July 9, 2016

Five steps to beating a bad habit

This post is part of a 30 in 30 blog experiment, where I committed to writing 30 posts in 30 days with minimal planning between June 20, 2016 and July 20, 2016.

Brain science is something I really geek out about. I read somewhere that it takes 66 days to learn a new habit for most people--but for some it can take up to 254 days!* If you don't already know, our brain creates neural pathways (like shortcuts) for tasks we do repeatedly. Part of the process of creating a new habit is actually the time our brain needs to create a new neural pathway.

I'm in the process of kicking a few of my worst habits out the door. I haven't conquered my habits yet, but I thought I'd share a few of the things that have helped me along the way. Your mileage may vary.

1) Know your type. Are you a white knuckler? Do you need accountability? Gretchen Rubin did this really interesting talk where she identified four tendencies people have when developing a new habit. She defined the strengths and weaknesses of each type to learn how to "hack" themselves. You can check out my post about it here. And, there's a quiz (I love quizzes). Know thyself!

2) Take baby steps. Know what your big goal is, but also break that down into really manageable steps. Sometimes I get embarrassed at how "baby" my steps have to be. I'm out of shape. When I started walking, I could only handle 5-10 minutes at one time. I didn't want to admit it to myself much less to anyone else. Everyone has to start somewhere and what matters is that you DO SOMETHING with intention. I've been gradually increasing my time by 1 minute every couple of days and now I'm up to walking 18-20 minutes. My goal by the end of the summer is to be able to walk 2 miles or roughly 30 minutes.

3) Celebrate your success daily. It sounds super cheesy, but keep a gratitude journal or something along those lines. Use it. If you stuck to your daily goal--no matter how small--allow yourself to feel good about it.

4) Keep the promises you make to yourself. I'm a perfectionist, so if my goals are too big and I can't meet them, I get really discouraged and beat myself up for it, which makes it harder to keep my promise the next day. This is why setting really manageable tasks is important. Think of a person you love and the promises you have made to them - now treat yourself the same way. Part of learning a new habit is making this promise, believing you can keep it, and then doing everything in your power to do so.

5) Give yourself permission to fail but not to quit. I'm borrowing this from my sister-in-law who is a beach body coach and a clean eating advocate. I hate failing, to the point that up until recently, I didn't do stuff if I thought I would fail. But failing is a part of every learning process. I fail. I learn. I move on. Be kind to yourself, but don't let failure be an excuse to give up. Just keep swimming.

Writing this post is my way of keeping myself accountable.
What bad habits are you trying to break? Got any good advice? Share your success!

* I honestly don't know where I read this, but this page has the same data.

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