The Great Switch: Five Tips for Changing Bad Habits to Healthy Ones

By Martin Brown

Bad habits happen to nearly all of us. But don’t think that bad habits need to live on forever. The best way to beat bad habits is to replace them with good ones. Here are five of the worst—and our tips to help get you started:

1. Bad Diet Habits

This is an easy place to start. These take into account so many things, from drinking too much coffee (I know, this depends on any given week, and any given study), to eating the wrong things: bagels and cream cheese, cheeseburgers or pizza three times a week, ice cream every night, a doughnut every morning…

The list goes on and on.

Whatever your bad food habit, you can beat it by creating a new habit. A doughnut every morning means your craving something sweet. Instead, find a sweet treat that’s not loaded down with lots of fat and lots of calories: for example, sweet blueberries in a fat free vanilla yogurt. It’s not the perfect replacement, but  it’s a big step in the right direction if you’ve been starting your day with a Krispy Kreme or two. In your food consumption habits,you’ll see patterns like this all the time. And yes, they can be broken: first with awareness; and secondly, with some planning.

2. Bad Habits Associated with Other Actions

Smokers who light up when on the phone or after a meal. Coffee drinkers who need that very first cuppa java coffee, to start their office day. Or breaking open the cookies and ice cream when you sit down to watch your favorite prime time TV show.  These are habits that are triggered by related actions.

We all have them. Once again, your first essential step is self-awareness. Until you notice what is happening, you have no chance of mitigating your actions. You do this best by preparing a response plan. For example, you’re going to crave something when you sit down for a new episode of Desperate Housewives, so be prepared with a substitute action, like apple slices, apple sauce sprinkled with cinnamon, or sugarless gum. If you need a morning beverage, substitute green tea for coffee, or perhaps a fruit smoothie. Old habits die hard, or not at all—unless you change the habit from something bad to something good.

3. Smoking

Obviously is a lethal bad habit, so here we need to pay greater attention. It’s sad that our government has allowed the cigarette companies to play games with our minds (ad campaigns) and our bodies (adding sugar to nicotine, lying about its addictive qualities, and lying about its effects on our health), but as with all things, ignorance is not bliss. If you truly want to educate yourself on the harmful affects of smoking, the information is out there.

Then the next step is developing the will power.

I actually beat my cigarette habit, and many others I know did the same, with something as simple as handy pack of lifesavers. Others chew gum, while some chomp on carrots.

For those harder cases, where you’ve got that nicotine craving at the pit of your soul, go for the patch. Or try hypnosis. Both methods have their success stories.

Bottom line: you’ve got to try something. Do whatever you must to put an end to this super bad habit.

4. Laziness

Sloth is a killer because it robs us of our basic enjoyment of life. In fact, the less we do the less we are capable of doing. It’s a tough bad habit to break, but break it we must. You can try the “This is the first day of my life” approach, but a 180-degree turn is a tough maneuver to negotiate.

Try this instead: making changes in planned and deliberate increments. For example, look at all the television programs you watch, and cut 10 to 20 percent of them right now. Next month cut back again. From my view, two hours per day/fourteen hours per week is a maximum.

What are the programs that you’re watching today out of habit more than out of enjoyment? I’m willing to wager a third to a half of all the television you’re watching.

Also, getting the sloth out means moving more. You have probably heard that a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion. As you can imagine, I spend a good part of my day at the keyboard, which means on my butt. When I can break out of that pattern I move and keep moving. Walking, gardening, going to the gym are just a few of the ways I keep going. We humans were designed to move, and to think. Sitting in a stupor staring starry-eyed at a TV, living the life of a couch potato, is not our natural state of being.

5. Routine

I saved the best, and the toughest, for last. Doing the same thing over and over again makes for routine. It doesn’t awaken our senses or sharpen our minds. fI you want to discover a fuller life, get out of your set routines. instead try something different.

Here are a few ways to shake things up: If you don’t already play a musical instrument, sign up for piano lessons, violin, guitar, or whatever. Nothing throws your brain a curve like asking it to learn something completely new. Another approach is to enroll in an adult education class at your local community college. Whether it’s French to help you get ready for that long planned trip to Paris, or a philosophy class just for the joy of learning, you’ll awaken your mind and that will spin you in a hundred creative directions you may have never considered. Perhaps best routine-breaker of all is travel. Whether it’s to a part of town you never go to all the way to South Africa, nothing refreshes the soul like seeing new places.

Habits, particularly bad ones, were meant to be broken. Go out and break some of yours today!

SMW Forum: We Want To Know Your Worse Habit!  Share it below… Is it smoking? Or yo-yo-dieting? Or too much TV?