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Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Your habits define many of your actions and condition your responses to life's ups and downs - so the more good habits you have, the better. Consciously choosing to replace the thing you know you shouldn't do with something good for you can change everything.

In order to change your bad habits into good ones, first identify what they are. On a sheet of paper, write down your bad habits. This first step is important because it raises your awareness of your habits. Bad habits attack when self-esteem is low and the result of the bad habit usually just makes things worse. Being aware of a bad habit helps you to stop doing it.

Some things you do are not bad in themselves eating food is good but overeating and eating junk food as a response to stress misuses food. Try exercising in response to stress and eating when you're truly hungry. Your bad habits may not be obvious, they may just be time-wasters. Even a habit as small as procrastinating for 5 or 10 minutes between tasks is something that could add up to an hour each day 7 hours a week 28 hours a month 336 hours a year. That's an extra two weeks annually!

Next, think of an alternative to each bad habit, and write it down. Instead of floundering for something to do instead, or reverting back to your old bad habit, you will have an instant replacement activity. Writing your intentions on paper helps you visualize your transformation, allowing you to forecast the benefits of exchanging a destructive habit for a healthy one.

Exercise is a great tool to help you break bad habits. Exercise makes you feel better about yourself, which reinforces the benefits of exercising and make you more likely to exercise again. As you become healthier and fitter, you'll also become more productive, able to deal with stress better, and less likely to take up those old, bad habits.

For example, instead of spending your lunch hour at some greasy dive, brown-bag-it to work and use the extra time to go for a mini power walk. It can be much healthier, economically wise, you'll get a second wind of energy for the afternoon, and best of all, it puts a healthy spin on your whole day. There's an alternative to nearly every situation: if you crave an ice cream cone every time you pass a certain Baskin-Robbins, take another route; if you finish the entire can of Pringles every time you buy them, buy something better for you to snack on; if you stop and chat too long with the people at the water cooler at work, get a bigger water container at your desk.

Old Habit

1. Late afternoon mindless snacking

2. Extra serving of food at dinnertime

3. Smoking in the car to pass time

Alternative habit

1. Make a standing date with a friend to hike

2. Brush your teeth, then go for a walk with the family

3. Get a good book on tape for the drive, and practice holding your abdominal muscles in for 30 seconds at a time.

Once you've made your list, pick one bad habit to work on first. Too much of a change too soon can be overwhelming, so take it gradually. If you have several habits you want to break, start with one or two. A long list of habits to overcome, such as negative self-talk, smoking, unhealthy eating, and not exercising may be too taxing. Give yourself a time frame to focus consciously on replacing the bad habit with the good one. Keep at it until you feel you have changed it and move on to the next habit.

Be gentle with yourself as you make small changes in your life a little at a time. If you slip back into your old routine, don't worry about it. It's no big deal. Just pick up right where you left off. Breaking bad habits takes time and discipline, or in other words: practice. For people who exercise consistently, working out is just another part of their daily routine, like brushing their teeth. The first few times you choose the alternative habit may seem difficult and unnatural, but with your heightened sense of awareness you'll see that it gets easier and becomes a new part of who you are.

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