Break a habit, make a habit

It's often been said that it takes 21 days to make a new habit stick. I do a pretty good job of making new habits stick,  but HowStuffWorks reminded me that old habits are hard to break.

Breaking a habit is a lot more complicated, because while parts of those worn-in pathways can weaken without use, they never go away [source: Rae-Dupree]. They can be reactivated with the slightest provocation [source: Delude]. If you've ever tried to quit smoking, you already know this. You can go a year without a cigarette, and then give in one time and BAM, the habit comes right back. (just like overeating.)

How can you break a bad habit and make a new one??

  • Take small steps. Don't try to do everything at once. (So, instead of "I'm going to exercise every day," start with "I'm going to exercise twice a week.")
  • Only try to change one habit at a time. (Instead of "I'm going to quit eating junk food, start exercising, and go to sleep at 10 p.m. instead of 2 a.m.," start with "I'm going to quit eating junk food.")
  • Write down the habit you want to change, and write down specific plans for achieving that goal. (Rather than writing "I will exercise," write, "I will start walking 30 minutes twice a week, on Monday and Thursday, and I will wake up at 7 a.m., so I can walk before work on those days.")
  • Repeat the behavior you're aiming for as often as you can. The more a behavior is repeated, the more likely it is that it will become "instinctive."

Following these steps have worked for me in the past, and I need to use them again to break a bad habit. And that is snacking at night. I've gotten very complacent about my nighttime snacking and I need to reign it in! I'm eating too many nuts; Walnuts, and almonds. Or apple slices with almond butter. All items which are fine, but I'm having issues with portion control, and I'm eating too much. In the past I would have a cup or three of hot tea, but I got out of that habit and have been snacking at my computer or in front of the TV, instead.

My 21 day "break a habit, make a habit" is to: stop snacking after 8pm and drink hot tea. I love hot tea. I have a lot of different types of tea. I don't know why I stopped, but I need to get back to it. I'm hoping that just by drinking tea my urge to snack will decrease naturally. If not, I'm going to have to work hard on keeping that ugly monster under control.

To help keep me on track I've created a visual anchor!

At the end of every successful day I will remove a number. It will help to remind me that I can do this. I don't need the nuts. I won't die if I don't eat the nuts. I also didn't buy any tempting foods this week. Zilch, nada, none. When I have to pack lunch for the kids I bring bagged lunch items in to the house; Granola bars and cheese sticks have been ending up in my nighttime snack routine, too. Which again, IN MODERATION is fine, but that's where I have always had a problem: MODERATION. So I have to cut the food out all-together, which means I can't have it near me at all so the kids end up "going clean" as well. And by the time I've instilled the good habit, (cause really, if you read the article, it takes another 21 day cycle to cement the good habits) school will be ready to start and when I bring those bagged items back in to the house, I'll be under control. The school year typically does not present an issue. It's summer. My routine gets thrown all out of whack.

I recently read this blog post by 300 Pounds Down and it really resonated with me. I especially like the tip about setting a timer.


What's one bad habit you'd like to break, and one bad habit you'd like to make??

Does the summer wreck havoc on your normal routine?

Comments (6) -

  • Great tips! I am bad about writing down goals and focusing on them. I think if I did that it would help a lot.

    I love hot tea also and I am drinking some now. I just need to drink a little more green tea and less black tea. Black tastes so much better. Smile
  • I'm pretty horrible about changing my habits. It's mostly because I usually decide to change 10 things at once, fail and give it up.  Right now I'm working towards  getting in the habit of running at least 3 times a week and doing yoga the other nights.  Even as I'm typing that I can hear that voice in the back of my mind yelling "You have WAY more than that to change!" Just one thing at a time though...

    I think I'm going to steal your calendar idea, I love the idea of getting to remove a number every day. It sounds almost a satisfying as crossing things off a list!
  • The summer time is the easiest time for me since I am a teacher. I have done an awesome job of staying on track. School starts back on August 8th, then the challenge will begin!
  • I am currently working on my swearing habit. With a toddler running around, I need to clean up my language. I am working on replacing swear words with other words.
  • I am REALLY messy. As a SAHM I feel like I should be better about it, and I know my husband would appreciate it. But my tolerance of mess (which I consider to be different than tolerance of dirt) is a lot higher than my husband's. My house is clean but messy. I've tried to break these habits but having a toddler run around behind you, pulling tupperware out of drawers just makes it impossible!

    A new habit I'd like to create.. well, being more organized! lol!
  • Last summer I rode my bike every morning, or nearly every morning, I haven't been doing it this year and I would like to get back in that habit.  

    My bad, well, I've already cut my sugar way down, haven't had chocolate/candy in ages, been eating a lot more fruits and veggies this year (my new year's resolution), so I'm down to portion control.  AND cutting way down on my mocha fraps - lol - I started that last week - allowing myself one a week, that will help get my sugar even further down.
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