Establishing Good Habits

Created: 16 February 2011 | Written by Dr. Wilson for Citrus County Chronicle

This article appeared in the Citrus County Chronicle on January 11, 2011

New Year’s resolutions are the subject of many light-hearted jokes, but many of them reflect genuine hopes and dreams and a sincere desire to tackle bad habits that are negatively affecting our lives. For example, smoking, being overweight, and heavy drinking are all serious problems that affect our health, our enjoyment of life, and the way we feel about ourselves.

The rewards and benefits of successfully replacing bad habits with good ones are undeniable: physical well-being, self confidence, and improved relationships with family members, friends and co-workers.

Success is not only for the lucky and the strong. Anyone can achieve a goal; the secret is knowing how to do it. 

Here are some tips:

Do it for yourself. Motivation for change must come from you, not someone else. It is not enough that your partner wants you to lose weight or your children want you to stop smoking. Find your own reasons for change, write them down and review them often.

Work on one habit at a time. Changing even one aspect of your life takes time, investment, and effort. Trying to make too many changes at once is unrealistic. Choose the one thing that is most important to you right now and work on that first.

Set a goal and make a plan. Your goal can be as lofty or as humble as you want to make it. Once you have set your goal, write out a plan to accomplish it in a series of realistic mini-goals, one step at a time. Then create a detailed plan for implementing the first step, including exactly where and how it will fit into your daily or weekly schedule. When you achieve your first goal, congratulate yourself and begin on the next one. If you find yourself backsliding, do not give up – just go back and repeat the previous step.

Have a back-up plan. Some failure is inevitable. Recognize that you will occasionally slip up, and create a plan to compensate for it. Do not exaggerate your failures; regard them as small temporary obstacles on your road to success.

Replace a bad habit with a good one for 21 days. Good and bad habits are both learned by repetition. Psychologists have found that it takes a minimum of 21 days to establish a habit. Learn to recognize events that “trigger” bad habits and identify an activity that you can do instead. For 21 days, each time the bad habit is triggered, substitute a good one. Gradually you will find yourself doing it without thinking.

Get support and assistance. Lack of knowledge is one of the reasons for your bad habits. Seek counseling and guidance from others who have experience, such as nutritionists and weight-loss counselors.

Education is important to your success. The more you learn, the more you will want to know. Read articles, books and blogs, join a support group or a fitness class, and ask your friends and family for emotional support. If someone tries to sabotage your efforts, be assertive and point out what they are doing.

Establish mini-habits. If you are not up to a big challenge, start with a small one. Determine to eat one piece of fruit every day instead of a sweet snack or soda. Do short exercise workouts at home using DVDs or Exercise TV programs. Your small successes will soon inspire larger ones.Visualize your success.Create a mental image of yourself the way you want to be. Talk to yourself during the day with positive phrases such as “I am so much healthier now that I am exercising.” Reward yourself with praise. Determine to “cancel” negative thoughts the moment you become aware of them, and replace them with a positive statement.

Make 2011 your year of success!

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