If you — like me — create bad habits incredibly easily, consider this: you most likely create good habits easily.
The solution? Replace all of your bad habits with good habits. Easy!
It’s obviously not easy, but it is a worthwhile strategy. Particularly when it comes to food.
Over the last five or so years I’ve managed to transition from an unhealthy diet to something a little more positive by making subtle changes to replace bad habits with good habits.
I used to drink seven cans of Pepsi Max a day (Jesus Christ, what was I thinking).
Now I drink a similar amount of green tea. I feel a lot better for it.
I used to snack on chocolate throughout the day.
Now I drink precisely three litres of water to curb cravings and, if I have to, I’ll eat a handful of almonds or brazil nuts.
After eating lunch I always have a craving for something sweet. That used to mean a Mars Bar, now it means making a peppermint tea with added honey.
Over the past five years I’ve been in the process of eliminating the bad habits in my life in this way. It’s tough — because habits are hard to break — but I have a few strategies that have helped me succeed.
Firstly, one habit at a time.
This might be the most important one. Willpower is finite, so when you try and shake two habits at the same time your odds of success reduce dramatically. Go one at a time. Once you’ve successfully replaced the bad habit and you feel comfortable in the new good habit, that’s when it’s time to move on to number two.
It’s not enough to say “I want to kick this specific habit”, you need a strategy. You need to set yourself up for success. What will work as a replacement? Will it actually satiate the same craving? Will it work? Green tea, for example, is a great replacement for a soft drink. It gives you that short break from your desk/workplace. It has a similar caffeine boost. Think about what you’re doing before you do it.
Imagine yourself about to break. How will you respond? Make a list of the things most likely to push you over the edge and visualise yourself overcoming those odds.
Finally, tell people you’re quitting the thing (whatever that thing is).
Speak those goals aloud, make them known. Allow people to hold you accountable.
Breaking habits is hard, but if making new habits is relatively easy for you, use that to your advantage.