The first month of a new year always brings with it optimism and confidence that THIS is the moment we make a conscious effort to kick bad habits and set the tone for a better, healthier new year. We have a brand new mindset, new aspirations, new goals, and we're pumped to start laying the foundations for a more balanced life this year. The first step is to get real with ourselves about those habits we've formed that don't benefit our health and wellness.
Habits are described as “automatic behavioral responses to environmental cues, thought to develop through repetition”. Basically, we've done something over and over again, and eventually, we've grown accustomed to performing this activity. Once our brain notices that we are performing a specific behavior repeatedly, a new habit forms. This causes our minds to go on autopilot so our bodies can take over. Eventually, we begin to do things like getting up for work, scrolling on social media, reaching for a snack, without even thinking much about it. It now feels natural, safe, and familiar to us, even if it's not in our best interest to do so. Once we've developed a habit, it can be extremely difficult to stop. After all, we've been doing it every day or nearly every day, it's second nature to us. This automatic response in behavior is the reason breaking bad habits requires awareness, will, motivation, and cognitive effort.
So whether it's smoking, insomnia, nail-biting, or overeating, if you want to curb the habits that cause you harm, and make room for new and improved healthy habits, then you need to start taking the steps to break those habits in the new year.
How do you stop these habits from holding you back? We've outlined 5 simple, and manageable tips to kick bad habits and start fresh in 2022.
Identify your triggers
Habits are repeated patterns of behavior. That means that it is a behavior caused by or associated with something that we do routinely. To quit a bad habit, you need to know what causes it in the first place. For example, some people overeat when they’re sad or stressed. Your mood, environment, and situations will cause the formation of these bad habits. These are known as your triggers. At the core of every bad habit is a trigger. Identifying these triggers is the key to breaking bad habits. If you can figure out what triggers you, you are one step closer to achieving your goals.
The goal is to identify and become aware of your triggers so that you can make an effort to cut out as many triggers as possible. If you snack when you are stressed, buy healthier snack options, or look for drinks and foods that aid in stress relief, like Purpose Tea. If you stay up late doom scrolling on your phone, set an alarm to turn your phone off and put your phone away in a drawer until the morning. You want to make a cognitive effort to make it easier on yourself to break bad habits by avoiding your triggers as much as possible.
Another exercise is to research and notate whenever you notice a trigger. This allows you to indicate the circumstance leading up to the bad habit and what brought it on, rather than continuing to indulge in the bad habit. You can record this in a journal or in a notes app on your phone. Look back at your notes to see what you can avoid or change in order to form better habits and eliminate triggers.
Define your goals
After you are aware of both the habit and trigger you want to move away from, you can properly set goals and milestones in place to help you change and form better habits. Many times when people set up goals at the beginning of the year with the intention to end bad habits and change unfavorable behaviors, it's done by making a generic, vague, blanket resolution that they'll "no longer do "XYZ" but fail to put any real steps in place for success. When people have unrealistic or undefined goals, it makes it much harder to measure progress, hold yourself accountable for action, or stay motivated. It can feel overwhelming to break a habit if you don’t have numbers or small goals to aim for.
You also don't want to throw too much on your plate at once. If you have multiple habits you want to change, try to just focus on accomplishing one thing first, and then moving on to the next. If your goal is to lose weight, don't try to immediately overload your gym schedule or toss out everything from your fridge. Make small steps. Limit your sugar intake by a higher count each week. Replace an unhealthy snack or meal option with a lighter, better choice. Use your work break or weekend to take a walk or stretch in the mornings. By starting with one thing you want to improve on and making small, helpful goals that are realistic, you can shape these new routines into healthier habits.
