With the end of the year (and what a year it’s been!), most of us start to think about resolutions and projects for the new year ahead. And if you’re also planning on making some long-lasting improvements to your life, then you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we will give you the lowdown on how to build better habits and maintain them for a lifetime — or at least, for the new year! We will start by defining what a habit is (remember: they’re not all good!) and will then delve deeper into ways to ditch old, bad habits and replace them with ones that will make a real difference to your overall wellbeing.
Are you ready to discover how to be the best, healthiest, and happiest version of yourself in 2021 (and beyond)? Then read on!
What Is a Habit?
Before we jump into the core of our article, it’s important to clarify what a habit is. When we talk about “habits”, we refer to small decisions and activities that are repeated often (daily, even) in our life.
Because they are so woven into the fabric of our daily routines, habits form a significant part of our overall behavior. They underpin our beliefs, our personality, and our values, and they make us unique individuals.
Examples of habits are going to bed early every night, smoking cigarettes, walking to work instead of taking the car, and biting your nails. Of course, not all habits are healthy, good ones, and it’s pretty apparent from our brief list.
Smoking, biting your nails, swearing, picking your nose: these are certainly not habits that you want to pick up or maintain throughout your life. Some of them are downright harmful and dangerous, while others are annoying and pretty rude to the people around you.
At the end of the day, everything comes down to your habits: whether you’re healthy or unhealthy, fit or unfit, happy or unhappy. So, creating positive, life-affirming habits is crucial if you want to improve your wellbeing.
How Can You Ditch a Bad Habit, for Good?
Because habits constitute a large part of your everyday life and decisions, in order to build good ones you’re going to have to start by ditching the old, bad ones. By doing so, you will essentially be replacing the same thought process with a different and more favorable action.
First of all, you need to understand that most bad habits are borne out of boredom, stress, and monotony. Think about it: when do you tend to bite your nails the most? Or when do you find yourself reaching for yet another cigarette?
These, and more, negative habits happen in situations of heightened stress, or when you feel like you have nothing better to do, so you resort to doing something that has become easy and familiar to you.
Once you have identified what your bad habits are, and once you have pinpointed when they occur the most, then you are ready to start the transformation process. Let’s take the example of biting your nails. If you have figured out that this is something that you do a bit too much, and especially when you are working on your computer, then take a step back from the situation and examine it.
Now, try to do something that physically counteracts the act of nail-biting before it even happens. Perhaps, you simply need to take a break? Go to your kitchen and make yourself a cuppa. Or put some nice music on and sit on your couch with a magazine.
Basically, you’ll still want to do something to address those feelings of stress, boredom, demotivation, and so on, but you’ll want to do something positive and healthy. How can you achieve this? Keep reading.
What Are the Best Ways to Build and Maintain Better Habits?
The most successful way to build better habits is to replace old, negative ones with small actions and behaviors that tap into your complicated feelings by giving you something good to focus on. The key attitudes here are being realistic, consistent, determined, and patient. Let’s look at each one of them.
Most of us have several bad different habits that we put in place every day, and you, too, might want to get rid of more than one. However, if the choice is between, for example, ditching your frequent nail-biting or quitting your smoking habit, then you’ll want to start by tackling the former.
Not because smoking is less important or harmful (quite the opposite!) but because you’ll need to “train” your brain and start from scratch, so you’ll want an easier task to accomplish. And, for most people, it is easier to break a nail-biting habit than it is to stop smoking overnight.
Set Yourself a Realistic Goal
So, be realistic and start simple. You have worked out that you bite your nails too much, every day when working at the computer. You are feeling stressed out, so your mind automatically activates the nail-biting activity to give you the illusion that your stress is going down.
However, you’re smarter than that, so you have decided that you want to replace this bad habit with a healthier, more positive action. The action you chose is taking a five-minute break every hour. To help you with this, you play a relaxing song and sit on the couch while flipping through a magazine or a book.
Practice With Consistency
For this habit to become successful and established, you’ll want to be consistent. Every day, you will need to stick with your new decision, even when you don’t feel particularly motivated. Every day, from now on, you will need to get up from your home office chair once an hour, stretch your legs, put on some music, and take a short break on your couch.
Keep doing this until the action (sitting on your couch for a few minutes every hour, with some nice music in the background) that follows the thought or feeling (“I am stressed, I am on edge, I need a break”) becomes normalized and internalized. Until that is, it becomes habitual, and you find yourself putting it into practice even without your full realization.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Another important aspect to consider is determination. If you are only half convinced that this particular habit is harming you in some way, then chances are that you’ll struggle a lot to break it and replace it with a healthier activity. In fact, it’s pretty likely that you will end up abandoning your project very soon.
So, before embarking on your good-habit-building journey, make sure that you have your goals all set and defined, and that you are serious about bringing some lasting changes and improvements into your life.
Be Patient and Kind to Yourself!
Last but not least, remember that the whole process might take a while. In fact, if you want to replace an old, bad habit with a better one, and make it stick, then you’ll probably need to allow yourself plenty of time.
After all, you are about to achieve something pretty drastic and life-changing. You are going to eliminate an action that you have been taking possibly for many years, and which feels safe and familiar to you, and replace it with a brand new one. These types of changes can take a lot more time than you realize, so you need to arm yourself with a lot of patience.
Equally, you need to be ready to forgive yourself if, especially in the beginning, you experience some blips or find the whole thing more challenging than you’d expected. This is all very normal and understandable, so be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack.
The best way to keep yourself motivated even when you are struggling to keep up your new good habit? Staying focused on your ultimate goal: to see a noticeable difference in everything you do, from your eating habits to your sleeping patterns, and to become a healthier, happier you.
Get Ready to Incorporate Great New Habits Into Your Life
Now that you know everything about what better habits are, how to get rid of old ones, and how to create better ones, you can get started to improve your life.
Remember the key attitudes that you need to maintain throughout the process: be realistic, consistent, determined, and patient. It can take a long time to ditch an old habit, regardless of how harmful you know it is. But once you have achieved it, you’ll realize that it was all worth it.
And if we have left you feeling inspired and you would love to read more awesome content on health, fitness, and wellbeing, then head browse the rest of our website now and check out our other blog posts.