Building new habits, breaking bad ones

Breaking old habits, and making new ones, needs thought and care. Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

Part of self-development is analysing our own patterns and habits, and seeing how we might be able to alter them.  Examples might include:

  • A person who regards themselves as overweight, who wants to change their eating and exercise patterns
  • A person who experiences anxious spirals and panic attacks, who wants to change their way or responding to everyday events
  • A hoarder, who wants to stop accumulating possessions, and to create a clearer, more minimal home

In each case, the person’s life did not magically arrive at its current state.  The current state is a consequence of patterns of behaviour over a long time.

For many people, this is hard to recognise.  It is sometimes easier to blame the world, than it is to acknowledge that we have set patterns of living, under our own control, that can change.

Here are ten quick (evidence-based) tips for getting out of the rut, and into new habits:

  1. KEEP IT SIMPLE – Keep your everyday routine simple, and make the new habit part of that very simple routine.
  2. BE MOTIVATED – Make sure you know why you want to develop the new habit – motivation can be a deal-breaker.
  3. USE SMALL STEPS – Start small – use ‘shaping’ – building up pieces of habit one by one.
  4. BE SPECIFIC – Make plans specific, not vague.  Know what you are doing.
  5. USE AUTOMATIC ROUTINE – Link your new habit to events, not times.  Make it part of the sequence of your day.
  6. BE MINDFUL – Be self-observant: notice what temptations get in the way.  No point in being dishonest.
  7. INCENTIVISE YOURSELF – Implement a sustainable reward system for achievement of the new habit.
  8. MONITOR BAD HABITS – When breaking old habits, use vigilant monitoring (mindfulness) to spot when you are indulging the old habit.
  9. REPLACE BAD HABITS – Don’t try to suppress old habits – build up new routines to replace them.
  10. MANIPULATE BAD HABITS – When breaking old habits, try changing your context or environment.  Destroy reminders and triggers.  See what works.

You can find more in Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean.  Link here.