By Teraga Gross, Support Services Coordinator
Why, oh why do we continue to have those nasty old habits? We all struggle to quit the bad habits in our lives, but we rarely seem to be successful. If it were easy to break a habit, people wouldn’t continue struggling with behaviors they know are not in their best interests.
Bad habits are undesirable actions that we perform so often that they become involuntary. Some bad habits are actually dangerous. For example, people continue to smoke cigarettes, although they know they are the leading cause of death today, and warnings are clearly printed on the package. It’s not that people aren’t educated about the consequences of a risky behavior; they just fail or refuse to identify it as a problem for themselves, therefore leaving it unaddressed and doomed to occur in a vicious cycle.
Other habits are just inconvenient, slow us down or annoy others, such as being late all the time, leaving clothes on the bedroom floor, or interrupting others.
Many people hold on to bad habits because they answer some kind of need. For example, smokers say cigarettes help them deal with stress, and people who live with clutter think they are going to read those magazines or cut out those coupons “some time.” They aren’t motivated to change because they rationalize the habits, or because it’s just too much trouble.
Let’s face it: changing our behavior is a challenge. The first step to letting go of a bad habit is acknowledging that this behavior is interfering in some way with our lives. It may be negatively affecting our health, or producing conflict in our interactions with others, or forcing us to cope with feelings of embarrassment and shame. Once we recognize the negative impact, we discover we want to make a change. The key factor in changing bad habits is to focus on changing our behavior. By taking the lead and learning to control our actions, we can make choices that create positive changes in our lifestyle.
How to change?
It’s time to take on a new perspective by finding an effective way to meet your goals, and trade in bad habits for good ones. Start your transformation by setting goals and making a plan. Here’s how to control those habits:
- Set small goals for yourself that are attainable so that you don’t become overwhelmed or discouraged.
- Be specific and honest with yourself about the habit that needs to be changed.
- Analyze your patterns to determine why your previous attempts to change were unsuccessful.
- If you slip up and repeat that bad habit, don’t condemn yourself. Push your “reset” button and start again.
Here are some examples of ways to change habits:
Bad Habits Good Habits
Overspending Devise a budget to be financially stable.
Clutter Organize and break down large task into small ones.
Overeating Practice portion control for health and nutritional purposes.
Once you get the hang of replacing bad habits with good ones, you will reap the benefits of change and your newfound lifestyle. That will reinforce the changes you’ve made in your behavior and motivate you to keep it up. You will be more physically and mentally fit than before, you will experience increased happiness, and you will be a role model to others facing similar issues because you have taken a leap of faith and changed for the better. Making the commitment to take action is half the battle. Now all you have to do is put forth the effort to practice and sustain good habits in your life!
By Teraga Gross, Support Services Coordinator, Jewish Community Services, Baltimore, MD
To learn more about how JCS can help you solve life’s puzzles please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.