5 Easy Ways to Change Negative Habits to Healthy Ones
Updated: Nov 6, 2018
The saying we are creatures of habit is true. Our subconscious likes predictability and hates change. It is ruled by homeostasis. We want to stay the same in just about every way possible. To top it off, humans are lazy by nature.
This comes from our primitive beginnings where we had to conserve our energy for when real danger presented itself. Since our subconscious is responsible for 90% of our motivations and behaviors it will fight us every step of the way to conserve energy. These motivations were ingrained in our early childhood and laid the framework for how we related to the world. This childhood understanding of the world created behaviors and strategies to keep us safe and comfortable. Sometimes these strategies are outdated and are not serving us now.
Since your subconscious is stubborn about change, the best approach is to take small incremental steps. Also, if we attach a new habit to an existing one, it will be much easier to make the change. There are certain things we do automatically each day. Activities like brushing our teeth, getting dressed, making coffee and going to work are part of our daily routine. I doubt anyone has gone to work in their pajamas lately. These daily habits are simply non-negotiables.
It’s safe to say that we feel uncomfortable or even odd if we leave something out that we are used to doing every day. The best way to implement a new desired habit is to attach it to something we already do automatically. The goal is to work into feeling uncomfortable if we DON’T engage in our healthy habits. People with healthy habits have an unconscious drive to engage in the behaviors that get them exactly where they want to be and you can too!
A few ways to change habits permanently and get your subconscious working with you is to:
1. Make small incremental changes and build on them. Divide your ultimate goal into small steps. Spend a few days getting used to each step. For example if you want to start walking in the morning, begin by setting your walking shoes out the night before. After a few days of putting your shoes out the night before, start putting them on in the morning when you get dressed...then take them off. After that is habit, put them on and walk outside for 5 minutes and then turn around and come home. Build from there. This may sound silly but it works. After awhile your subconscious will say this is easy! Think “I can do this and it feels good”.If you feel any resistance, back up a step until it becomes easy.
2. Say something positive like “good job!” when you complete a step or engage in your new habit. Think of what you would say to your best friend if they made a new positive change.
3. Attach the habit change to something you already do every day. For example, put your gym shoes on right after you brush your teeth. For example, when you set down your toothbrush, you immediately put your walking shoes on.
4. Make it super convenient to change your habit and completely inconvenient not to do it. For example if you want to practice an instrument, have it out and ready. If you find yourself getting distracted and watching TV instead, unplug the TV and hide the remote before you go to work and have the instrument ready and set up for when you arrive home. If you’re trying to eat healthy snacks during the day, have them with you and available. If you want to journal before you go to sleep, leave your journal on your pillow with the pen on top.
5. Remind yourself why you want to make this change. Set a timer, close your eyes and visualize for 90 seconds all the positive results you will experience from these positive changes. See yourself and feel the emotions and sense of well being associated with these healthier habits.
If you are still struggling, I can help you get your subconscious on board. If you have a block, it might be because your subconscious doesn’t want to let go of the other behavior because it perceives that the gain of keeping the bad habit is keeping you safe somehow.. Together we can strategize and find a replacement behavior that will serve you better and clear the path to lasting change.