How often do you realise the behaviour of yours is a habit. It’s pretty difficult to tell habits from decisions. Are you on your laptop, phone, or tablet right now, reading this, because you made the decision to open it, or was it just a force of habit to do so?
Everyday life in Australia is becoming so stressful we’re switching to autopilot and going about our days without thinking more than we feel like we have to. This results in more small habits than we realise, and many of them are bound to be harmful to an extent. Changing those can be a dreadful process, but the result can drastically improve our quality of life.
1. Identify the habits that need changing
First of all, I promise you are not aware of everything that needs changing. There are habits you maybe don’t even realise are holding you back in certain aspects of life. “Oh, that’s how I work!” But is it good for you?
At the end of the day, sit down and try to list all the hiccoughs you find throughout the day. When you’re done with that, try and see which ones were even remotely your fault. This will help you see which bad habits are making a difference since you are less likely to notice that when you’re in the middle of doing something else.
2. Add structure to your days
Kicking any habit isn’t going to be an easy task. You have to force yourself to quit some things you enjoy and do some things you’re not very fond of. Thinking of this in terms of what you get in exchange helps a lot.
The most important thing about this one is time. It’s the little things like waking up at the same time every day, maybe even with the help of an app for those who aren’t morning people. Maybe eating every day at the same time would work, or making sure at least one meal you have is a healthy one. Setting the time of the day when you read for, say, 30 minutes or so, and setting the time you want to dedicate to cleaning your living space. These all help you bring structure into your otherwise a bit disorganised life.
Things that don’t have much to do with time should also be taken seriously, no matter how ridiculous they may seem. Making your bed in the morning, doing the dishes right after the meal, wiping down any surface after using it, etc are also very important for making sure you don’t let yourself fall back into the old patterns.
3. Make a plan for the next day
Making big decisions about changing your habits is actually pretty easy. All you have to do is say “From now on, I will…” and there you go. The actual hard part is sticking to them. What helps keep yourself in check is making a plan, or having a little list of things that need to be done, the night before. This is a great way to make sure you actually stick with your decisions without burdening yourself.
4. Trick yourself out of your habit
If you can’t seem to fully kick a habit – no worries! You can also find a replacement for it, as long as it’s not particularly harmful. You want to quit smoking but can’t? There has been a meteoric rise in the popularity of flavored nicotine e-liquid in Australia in the past few years. Having a healthier alternative makes it a lot easier to kick a harmful habit like smoking. Even having something to keep in your hands is enough to curb smoking numbers. Having some snacks to keep your mouth busy works too.
Some more boring Do you have the messy habit of throwing your clothes on the floor instead of in the hamper? Move the hamper to where you usually throw clothes so walking over to the hamper won’t be such a tedious task. This may sound like “cheating” in a way, but as long as it works there’s nothing wrong with that.
5. Be patient with yourself
Try and replace “I must” and “I need to” with “I should” and add the reason for that. Instead of creating additional stress by saying “I have to clean the floors today,” try breaking it down as “I should clean the floors today because I like how shiny they look then.” Similarly, “I should go to the gym because I feel better when I’m in good shape” is much more effective than “I must go to the gym.”
Any change can be stressful, even if it’s a change you’re willingly making, knowing it’s good for you. For that reason, you should go easy on yourself and look at the positive side of things. Think of the rewards, not the tasks.
Breaking anything down into smaller tasks and thinking of what you’re getting out of it long term will make the process of changing a habit that much more bearable. Kicking a habit will never be pleasant, but there are ways to make it less painful. With a little dedication and positive thinking, you’ll be able to kick any habit you don’t want in your life.