Prepare to learn healthier habits

by Ruth Griffiths

It’s all too easy to identify our unhealthy habits. It’s a little harder to figure out where that habit came from and why we continue that behaviour.

After you have made your plan to change a habit, you need to identify what triggers your current habit. For smoking, for example, triggers might include waking up in the morning, having coffee, drinking alcohol, stressful meetings, going out with friends, driving, etc. Most habits have more than one trigger. Make a list of all the triggers you can think of, no matter how large or small.

For every trigger, identify a positive action that you are going to do instead. When you first wake in the morning, instead of smoking, what will you do? What about when you get stressed? When you go out with friends? Some positive actions to deal with your triggers could include: exercise, meditation, deep breathing or organizing your day.

Identifying your triggers and planning a positive action will give you strategies to defeat the urge. Urges are going to come — they’re inevitable, and they’re strong. But they’re also temporary and beatable. Urges usually last about a minute or two, and they come in waves of varying strength. You just need to ride out the wave, and the urge will go away.

For example, if you are trying to stop snacking after supper, some strategies for making it through the urge are deep breathing, take a walk, exercise, drink a glass of water, phone a support buddy.

You have identified the habit you wish to change and written down your plan. It includes the triggers for that habit and the behaviours you are going to substitute. Be very clear why you’re doing this. If you are not doing it for yourself, is this something you really want to do?

The benefits of changing a habit need to be clear in your head. For example, a friend successfully lost over 20 pounds because she was going to have knee surgery. She knew her recovering time would be much shorter if she were carrying less weight on her new knee.

Write down all your obstacles. If you’ve tried this habit change before, you’ve likely failed. How did those failures stop you from succeeding? Write down your plan to overcome every obstacle you can think of. Be prepared by finding solutions to your obstacles before you encounter them.

Remember, success doesn’t come overnight. It can take six weeks to learn a new, healthier habit. But you are worth it!