So… I’ve been talking a lot about triggers lately; both good and bad. I’ve also mentioned that I’ve been struggling recently with my minor addictions – social drinking, caffeine, sugar binges…
The thing is, as great as it is to know what your negative triggers are, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to avoid them.
Especially when they’re linked to bad habits that you’ve practised for a lifetime.
I’ve tried and failed to end bad habits many, many times. Part of the problem for me is that I’m all or nothing in my approach. Go big, or go home.
And if this works for you… have at it!
But it clearly doesn’t work for me. Trying to go ‘cold turkey’ on my habits and completely rewire my neural pathways overnight always leads to failure. It’s usually dramatic. There are nearly always tears. And it’s nearly always followed by guilt, depression and repetition of the initial habits that I stopped in the first place.
When I have had success with curtailing my less-attractive habits, it’s because I took things one step at a time.
And because I compromised.
Here’s an example: Rather than telling myself to stop worrying altogether, I tell myself that I’m allowed to worry only if there is actual evidence that I have something to worry about. This rule helps me when someone doesn’t text back immediately and my anxiety kicks in, telling me that they’re upset/offended in some way because of something I’ve done. As soon as that happens, I remind myself that I can’t worry about a fictional scenario; only one I know to be real. If my friend tells me that I’ve done something wrong, then I’m allowed to worry (or even better – take steps to resolve it.)
Other compromises I’ve made are:
- Allowing myself a coffee so long as I commit to a pint of water afterwards. This re-hydrates me and often I enjoy the water so much that I don’t want more caffeine.
- Making healthy eating convenient. When I have time for meal-prep, I’ll prep. When I don’t, I’ll buy my ready-made salads and veg shakes. It costs more and sometimes it’s not quite as nutritious as what I’d make for myself, but it’s better than trying to do it all and ending up crying into my pizza.
- If you can’t seem to drop your morning news habit, tell yourself that you’re allowed to watch this only after you’ve watched a ten minute motivational clip (there’s a ton of them on YouTube nowadays.) Chances are that you’ll be so inspired to get up after this, that the news won’t seem as appealing afterwards.
Quitting bad habits is hard enough; don’t make it harder by expecting yourself to transform into a new person overnight.
Build a bridge between the old and new habits; between the old and new you.
Are you trying to quit some negative behaviours? But expecting too much of yourself? Could you find a middle ground? Comments welcome: