Bad Habits

Bad habits are just that- BAD! If you know something’s bad for you, why can’t you just stop?
The excuse that “the Devil made me do it” is passé and just won’t cut it. You may have unhealthy excess weight that you could lose if only you would eat right and exercise more. So why don’t you do it? It’s an overwhelming force called-HABIT!

Habits free up your brain to focus on different things and can also develop when enjoyable events trigger your brain’s “reward” centers. This can set up patterns or paths to harmful activities such as smoking, excessive drinking, overeating, and other compulsive behavior. A major problem with the pleasure-based habits and the reason they are so hard to break is that they trigger a chemical in your brain called dopamine. The repetitious nature of a habit only reinforces that habit and the release of dopamine makes you want to do it some more. In short, you brain becomes “hard-wired” and he desire to do that something increasingly difficult to resist and/or overcome.

Scientists continue to search for answers and try to determine what goes on in your brain as such habits form. They agree that once formed, habits are difficult to get rid of. Since habits are an important factor in our health, good or bad, what you may consider normal may actually be detrimental to living in a healthy manner. What is critical is the fact that behaviors become automatic thus giving you an advantage, because the brain does not have to use conscious thought to perform habitual activities. The bottom line: learn new healthful habits.

You can improve your self-control by doing exercises over time and any regular act of self-control will gradually exercise your ‘muscle’, the brain, and make you stronger.” And, you are not simply a creature of habit because you have many more brain regions to help you do what’s best for your health. However, there is no single effective way to break bad habits so it’s not one size fits all.

One approach is to focus on becoming more aware of your unhealthy habits and then develop strategies to counteract them. Another technique is to visualize you in a tempting situation and then mentally practice some good behavior to counter the bad. Most importantly you must actively replace unhealthy routines with new, healthy ones. Bad habits may be hard to change, but it can be done. Try these tips to break bad habits and you’ll see.

• Avoid tempting situations. If you always stop for a donut on your way to work, try a different route. Keep fatty foods, cigarettes, alcohol and other tempting items out of your home.

• Replace unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones. Try exercise, a favorite hobby or spending time with family.

• Prepare mentally. If you can’t avoid a tempting situation, prepare yourself in advance. Think about how you want to handle it and mentally practice what you plan.

• Enlist support. Ask friends, family and co-workers to support your efforts to change.

• Reward yourself for small steps. Give yourself a healthy treat when you’ve achieved a small goal or milestone.