Wednesday, 1 June 2016

How to Change Bad Habits

Why change the habit of a lifetime? I have no idea who said that, but it has certainly resonated with me over the years. Why indeed? Our poor brain categorises our actions as habits so that we don’t end up with mental fatigue. Having to make constant decisions depletes our energy and it’s, therefore, a welcome relief if there are habits in place to make that decision making easier.

But what if you really want to change a habit? Maybe it’s a bad habit that makes you feel guilty or sad, or perhaps you want to create a good habit and have it stick as a regular in your life. How on earth do you go about this?

I joined a gym yesterday. Don’t panic; I will NOT be clambering on any rowing machines or sprinting down a treadmill anytime soon. I joined so that I could utilise their swimming pool and abundance of yoga and Pilates classes (the added bonus of a coffee shop swung the deal!). I want to create a good, healthy habit in my daily life and meet like-minded people.

Before I hit the ‘join now’ button or unearthed my swimming costume from the depths of the ‘won’t wear ever again’ pile, I decided to observe my day to day habits. I jotted down in my journal everything I’d done over a couple of weeks. I wrote down all the unhealthy snack attacks I’d had, all the TV re-runs I’d watched, and how my mood fluctuated when I was as sedentary as a sloth (most days!)

Interestingly I noticed that my busiest and most productive times were between 6.30am and 11am when I did most of my blog post sharing, commenting, and interaction on social media. I then settled down to write, either blog posts or my current work in progress. Once lunchtime arrived, I started to slow down. For me, this is inevitable as I am still coping with the after-effects of my viral illness – I will curl up and get on with reading the books I have scheduled for the review team I’m a member of, so I’m working but also resting. Once the kids come home, I begin the family routine interspersed with work/social media.

It was quite insightful to see on a day to day basis where I was wasting time and when my bad habits emerged, but more interestingly, these periods of procrastination also coincided with my dip in mood. I realised that nothing would change about my anxiety and depression if I didn’t take small action steps. The habits I wanted to implement could fill that void of time and consequently lift my mood.

So, I joined the gym! Before I signed on the dotted line, however, I checked through my diary and added – in pen - swim sessions twice a week and booked on a Pilates class. Just like a work meeting, doctor’s appointment, or social event, by adding my sessions in the diary it becomes a to-do task that has had time allocated to it. Recently, I was asked if I wanted to go for coffee but when I spotted the word ‘swim’ in my diary, I declined and suggested another date. That small change has helped me to create a better habit.

Another good idea, if you want to create better habits, is to gather yourself a support network. This may include a group of girls who go swimming with you, or simply texting a friend to say you’re going to the gym on a specific day. It makes you accountable for your actions, and you’re more likely to carry through with your intentions.

When it comes to our healthy eating habits, I have recently found that doing it all differently helped me enormously. I’d got myself into a dieting rut and spent most of my time over-analysing everything I ate. For me, this wasn’t good for my anxiety, so I decided to adopt the habits of a skinny person and just get on with my life and not think too much about weight goals. Years spent at slimming clubs have shown me the types of healthy meals I should be eating, and I no longer drink alcohol, so my weekend calorie count is nothing like it used to be. The relief I felt when I freed myself from dieting restrictions was incredible – and I lost 1lb!

I want my swimming to become a regular part of my life, but only I can create that. It takes 66 days to turn a small change into a routine habit but if I believe in myself enough then I’ll make it happen.

Do you have any habits you would like to shed? Or maybe you have a solid tip for changing routines and creating better habits? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. When I was studying mindfulness, we were encouraged to sit in a different chair to eat our meals. It was amazing how this simple change altered my perspective. Suddenly I was making a conscious decision about my mealtime, rather than just plonking myself down in my usual spot. (I could still do with shifting a new pounds, though, and I still eat far too many crisps!)

    1. I've tried to do the different chair concept at home but my kids were traumatised when I asked them to move seats. It was interesting to note how young we are when our habits form!

  2. I go to Aqua twice a week, Shelley, and it's wonderful. Our beautiful Health and Leisure Centre burnt down (traumatic) but we all promptly transferred to the local Council Leisure Centre so we were still all together putting the world to rights and we still had our aqua twice a week. It's always on my calendar but because it's such a pleasant part of my life I don't need reminding or nudging. I think that's the secret - find something you really enjoy doing and it does become easier to make it a habit. And yes if you can get a group of friends to do it with even better.
    Our beautiful new Health club has risen from the ashes and it's fantastic. What a joy.
    I learnt a long time ago that dieting doesn't work. I even ran a Slimming Club on the basis they don't and called it Dietzappers. It is just about making gradual lifetime changes to healthy eating - and actually most of the big names in slimming follow this concept now. If you are worrying every minute about what you are putting in your mouth it just leads to obsession and anxiety doesn't it. Eating should be a pleasure, and funnily enough, it really does become more so when you know you are feeding your body healthy stuff. I still probably have a bit more of the old vino than I should - but hey! You gotta live haven't you!! ;-) xxx

    1. A friend of mine does Aqua and she loves it, I might give it a go. How wonderful that your health club was able to come back from such devastation, it sounds like a wonderful community centre. I love the idea of a non-slimming club lol. :-)