Once your goal becomes a habit, you can shift your focus to other goals you want to work on. It’s helpful to create alternative habits and routines to replace the ones you’re trying to change.Establish realistic timelines
Accountability, willpower, and determination are all key in breaking bad habits and forming new, better habits. You also need to set realistic expectations for yourself and your goals in order to achieve success. Many believe in the old adage that it takes around 21 days to form a new habit, some argue that it actually takes 28 to 30 days. Truthfully, there is no set time frame. There is no set standard or blueprint that you must follow. Ultimately, it all depends on the person and their level of commitment to make a healthy, realistic change to their patterned behavior. The time it really takes to break a habit can depend on a number of different things, including your level of motivation, how long you've had the habit, how deep the behavior is ingrained into your life, what triggers cause the habits, and whether there are other behaviors that reinforce the habit.
Change isn’t easy, especially when it comes to habitual behavior. So when setting timelines for your goals, be reasonable and real with yourself. Know your limitations, and understand the mental, emotional, and physical space these habits hold in your life. Social drinkers may find it easier to drop the habit, whereas people who've struggled with insomnia for a number of years may find it difficult to change the habit. Hold yourself accountable, but don't put too much pressure on yourself to change quickly because of standards that others have set.
Try logging your progress each day. Use an app or keep a journal that keeps notes of your time and milestones. Once you’ve achieved your goal, it’s a good idea to continue to log your progress to ensure you maintain your new healthy habit.
Replace your habit
Saying you'll simply quit or stop the bad habit is just not realistic, or fair to yourself if you are really determined to make a change. You need a plan that will work with you and for you. If you feel that you can't get rid of the routine behavior, then make a plan to change it. Replace the bad habit with a more positive one. Doing so will help prepare you for the best course of action when you are faced with the cause or trigger of your unhealthy behavior. Our favorite recommendation for those looking to change their eating habits is to swap coffee, energy drinks, and sodas with a better-for-you alternative like purple tea. While you may not be able to stop drinking coffee or sodas altogether, you will be able to better combat your cravings by choosing to replace soda and coffee with a healthier, but similar beverage, like Purpose Tea. It still provides you with refreshing and delicious satisfaction, but with less sugar intake, better caffeine source, and more energy without the crash.
Humans are hardwired to fall into routines and patterns, so turn this to your advantage and before you know it you’ll have a positive and healthy habit as part of your everyday life. By replacing your bad habit with a "good" habit, the trigger and the reward are the same, but the routine, or habit is different. You are taking the right steps to strengthen the new one and suppress the old one.
Build on your progress by using the power of positive reinforcement. Rewarding yourself for sticking to your plan, staying motivated, and reaching your milestones will help keep you moving forward toward success. While kicking your bad habit for good is a reward in itself, it can be a long road to get to the finish line. It’s important to reward yourself for your good work. Find a new reward that is more rewarding than the existing behavior. Most people aren't in the habit of rewarding themselves, but when you look back at your journals and see your progress, it'll be easier to see how much you deserve to treat yourself. Even small rewards are a powerful motivator.
Mark each significant success with a reward. Use the money, time or energy you’ve saved from opting out of your bad habit to buy or do something nice for yourself. It could be something as simple as a new book you've had on your list to buy after going a whole week with an earlier bedtime, or you might want to reward yourself with a delicious meal from your favorite restaurant for going without a cigarette for the day. Arranging small rewards can help with motivation, especially if you struggle with focusing on the long-term benefits of habit breaking. Rewards don’t have to be big and expensive, treat yourself to a new dress for working out for a month, or even free with a bubble bath and at-home spa day. As long as you keep your rewards sensible and in line with your interests, the reward possibilities are endless!
We all have habits we want to break and behaviors we'd like to change. It might be a small habit or something we've suffered with for a long time. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to change. If you want to break your bad habits, then you must be willing to put in the effort. Don’t be upset if you’re struggling to break your habits. It will take time. This isn’t something you’ll achieve overnight success in. With the right motivation and determination, you can get there. Try some of the tips we've outlined in this post, you can also get started by making the small switch to purple tea for big rewards to your mental and physical health and wellness. Try Purpose Tea today and make the first step towards forming better habits for yourself and your family!