Coached By Jan

5 Steps to Kicking Your Unhealthy Habits

Habits: those sub-conscious behaviors we repeat, perhaps several times daily. Some are good. Others? Ehhh, not so much. The key in breaking unwanted habits is awareness, but since our habits are typically subconscious behaviors, that can be a challenge.

Deconstructing the Habit Cycle

With any habit there is often a trigger or cue that sets the actual behavior or routine into action. The cue typically provokes us to perform that habit or behavior. Lastly, we receive a reward for that behavior, and if we’re talking about a poor habit, it’s probably not a positive reward. (Well maybe for a minute, but regret and self-degredation quickly replace the momentary pleasure.) Sound familiar? 

What’s Your Trigger?

When identifying and breaking your unwanted habits, start small (but think BIG). Practicing a healthier behavior on a less “invasive” habit will help build your confidence level for tackling the bigger ones. When you’ve successfully achieved your goal of breaking the smaller habit, you’ll be in a stronger mindset to set and accomplish your next goal.

Let’s say your quick fix for unwinding after a long, busy day of work and life is to grab a bag of salty chips when you get home, plop down at the kitchen table, and snack inadvertently while surfing your social feeds. 20 minutes later, you’re bloated, desperate for water, and scrambling for something other than your clothes to wipe the grease and salt from your fingers. (After perusing posts detailing envious lives and politicized rants on social, you’re probably not feeling all that relaxed either.)

So how will you go about reacting to the trigger and changing this unwanted habit? These 5 steps will help you focus on awareness when the trigger hits, then consciously and thoughtfully choosing to replace your reaction to the trigger with a healthier habit or behavior. 

1. Identify the unwanted habit 

I hang out in the kitchen and snack on chips or other salty processed foods after work in order to unwind.”

2. Recognize the trigger or cue for that habit

What sets the unwanted behavior in motion?

Work is done for today – I’m burnt out, stressed out, and hungry. (And on my way to hangry.)

3. Intentionally choose a new, healthier behavior

What healthier thing can you do that will satisfy your snack craving while decompressing from the hectic day?

“I grab a handful of roasted almonds and a glass of water (both impart feelings of satiety which diminishes cravings) and head to the patio or bedroom to relax and unwind.”

Why replace salty snacks …

Most salty snacks are highly processed, refined, and loaded with simple carbs, which makes them a perfect storm for chronic health concerns, including hypertension and weight gain. To top it off, their high calorie/high carb/high sodium content contains virtually no nutrition (empty calories). You’re not fueling or recharging your body with anything of value. The creepiest thing is that chips and other salty snacks are trigger foods: the more you eat, the more you crave. It’s an endless cycle until you choose to break it. 

With almonds …

Almonds are high in Vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant which helps to prevent against inflammation and oxidative stress. Studies have shown that higher Vitamin E intake can lower rates of heart disease, some cancers, and Alzheimers Disease. Almonds are also high in healthy fats, protein and fiber, and can assist with control of blood sugar, making them an ideal choice for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. They’re also high in manganese and magnesium, which aid in lowering blood pressure levels. Studies have also shown that eating 1-2 handfuls of almonds a day can lead to mild reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. 1 ounce of almonds (about a handful) contains 161 health-filled (nutrient dense) calories. Nutrient dense foods also produce feelings of satiety.

Why change the scenery? Changing your environment when trying to replace an unwanted habit with a healthier one helps eliminate that subconscious urge to repeat the unwanted routine. In this case, an opportunity to unwind in a quiet, relaxing place with minimal distractions is also a form of self care, and we could all use more of that! 

4. Consciously reward yourself with positivity

Acknowledge your success: “I DID IT! Those almonds curbed my craving, and I grabbed a few minutes alone to unwind and regroup.

Why reward yourself? Personal reward is a form of self care, a key component in our emotional and physical health. Consciously recognize and reward yourself with positivity each time you succeed in your efforts to replace an unhealthy habit. Acknowledge your achievement with an inner ‘high five’ or an extra few minutes of relaxation – it’s crucial for building self confidence and for long-term success. Setting a time-bound goal and a personal reward when you’ve achieved that goal are also excellent ways to help stay on track.

5. Remember, it doesn’t happen overnight

Consider the 21 / 90 Rule. Research shows that if you commit to a personal goal or commitment for 21 straight days (three weeks), the new behavior should become a habit. When you continue that habit for 90 more days (three months), your goal of replacing the unhealthy habit with a healthier choice has a much better chance of becoming a permanent lifestyle behavior change. And that’s empowering!

Please be kind to yourself! If you slip up, don’t beat yourself up. Stay positive and focus more tomorrow – You have this!

Keep it Simple

The primary reason this 5-step habit replacement strategy is achievable is because the changes are subtle, simple, and easy. They won’t be a big disruption in your lifestyle routine, but they’ll lead to big benefits!

Are you struggling with an unhealthy habit you want to change, but feel you need more motivation or encouragement? My new virtual group coaching course, Empowered Women Collective, might be that extra boost you need! We meet via Zoom each week to connect, share, encourage, and support each other. I’ll be right there with you to help you work through any setbacks or obstacles that have arisen during the week, and to celebrate your progress with you! Personal accountability to any behavior choice or habit is paramount for success. Extra bonus: this group is also an opportunity for members to act as accountability partners for each other. 

Please feel free to reach out to me directly HERE, if you think the Empowered Women Collective might help you replace those unhealthy habits with healthy behaviors for a happier, healthier, more confident YOU! 

(Post Photos courtesy of Unsplash)

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