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How to Break Bad Habits… For Good!


Throughout life we encounter moments of self-reflection and inspiration to make a change. Whether it’s breaking a bad habit of smoking, drinking soda, overeating, procrastinating, losing your temper, or hurrying your kids… there’s always something which needs to be remedied.

I recently decided to quit eating refined sugars. This was not a decision that was made lightly. A number of signs and life circumstances pointed me in the direction of quitting sugar. Of course, this life change took place not even a week before Easter, in the midst of Girl Guide cookie selling season, and two days after stocking up on Nutella.

I’m just three weeks into my no-sugar lifestyle and at the beginning of this journey I have come to several realizations on how to break bad habits… for good.

What do you want to change and why?

The first thing is to decide what habit you want to break and why. Don’t try to change everything at once. For instance, if you’re wanting to be a more patient parent there may be a few bad habits you have to tackle; yelling at your children and rushing them are big issues which need to be approached separately.

Select one bad habit and tackle it. Once you’ve overcome that bad habit, move on to the next one.

Take the time to write your thoughts down. Your motives should be clear and specific.

Visualize your life without this habit.

The next thing to do is visualize what your life will be like without this bad habit. Once again, write everything down.

Things to consider when visualizing:

* What will you feel like?

* What will you look like?

* What impact will this change have on your relationships with others?

* How will your home and work life be affected?

* How will your health be affected?

Make a plan.

When you plan a trip, most likely you look at a map and plot out your journey. Do the same thing for breaking your bad habit. Create a timeline.

* When are you starting?

* Are you doing a gradual change? If so, plot out the points when your strategy shifts (i.e. Smoke only 5 cigarettes a day; in one week cut back to 4 cigarettes a day, etc.)

* At what date do you want to be free of this habit?

* At what points in your journey are you going to check in? Daily? Weekly?

Anticipate challenges.

Breaking a bad habit is challenging. Take some time to contemplate any difficulties you might have. Strategize about how you will cope with those difficulties.

When I quit sugar, I didn’t expect the detox/side effects. I had headaches, I was tired all the time, I couldn’t think clearly, I was emotional, and I was very irritable. I wish I had planned for this because it made my journey that much more frustrating.

Fortunately I quickly realized what was going on and I made a plan. When I was feeling tired, I drank a green tea. When I was feeling emotional, I listened to an uplifting song. When I was having cravings I ate a piece of cheese.

The way you react to these challenges will have an effect on your habit-breaking journey.

Find a support network.

Enlist the help of your spouse, a friend, or a colleague. Choose someone kind and encouraging to be your support network. Ask them to check in on you. Ask them to pray for you. Ask them to challenge you if you’re making excuses about returning to your bad habit.

Be forgiving.

This one’s a biggie. You may slip up. You may stumble. However, assess why you caved in, plan for how you can avoid repeating that mistake, and forgive yourself. If you wallow in self-pity or beat yourself up long enough, you may not return to your original plan and intentions.

You’re breaking this habit for a reason. Dig up the notes you wrote about why you wanted this change and read them. Repeat the exercise of visualizing your life without this bad habit.

I hope these tips and suggestions encourage you in your journey to break the bad habits in your life.

Oh and one more thing… you can do it!

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Jennifer Bly
Jennifer Bly
Author of My Kitchen, My Classroom: An Introduction to Homeschool, creator of The Deliberate Mom, Deliberate Homeschooling and regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Jennifer writes about parenting, her faith, and life with her husband and two girls. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care. 

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