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Blog - How to create good health habits (and break bad ones)

Blog - How to create good health habits (and break bad ones)

With every New Year (and successive ‘restarts’ across the year), we mentally draw a line in the sand and address the negative aspects of our lives. For many people, the idea of making a New Year’s resolution is the obvious first step but, with overwhelming evidence that these inevitably fail, overcoming bad habits, instead, might be a smarter way to fly. 

There’s actually a big difference between making a New Year’s resolution and forming new habits. A resolution might be to exercise more or eat less junk food or reduce your alcohol intake. By contrast, habits are performed automatically and with little or no actual awareness – things like smoking when you take a break at work or perhaps ordering a super-sized coffee with sugary additives in a café in-between client appointments or looking at social media every time your smartphone is in your hand.

In each of these examples, if your resolution was to smoke less, reduce your caffeine intake or visit social media sites less frequently, you might be able to keep it up for a few weeks but, without tackling the root cause (boredom, anxiety, FOMO*, etc.), your willpower will only hold out for so long. Eventually, you’ll end up in a shame spiral because you couldn't keep that New Year's resolution beyond the second weekend of January.

So, why is addressing a bad habit more effective than a New Year’s resolution?

Experts agree there’s usually a root cause to habits. Excessive smoking may relate to boredom, you drink too much coffee before a meeting because subconsciously you’re anxious or nervous about getting the result you want, and you feel the need to constantly look at Facebook because you don’t want to be left out of the loop.

How do you break your bad habits, and how do you create good ones?

BREAKING THE BAD

Understanding your habit at a sub-conscious level and bringing it front of mind is essential to breaking a bad habit. As opposed to teaching yourself new behaviours and hoping they eventually become ingrained – like dropping some money in a ‘swear jar’ or putting ‘Stop!’ signs on your fridge door – the key to overcoming a bad habit is to recognise what it is and, more importantly, what triggers it. Identifying and eliminating the triggers behind your bad habit sets you up for success.

Try asking yourself a series of questions that will help you understand your habit and what might be your trigger(s). Let’s take the smoking example from above (and, in this instance, it’s not about quitting altogether but about cutting back):

What is the habit you want to break?
I smoke too much and I’d like to eventually quit.”
When do you light up a cigarette?

On my morning break.”

Why?

It’s an opportunity to get away from my desk and get some fresh air, so why not? It kind of relaxes me as well.”

What are you thinking when you’re smoking?

I can’t help but worry about meeting all my work deadlines and how, frankly, I’d rather be somewhere else.”

What’s happening around you?

Other people are smoking on their break, too.”

From this Q&A approach, you’ve identified what your triggers are: you have time away from your desk, you’re smoking because you feel overworked, you’re possibly stressed because you want to meet expectations, and you get to congregate with other smokers.

ESTABLISHING THE GOOD

Now that you’ve identified your triggers, you can concentrate on behaviours that will give you every opportunity to break your bad habits.

For instance, you’ve identified that you smoke on your morning break because your job stresses you out, you feel overworked and it’s a chance to get outdoors. When you leave the building, you find yourself hanging out with other smokers.  

The next step is setting up strategies to overcome your triggers and establish new habits that will eventually replace the bad ones at the conscious and, ultimately, subconscious level.

You have time away from your desk
Why not take a walk around the block? Or take your tablet device or smartphone to a nearby park and catch up on some emails? Or walk to a nearby newsstand and see if there’s a magazine that catches your eye? Focus on enjoying the time away from your desk. The incremental exercise might deliver some additional benefits like a smaller waistline and feeling more relaxed as the exercise endorphins swirl in your brain.

You’re smoking because you feel overworked and stressed because you want to meet expectations
Again, enjoying the time away from your desk may help reduce the stress and tension that you feel in your everyday role. Distracting yourself with something other than a cigarette might improve your perspective. Or, you might have to admit that your job entails more stress than what is healthy and it’s time to look outside your organisation for new job opportunities? You are the only person qualified to answer this question.

You congregate with other smokers
Speaking of changing your environment, eliminating this trigger is a no-brainer: Find somewhere else to take your break. Not only will you be avoiding one of your triggers but you’ll also be sparing yourself the biological and chemical responses of nicotine coursing through your bloodstream.

NOTHING WORTHWHILE COMES EASY...

You can see that breaking bad habits (and replacing them with healthier ones) requires a bit of work on your part but something that has taken years to establish does not change overnight. Knowing how these habits have become ingrained behaviour will empower you to deal with the challenges and better prepare you for creating good habits that don’t want to be broken.
 

How can you make your daily work processes healthier? Check out Integra TransForm’s sit-stand desk solutions: http://integratransform.com.au/product-category/worksmart/
 

* Fear Of Missing Out 

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Published in Blog
K2_WRITTEN_ON January 19 2017
Written by Erika Hughes