All of us sometimes succumb to our bad habits, be they as minor as staying up too late reading blogs, or as potentially disastrous as gambling too much money. While sources vary on the amount of time it takes to create a habit – good or bad – anyone can tell you that if you do something over and over again, it can form a habit. Many of us drink a cup of coffee in the morning without thinking about it, or smoke cigarettes as a form of stress relief. By tying mental rewards to these things and making them automatic, you are reinforcing these habits, whether you like it or not.
It’s not easy to break a habit. Since many bad habits are pretty much automatic, it can sometimes be hard to realize you’re about to do something until you’re already doing it. It’s necessary to make a conscious decision not to perform a behavior. Sometimes this is difficult if you are tired or stressed. One tried and true way to stop a bad habit is to wean yourself off by replacing it with another habit. Since three bad habits many people tend to have are consuming too much caffeine, staying up too late, and smoking cigarettes, let’s take a look at some suggestions for turning around these bad habits.
Too Much Caffeine
Many people begin drinking coffee or energy drinks for the first time in high school or college. After staying up late to party or to finish an assignment, they assume that they need caffeine to wake up and stay alert in class. Though many of us stop having homework after graduating from college, it does not stop the cycle of the bad behavior. What’s worse, caffeine consumption can perpetuate itself; drinking coffee during the day can lead to the inability to sleep, which in turn can make you tired and feel the need to consume more caffeine.
To wean off of a caffeine addiction, try to start by changing the way you think about it. Try drinking one less cup, or even going a day without it. Do you need it to stay awake? If you tend to have a lot of caffeine over the course of the day, start slowly by cutting back a little at a time. You can try replacing some of your cups of coffee with cups of green tea, which is less caffeinated; or if you dislike tea, have a partially-decaf cup of coffee. Of course, if you’re still tired, you’ll need to treat that too.
Too Much of a Night Owl
Studies have shown that different people perform better work at different times of day. Some people are naturally well-suited to starting their day early; some people will always struggle to wake up before 9am. Unfortunately, our world is set up in a disadvantageous way to most night owls. If you have trouble getting to bed on time, the first thing you should do is get ready for sleep earlier. Don’t just start getting ready eight hours before you need to wake up; start an hour before then if that’s what it takes.
Our environment has a big effect on our quality of sleep. Make sure that your bedroom is truly dark and that digital displays on clocks or computers aren’t actually contributing a lot of light to the room. Put your cell phone on silent or alarm-only and place it far enough away that you aren’t constantly checking it. Using a computer or watching TV before bed can actually make you less sleepy, so try to end your screen time an hour before you go to sleep. It can be helpful to have a routine before bed; personally, I keep a book on my bedside table and read for about a half hour every night. It’s a calming activity and because it’s what I always do before bed, even picking up the book can make me feel sleepier.
Too Many Cigarettes
Many people begin smoking in their teen years, whether it is to fit in, to relieve stress, or suppress appetite – and the habit continues for life. We’ve all heard the bad things about smoking; the smoke is unhealthy for you and those around you, it can stain your teeth or fingers and give you a cough, and not to mention that over a lifetime it adds up to a lot of money! It’s one of the hardest habits to break; according to WebMD only 10% of people who try to quit smoking without outside help manage to succeed.
To wean yourself off of cigarettes, you have several options. Nicotine replacement devices, medicine, or therapy are all viable options. You could buy ecigs and give them a try; they are much cleaner than regular cigarettes and fill the same void. Another option if you want to go cold turkey is to try to replace the habit with another. For instance, every time you want to smoke a cigarette, you can try chewing gum instead. Just be sure the habit is a healthy one!
You don’t have to tackle breaking a bad habit on your own; a quick Google search will find a number of support communities and forums where others are trying to break the same habits you want to get rid of. In-person support groups also exist, and if neither of these options appeals to you, you can always get your friends and family in on it. Ask them to help you catch yourself committing these bad behaviors, and help you brainstorm ways to stop. You can even make a game out of it; anytime your spouse catches you consuming caffeine or smoking a cigarette, you pay them a dollar or give them a backrub.
It is best to focus your efforts on breaking one habit at a time. Attempting to break three or four habits at once can get confusing and make you resent your new way of life. Some people also say that it can help to start trying to break a habit during a vacation because your normal routines have already been interrupted. What habits are you trying to break? Share in the comments below, or help brainstorm other ideas to break these or other common habits.
Featured images: License: Creative Commons image source
About the author: Adrienne is an aspiring writer who is working hard to break some of her own bad habits. When she’s not blogging, you might find her practicing French, whipping up a recipe she found on Pinterest, or obsessing over snail mail.