Happy New Year! The beginning of a new year is seen as a fresh start with new possibilities and new goals. In developing your resolutions, I challenge you to think about new ways to break unhealthy habits and grow into healthy ones.
Habits are repetitive behaviors that we engage in continuously over a period of time. They can be both healthy and unhealthy and are developed consciously or unconsciously. It is important to be aware of the habits that we engage in routinely because those habits tend to dictate our lives.
Here are some examples of common unhealthy behaviors and tips on how to make positive changes. Even I am guilty of a few of these and work extra hard to be conscious of how these habits impact my life.
1. Being constantly connected to technology. I think we can all agree this is an extremely difficult habit to break, but one that has probably been at the top of your "goal" list at some point. Checking e-mails and social media sites numerous times a day takes you away from the present moment and can increase stress. Instead, set a goal for yourself to decrease the number of times you connect per day and aim to connect with yourself and those around you more than you check your phone.
2. Mindless tasks. On a day-to-day basis how frequently are you in autopilot mode? This is when you are not thinking about what you are doing and not paying attention to the small moments in your day-to-day routine. Think about what you were wearing yesterday or what you ate for dinner two nights ago. Can you remember these details? If not, chances are you are living in autopilot mode too much. Rather than living in this mindless, disconnected state, aim to give yourself breaks throughout the day where you take a breather and become mindful of what is around you.
3. Negative self-talk. That little voice in our head that tells us what we are thinking and feeling can be helpful and harmful. I'm sure you have had moments when you do something silly and think to yourself "what an idiot I am!" A little harsh, right? Judgmental, negative, harsh self-talk like this can breed self-doubt and decrease self-esteem. Try living by the rule of: If you would not say it to someone else, do not say it to yourself.
Maybe you can relate to some or all of these examples and are asking yourself how to make a change. To begin breaking a habit, work through these four steps to make your healthy routine more natural.
Step 1: Awareness
The first step to replacing a bad habit is to be aware of it. You may jump to wanting to make an immediate change, but first it is important to evaluate the habit and get to know it better. How it affects you, when it occurs, and why it has developed into a pattern. In doing this, you connect more with yourself and increase your awareness of the habitual behavior.
Step 2: Planning
Once you have more awareness, make a plan for change. Maybe it is not realistic to say you will only check your e-mail once a day. That is ok! It is always better to be realistic with yourself and make incremental changes rather than drastic ones. Since you have become aware of the habit, you will be able to make a better assessment of how it needs to change and what is realistic.
Step 3: Accountability
The next step is to gain accountability. Whether this is from a friend, partner, or with the help of a daily reminder to yourself. Being held accountable makes it more likely that you will stick to a goal.
Step 4: Replace
Finally, look to replace an unhealthy habit with a healthier one. Rather than getting rid of an unhealthy habit all together and leaving the possibility for you to feel a void that needs to be filled, be proactive. For example, if you know you run on autopilot most often during the mid-day crash, set up a healthy habit to replace it. Take a 10-15 minute break for yourself to relax, breathe, and practice a little self-care.
Good luck in all of your resolutions!