Recruit helpers for support. Explain to them
why you are making this change. Ask for their support. Their support may be
- Be prepared for people who may sabotage your
change. Be assertive and tell them what they are doing.
The following are some suggestions to follow
each day in order to sustain motivation and determination:
- Review your list of reasons for quitting
- Create mental pictures of yourself as having
already succeeded with your habit change.
- Make affirmations, positive self-statements
about your habit change. For example, "I am filled with so much health and
vitality now that I exercise four times a week."
- Reward yourself. Make up a list of self-rewards.
Reward yourself verbally.
- Remember to take one day at a time. If you
do backslide, don't label yourself as having failed. Get out your list or
reasons for quitting or changing and begin again.
Fatigue, boredom, depression, stress can all
make it difficult to stick with your program. But having a relapse isn't as
important as how you deal with the relapse. If you are so devastated by failure
that you call your good intentions into question, that will make habit change
harder for you. But, if you allow for an occasional relapse and treat it as
nothing more than a slight misstep that teaches you something, then you're on
the right track.
Follow the suggestions in this article, adopt
the more helpful attitude of evaluating your progress and accepting relapses,
and you will find yourself reaching many of your goals. You will have achieved
true behavior change.