It’s said that people become their habits. In some cases that is not a good thing; bad habits prevail among many Americans. One report found that over 70% of U.S. adults have at least one unhealthy behavior associated with chronic health problems.
Breaking bad habits isn’t easy, but sometimes the best answer is replacing them with empowering new habits that bring positive changes to one’s daily life.
“We often have habits that hold us back, like smoking or eating food lacking in nutrition,” said Dr. Rob Carter, III, co-author with his wife, Dr. Kirti Salwe Carter, of “The Morning Mind: Use Your Brain to Master Your Day and Supercharge Your Life” (themorningmind.com). “A great way to start every day is with a series of empowering habits. The morning, in fact, according to some researchers, is the best time to start making these kinds of changes in your life.”
Carter has six ways one can create new, empowering habits and make them stick:
- Prioritize habits. “For each area in which you want to grow,” Carter said, “take some time to think about what kind of empowering habits you’d like to establish around that topic.” Areas to consider are health, wealth, social, relationships, job, hobbies, self-esteem, interpersonal skills, positive thinking, time management and life purpose.
- Focus on one at a time. “Because we have a limited amount of willpower in the morning, it’s very important how we use that energy,” Carter said. “By focusing on just one habit you would like to change – for example, eating a healthy breakfast – you can concentrate that willpower on the task at hand until it becomes a habit.”
- Be reasonable with yourself. The time it will take to establish the new habit depends upon how much resistance a person has, and sometimes developing a new habit represents a long leap from where one currently stands. “That’s too daunting,” Carter said, “so break it down into more achievable steps. Incremental improvements add up to a big transformation and are often more powerful and sustainable.”
- Commit specific time toward the goal. Carter suggests nailing down a detailed timeline and committing a full effort toward formation of the new habit within that time span. “Write down what you hope to achieve, how many times a week you will practice the new habit, and when and where you’ll do it,” Carter said. “Having a specific goal helps keep you accountable to yourself.
- Reward success. Have a reward in place to celebrate performing your new habit. “It has to be something that will motivate you to complete your habit,” Carter said.
- Stack habits. “The neural pathways of your pre-existing habits are well-traveled routes in your brain,” Carter said. “You can take advantage of this by building a new habit and associating it with an old one that is well-established. This is a quicker way to create new habits than if you were to start from scratch. For example, if you want to create a new habit of exercising in the morning and you have a habit of reading the newspaper every morning, tie these activities together by exercising immediately before you read the paper. Reading the paper becomes your reward.”
“When you learn for yourself how simple it is to change habits,” Carter said, “you’ll want to make adjustments to all areas of your life.”