Building better habits

Old habits die hard, but do they have to be so difficult to kill? With a little bit of effort, maybe not.

(Tribune News Service)

When we do something over and over, it seems to become cemented into our daily routine. We develop habits and get into the groove of things. And once we do that, it can seem nearly impossible to get out of that groove.

We can, however, become creatures of better habits. That can mean parting ways with a harmful habit or adopting a positive one.

It can be something simple, like stopping nail biting and reading more books. Or it can be more intricate like nixing binge-shopping and exercising daily.

There’s a widely popular belief that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. That’s not completely true.

The amount of time depends on the person and the complexity of the behavior. It can take anywhere from a few days to almost a year. Instead of focusing on the number, focus on the progress and the outcome.

Also keep in mind that it’s never too late to change a habit. There isn’t a point of no return. Next time you find yourself thinking you are too far gone, consider this: even a lifetime smoker will experience health improvements the moment they quit smoking.

No matter how long it’s been, you can always make a change for the better.

One of the first steps to creating a new habit or eliminating a bad habit is to drop the “Ah, forget it” attitude. New habits are fragile and old habits are entrenched. This means that there will be times where we slip up, but that does not give us permission to abandon ship.

Often we develop habits because they yield some sort of reward. The problem is the reward can be short-lasting or the habit harmful in the long run.

For example, comfort shopping might provide a time to be social and build temporary confidence. Unfortunately, it can easily lead to overspending or debt.

To kick the habit, find something that will yield a similar reward. You could ask a friend to grab lunch or exercise with you. By doing so, you are replacing the unhealthy habit with something more beneficial that will hopefully produce a similar reward.

It is possible to slay bad habits and bring life to new ones. Pick the habit you want to change, warm up, make a plan and don’t give up.