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7 tips to help you break a habit

We all have them, but they really aren’t as hard to break as you’d think. Going back to when you were young and learning to cycle or swim. It was tough to start with, but with focus and determination you did it and it’s now become second nature – that’s because it became a habit. That mid-afternoon slump comes and you automatically reach for the biscuit tin – it’s a habit. It’s the same thought process going through your brain, but one is being used for something good and one for something not so good.

You’ll be pleased to know, there are some tips though on how to banish those not so good habits:

Identify what the habit is – why has it become a habit? Is there something emotional that triggers it – stress, or something physical – tiredness for example? I get my clients to do a food diary for me and as well as asking what they eat, I ask when and how they were feeling. Often that increased awareness of why they do something will make them think more next time they reach for a chocolate bar at 3pm. It helps you look for triggers and try and eliminate them before you get that urge. It’s of course not just about food habits. You may have all the intention of going out to an exercise class after work, but every day you get home and flop on the sofa and the moment passes. To help overcome it, put your gym gear out ready, or take it with you to work and go somewhere on the way home.

Go for a healthy swap – it isn’t always about eliminating something completely, but making a smarter decision. You may need something to give you energy to get through the afternoon, but instead of a biscuit, grab a banana instead. Or if you reach for some booze or a cigarette to alleviate stress, try going to a walk round the block and get some fresh air, or have a bubble bath when you get home – whatever makes you relax and think ‘ahhh’.

Work that willpower – it may be hard to do the swap and get rid of that bad habit in one go, but try and regularly practice on your willpower and make small steps. You may be a 5 coffees a day kind of person, and cutting down to zero will be tough if you go cold turkey, so just cut back a coffee at a time, or switch milks, or ditch the sugar in it for example. Do it gradually and you’ll not find it as hard.

Find a friend – buddy up with someone and challenge each other to quit. That way you have someone to be accountable to and to share your achievements with. No-one likes to let a friend down do they?!

Turn the negative into a positive – ‘I’ve eaten too much chocolate and I’m not fat, BUT, I could be back in shape in a couple of months, if I do xyz.’ ‘I’ve failed again, BUT everyone fails at some point. I just need to get back on the horse’

Don’t beat yourself up – yes, we all slip up. We can’t be perfect all the time, so don’t worry about the blips. Have some strategies ready and prepare for just those occasions. That way you have something to hand immediately after the blip to help you get over it.

Change your surroundings – sometimes being in a different place can trigger you to do things differently. Always grab a latte on the way to work? Try a different route to work. Reach for a biscuits tin at home when you’re bored? Get rid of the biscuits from the house. Or alternatively wait for a holiday to try giving something up and see how you get on!

I have seen from various pieces of research that it takes around 21 days to form a new habit and about 2 months to get it firmly planted in your brain. Test this theory out and let me know what you give up and how long it took you.


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