Two sticky notes. One says break bad habits and the other says build good habits

Breaking Bad Habits

English writer Samuel Johnson once said, “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt, until they are too strong to be broken.”

We all have habits, some good ones and bad ones. But why is it so difficult to break the bad ones even if you know something is bad for you.

Habits develop when something that you enjoy triggers your brain’s “reward” center. If you do something often enough, it becomes part of your daily routine without you having to think twice.

The process of forming a habit happens in the portion of your brain called the “basal ganglia,” which is also responsible for your emotions, memories, and pattern recognition.  Once we establish a habitual routine, our brain is trained to expect a reward for the habit. This is known as a habit loop.

Your brain will use this connection to replay the habit in the future. After that habit, a trigger alerts the brain to repeat the habit.

Dr. Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University, says that his studies on decision-making and willpower have led him to conclude that “self-control is like a muscle. Once you’ve exerted some self-control, like a muscle, it gets tired.”

He also concluded that once you have successfully resisted a temptation, your willpower can become temporarily drained, making it harder to resist the second time around.

He has found evidence that regularly practicing, or “exercising,” self-control can strengthen your determination. It is not easy, and at times may feel uncomfortable, but it is the only way to turn a bad habit around.  

So how do you finally break free from your bad habits?

  1. Remove the trigger: If you are trying to eat better, remove all junk food from your house. If you do not have the option to go for the quick fix, then you are forced to find something else to do or something else to eat.
  2. Focus on what why you want to lose weight: Before you succumb to a bad habit, remember why you want to lose weight. Feeling healthier and living a better lifestyle will be better in the long run than the short term benefits of making a poor food choice. yea 
  3. Keep a habit diary: This will allow you to see and target specific moments when you succumb to bad habits and can help you catch them before you succumb to them again.
  4. Enlist friends for help: Tell a friend or loved one that you are trying to accomplish a weight loss goal and ask them to hold you accountable
  5. Repetition, repetition, repetition: Just as repetition has formed your bad habits, it can also help form good habits. The more you do something, the quicker it can become second nature.

Remember to take your weight loss journey one day at a time. If you try to change too much, too quickly, you may become overwhelmed and give up.

Also, habits aren’t formed overnight, so they are not going to be resolved overnight either. Be patient and kind to yourself during the process.

Breaking Bad Habits | NIH News in Health


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