Whether it’s hitting the drive-thru at lunch or wasting time mindlessly scrolling through social media, we all have habits that keep us from reaching our goals or feeling our best. If you want to stop, but the idea of breaking the habit is intimidating, you’re not alone. But according to psychiatrist Dr. Sue Varma, it’s not that hard to break bad habits and replace them with better ones, and she says fall is the perfect time to do it.
Varma says habits are great because they automate things and help streamlining things going forward. As for bad habits, she explains that they’re usually the result of two things: not having a habit at all, or genuinely having a routine, just an unhealthy one. Plus, she says most bad habits are a sign you like routine and are a creature of habit, so swapping the habit for a healthier one is easier.
To break a bad habit:
- Identify your cue and trigger – Varna says a lot of bad habits are the result of mindlessness and lack of discipline, so identifying your trigger for the bad habit can help you anticipate it and create a plan.
- Don’t make things that are bad for you easily accessible – If you want to stop eating ice cream every night, don’t keep it in the house. Having to go out and buy it creates a boundary to help you stop doing it.
According to this expert, the secret to a good habit is to eliminate choice. “Choice is the enemy of a habit because you are leaving it up to whim and willpower and discipline,” Varma explains.
To create lasting good habits:
- Don’t make it too complicated, try to make it attainable.
- Associate the habit with positive emotions to reinforce the behavior.
- Build in contingency plans so you have a backup to keep you on track.
- Change things up and challenge yourself so you don’t get bored.
- Add in longer term goals to keep you motivated.