5 Ways to Break an Unhealthy Habit

It’s March, people! This means we’re about to gain a whole glorious hour of daylight. (Hooray!) With this season-switching signal comes the desire to do some serious spring cleaning–including ditching beliefs and behaviors that no longer serve us. So, the question is, what’s the best way to break an unhealthy habit?

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, these five things can really help:

  1. Identify your triggers. “Often the habit we’d like to change happens when we’re on auto-pilot,” says Coach Eden. Becoming aware of details associated with the unhealthy behavior or negative thoughts (i.e. where you are, time of day, who you’re with, your mood, etc.) can help steer you in the right direction. Start with tracking the habit at first. For example, every time you stress-eat, write it down (or track in the Yes Health app).  The goal here is not to pass judgment on yourself, but to better understand the behavior.
  2. Change your environment. When possible, make the behavior you want to stop more difficult to do. For example, if you always get a doughnut from the coffee shop on your way to work, take a different route. Or, conversely, help make the healthy behavior you want to start doing easier. For example, put your running clothes and shoes out the night before so you’re ready to go in the morning. Coach Eden asks her husband to keep his chocolate bars and potato chips in the very back of the highest shelf in the kitchen. (The one ABOVE the refrigerator.) “Asking him to hide them every time just wasn’t working,” she says. “Now, the only way I can reach them is if I get a ladder from the garage, which, luckily, I’m not willing to do.”
  3. Replace your unhealthy habit with a healthy one. Since the behavior is usually satisfying a need in some way, “quitting cold turkey” may not always work. Instead of eating when a craving hits, take a relaxing walk, call a friend or  dance to some music. Preparation is half the battle, so decide ahead of time what your replacement will be. If a big bucket of popcorn is your kryptonite, Coach Susan suggests bringing healthy (crunchy!) snacks to the movies (think apples, carrots, kale chips or roasted, spiced chickpeas). Or if you go crazy for chips, stock up on whole wheat crackers, veggies and hummus instead.
  4. Get a little help from your friends. If you’re trying to watch less tv and get more fresh air, for example, find a walking buddy in your neighborhood or start a daily walking group at work. This also helps keep you accountable and feel more supported in your quest for positive change.
  5. Remember, you are human. Let’s face it: habits are hard to break. It will take some time, and probably several tries before you fully say bye-bye to the “bad” behavior. This is totally normal, so be patient and accept that some days will be easier than others. Not being 100% successful straight away is not a predictor of future success. So stick with it!

 


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