Habits: Break them, or make them?
Most would say that we’re creatures of habit — and habits are hard to break. We spend much of our time and energy trying to break these behaviors. What if we thought differently, and instead of trying to break all of these bad habits, we create healthy ones?
We talked with Jessica Chamberlin, M.A. and Licensed Professional Counselor, about developing a few good habits that will lead to a happier, healthier life.
Q: Do you think people should focus on making good habits — or breaking bad ones? Can we find better success from doing one versus the other?
A: I believe it to be more efficient and a more positive experience to make good habits. Breaking a habit is like punishing yourself, while developing a good habit can help you to focus on the positive. It is easy to be disappointed in yourself if you don’t do well in extinguishing a bad habit, while cultivating a good habit produces pride in your steps forward and achievements. Also, it’s likely that your bad habit will fall to the wayside when your new, good habit is formed.
Q: Remembering what we’re grateful for seems to always put things into perspective. Any advice for ways we can cultivate a habit of gratitude?
A: One way to cultivate gratitude is to express your thankfulness to someone else. I recommend hand delivering a letter (or note) of gratitude to someone for something they have done. This simple gesture brings so much joy to both individuals. It’s a great gesture to make into a personal habit. Another way is to reflect upon the positive aspects of each day. You can do this by journaling at night or finding something symbolic, like pictures from a magazine, and creating something as simple as a collage.
Q: What we say can often get us into trouble — and it’s so easy to join in and criticize or complain. How can we learn to better direct our speech (and even thoughts) in a positive direction?
A: When you’re with a group of people and the conversation starts to drift to being critical, ask yourself, “Are we being constructive?” When the negativity is centered on a person, remember that everyone is dealing with something behind the surface. Also, ask yourself if the person’s behavior triggers something within you. It can be easier to dislike a person because how they act resonates with something that’s within you — perhaps from a bad past experience.
Q: How we start and end our days is important. Do you have suggestions for healthy habits we should consider developing for the morning or evening hours?
A: Use these times to de-stress — start fresh in the morning and unwind in the evening. Running or yoga are great ways to clear your body and mind. Also, use this time to work on your habit of gratitude.
Q: It’s easy to fall into old, unhealthy habits when relating to those closest to us. What have you found to be helpful in maintaining strong relationships with the key people in our lives?
A: Don’t immediately think you have to distance yourself from the person with whom you formerly developed a bad habit; instead, communicate to them about your new good habit. Share with them the benefits you’re already seeing from this new, healthy habit.
Good habits will not only serve you well in your life, family and place of employment, but being intentional about creating them will set you on a path of happiness. Don’t try to make all the changes at once, but work at making small changes and experiencing the satisfaction in those steps.
5 Tips to Kick Start Good Habits
1. Create a List- Make a list of the pros/challenges to making this change. What would be the pros/challenge to NOT making this change?
2. Get a Buddy- Find a friend to hold you accountable. Regularly check in with her to share your progress and setbacks
3. Keep a Log- Document your successes and progress of your new, healthy habit.
4. Read- Get motivated from stories of inspirational figures who have overcome an obstacle, quotes and educational material about your healthy habit.
5. Use Social Media- Social media can support you in your new habit. Blogs, Pinterest and Facebook can be useful in finding groups, friends and ideas to encourage you.
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