2017: The Time to Bury Bad Habits


Why do we want that carb filled treat when we are over our calorie count? Why do we put off that email a week after it should have been sent?

Way too often we know the right action to take such as eat healthy, exercise and procrastinate less, yet we choose not to do them.

According to an audit of wellness programs by the Rand corporation and Health Mind, some of the top reasons employees don’t utilize wellness programs is a lack or inconvenience of time or an inconvenience of location.

Why don't we find time to do important things?

Our minds aren’t set up for "success".

Mental Treason

We fall into bad habits more regularly, because our brains are wired for it. Networks form best around habits which connect to the pleasure centers in our brain.

Remember when you avoided making that call and got on Facebook, instead? That felt so good! You establish that neural network as a pleasure pathway. The more you do it, the more you make it easier to resist completing responsibilities.

This is how even the most unnoticeable habits become formed. Like, turning to social media when we become bored, or becoming restless when we are stressed.

As Charles Duhigg's milestone book "The Power of Habit", revealed the best way to develop a habit is to establish a cue, routine and reward sequence:

  • Remind yourself to act with a cue or signal: Wearing your workout clothes to bed.
  • Establish a set of tasks that eventually become ingrained as a familiar routine: wake-up and go workout.
  • Reward the completion of that task to reinforce the behavior: track your weight loss to validate your success.   

Many times starting a habit isn't the hard part. Keeping it going is where we lose steam. By February, 50% of individuals making a New Years Resolution have quit.

Sabotaging Behaviors

You do great with your workout, but then you can’t resist extra treats throughout the day. Eventually, you say, “it doesn’t matter if I exercise. I just gain it back later.” We rationalize one way or another not to continue our good habits and revert to our old ways.

How can you stay on track with good habits and keep bad habits at bay?

Optimizing mental resiliency is the best way to goal-focused and positive behaviors.   

Tools for Habit

Being aware of our inner crititc and reducing our inner dialogue can help us maintain better habits. Try these mind centering techniques to stay on track for good:

  1. Be mindful: over a week, tune into your bad habits. Notice what thoughts or feelings, or responsibilities you were experiencing before pivoting to that action. Having a better understanding of what cued us to react a certain way can help us avoid future mishaps.
  2. Manage stress: Emotional arousal typically produces the need to divert to a more pleasurable pathway. Having our stress under control can help us stay on track with our goals. Breathing or meditation can be a great way to center the mind and deliver the focus you need to maintain a better perspective.
  3. Keep positive: Distract your mind from boredom and stress by maintaining a positive outlook. Those who keep a positive outlook tend to find more opportunities that allow them to stay on a productive task. Simply listing three things you are grateful for a day has proven effects on the brain.

Establishing a cue, routine, reward system can help you begin forming better habits. Most of us need a little more help to stay on track with our good behaviors. Mental resiliency techniques such as mindfulness, stress reduction and positivity can help bring awareness and relief to thoughts that cause unwanted behaviors.


Cara JacobsenComment