I’ve been thinking a lot about beating bad habits for a while now and only recently I felt more compelled to really try to understand why it is that we cannot break the bad habits that stand in our way, crushing our desires to live a healthy life, be fit, simplify, and be happier?
How is it that our best intentions are nearly always beaten? We all want to be focused and productive, exercise and eat healthy foods, stop/reduce drinking alcohol and other unhealthy extracurricular activities, and learn to get rid of clutter, but we just can’t.
The answer lies in something extremely simple, but something most people aren’t aware of –
We don’t know how to cope with stress and boredom in a healthy way. Perhaps we are overworked and totally depleted by the end of the day, justifying bad food and drink choices, lack of exercise and not putting warmth into our relationships.
Or perhaps we just have too much time on our hands and need to find things that are easy and convenient to fill up our time, or give us a sensory experience making us feel more alive and high, numbing out our boredom or lack of interest in our jobs.
The bad habits we’ve formed are often useful to us, in dealing with stress and boredom. Consider the bad habits that fit this bill:
• Internet procrastination
• Eating junk food
• Being rude/angry/depressed
• Watching TV or playing video games
• Shopping (getting into debt, building clutter)
• Procrastinating on finances, paperwork, clutter (too stressful)
• Inactivity (avoiding exercise is a stress avoidance technique)
• Biting nails, chewing hair, clenching jaw
This isn’t a complete list, but all of these habits fill a strong need: they are ways to cope with stress and/or boredom. We have formed them as coping mechanisms, and they stick around because we don’t have better ways of coping. We almost go into auto-pilot and are not even aware of how we are reacting or behaving. Or we just don’t realize that we have other options available to us.
Many of our bad habits are picked up in our childhood and teen years, so by the time we are adults, these bad habits are so ingrained that we believe they are a part of our character and personalities. We feel as if we own the bad habits and they are just ‘the normal way of living’
So what if instead, we replaced them with healthier ways of coping? We’d get rid of the problems of these bad habits, and start getting the benefits of better habits.
Better Coping Habits
How can we deal with stress and boredom instead? There’s no one answer, but the habits we form should be ones that lead to healthier results. Some ideas:
• Do pushups, squats, lunges, – or any other bodyweight exercises.
• Play with friends/kids – be more social without drinking and smoking.
• Create, write, play music, read when we’re bored
• Learn to enjoy being alone, instead of being bored
• Take a daily walk and enjoy nature
• Deal with finances, clutter, and paperwork immediately.
• Take control of a situation: make a list.
• Learn to be mindful of your breathing, stressed-out thoughts
• Learn to cook well – learn new dishes. Cooked for loved ones and invite your nears and dears over.
• Paint/draw/make something.
• Call a friend whom you haven’t spoken with in ages
• Start to think about all your dreams and aspirations – what would you like to achieve in this lifetime?
• Get some rest
• Learn to savor healthy food that you find delicious
• Slow down
• Take a hot bath
• Learn to live in the present
These are some good examples. Each habit above will help cope with or prevent stress or boredom. If you replace the bad habits with these, your life will be less stressful and healthier. You’ll have less debt, less clutter, less fat, less disease.
Changing the Habits
The old habits of coping didn’t build up overnight, and they won’t go away overnight either. We built them up through years of repetition, and the only way to change them is also years of repetition.
But an important start is to realize why we do them — stress and boredom, largely but for you there may be other reasons— and realize that there are other ways to deal with these two problems. We need to be aware when stress and boredom start to kick in, and instead of being afraid of them, realize that they are problems easily solved by other habits. Let’s take the fear out of stress and boredom. Let’s learn that we can beat them simply, and prove that with repeated good habits.
I feel silly after writing that part as I feel like if I know all this, then why do/did I still struggle with bad habits for so long? – Too long even! It’s a constant daily practice to try to improve ourselves. After all, that’s what life is about in my opinion, to try to better ourselves daily. We just forget about this as we are surrounded with all the noise and chaos of the outside world.
I asked one of my clients yesterday to try to imagine her personal life as a bubble floating around. That all the good work she is doing on becoming more aware of her thoughts and emotions, and trying to work more closely with the Law of Attraction, and working on improving herself and her habits, should all be maintained in her personal world/bubble.
As her bubble floats around the world, she will always come into contact with situations that will not be to her liking, but that’s fine because the walls of her bubble are getting stronger as she improves herself and her beautiful life is inside her very own bubble. It doesn’t matter what’s on the outside as she can’t control that. But what she can control is what is on the inside of her personal life bubble. We all can.
Once you have that realization, follow these steps to changing a habit:
• Pick one new habit at a time to replace your most pressing bad habit.
• Start very small – just a minute or two, if you want it to stick. Trust me start-off small.
• Be very conscious of your triggers, and do the habit consciously every time the trigger happens.
• Enjoy the new habit. You’ll stick with it longer if you do.
We have been crushed by the habits we’ve formed out of fear of stress and boredom. We can fight back, by learning to breathe, to smile, to go slowly. We can humble these giants that crush us by turning them into mere flies to be shooed away with a smile.