Whether it’s mindless snacking, sitting on the couch instead of exercising, sleeping with our makeup on, or biting our nails, we all have bad habits. I think that most people know when a particular habit isn’t good for them. But they continue to stick to their less-than-ideal routines because forming new habits is just too time-consuming or frustrating, or because other tasks take priority. (I know I’ve been guilty of this!)
Over the years, though, I’ve learned that the seemingly little things have a big impact on your overall quality of life. Say, for example, that you habitually run late in the mornings. On the surface, it might not seem like that big of a deal. After all, you may be rushed during your commute, but you usually make it to the office (more or less) on time. But what if you allowed yourself an extra ten minutes to get ready? You would be so much less stressed while getting dressed. You might have time to eat a quick breakfast. Your blood pressure wouldn’t shoot through the roof every time you hit a red light. And you’d feel calm when you sat down to begin your work day.
Trust me, it’s almost always worth the time and effort it takes to break habits that aren’t enhancing your life. The key to making it work is to figure out what the payoff is. In the example above, the payoff would be smoother, less stressful mornings (very important since mornings can set the tone for your whole day!). I’ve found that if you can explain to yourself why a new habit would make your life easier or better, you’ll have the motivation you need to follow through with real change. Here are some examples of changed habits that have happened in my family recently:
- Whenever a restaurant brings out a starter, like bread and butter or chips and salsa, it’s so easy to eat it mindlessly while waiting on your meal. But really, wouldn’t you rather save your appetite and calorie intake for the entrée? My husband, Barry, and I have recently started sending the bread away so that we can savor what we order. The payoff is that we can eat our meal without feeling overly full, and without feeling guilty about all of that mindless eating. We have also started ordering peppermint tea instead of dessert.
- Barry’s blood sugar tends to get low in the afternoon. In the past, though, he was often so absorbed in his work that he ignored the way he was feeling. Recently, he has set up an alarm on his computer that goes off mid-afternoon and asks, “Do you want an apple?” That’s Barry’s cue to eat an apple and take a short walk around the office to talk to employees. He feels so much better, and he’s more productive afterward.
- I really love my job! And sometimes, I’ll stay on my computer late into the night. (I suspect I’m not the only one.) Now that I am married to Barry, though, it’s important to me to spend quality time with him. If I get caught up in work after hours, he’ll remind me to come watch a show or drink a glass of wine with him. I’ve found that my career hasn’t suffered…but my personal life has really improved.
Make a short list of habits that you would like to break, and then figure out what the payoff for doing so will be. I look forward to hearing how your life has changed for the better!