Healthy behavior changes, Why so hard?
Hello readers, today will begin a series of what I like to call Mindful Health Moments, where I will choose a question in regards to wellness, health, nutrition, or exercise that I hope inspires you to not only use the question as a stepping stone to reflect AND make movement with your own health, but to also respond in the comments or my twitter page and let me know your thoughts to today’s question about habits. I would love to hear from you.
So with that being said, today’s question is:
(NEED) (WANT) TO CHANGE MY HABITS, BUT….”
Habits. We all have them both good and bad. The basic habits help us to get up at a certain time, complete our morning routine, pack a lunch, and get to the gym after work. The reward in turn is getting to work on time, having minty fresh breath, a healthy lunch packed, and an Instagram worthy body.
On the other hand a cigarette after lunch, a devoured family size bag of potato chips while watching American Ninja Warrior, and buying an expensive outfit on an already stretched to the limit credit card can leave us with smoking related health problems, nutrient deficiencies from improper eating, and scrambling to pay a credit card bill we already knew we couldn’t afford.
Yet, just as we do the good habits repeatedly, we also do the bad habits repeatedly.
And more often than not, we repeat the bad ones MORE.
In our first Mindful Health Moment, we will discuss:
- What is a ‘Bad’ habit
- What starts a bad habit?
- Effects of Bad Habits
- Why the behavior repeats
- How to break the behavior loop
WHAT IS A ‘BAD’ HABIT ANYWAY?
The definition of a bad habit as defined by Free Dictionary as: A negative behavior pattern regarded as detrimental to one’s physical or mental health, which is often linked to a lack of self-control.
I will even go two more and say a bad habit can also wreck your financial ‘health’ as well as your everyday growth process.
WHAT STARTS A BAD HABIT?
There is a certain level of comfort when you engage in a bad habit.
Comfort because you have become accustomed to it; there is reward (albeit temporary one) for that midnight run to grab a bacon cheeseburger: flavor.
Or that euphoric feeling from taking a prescribed pain medication: Dopamine. Or that $100 you flipped into $300 at Café Casino.
Once the source of the comfort/pleasure is gone, you can be left with regret, shame, or possibly the start of an addiction.
HOW DO BAD HABITS AFFECT YOUR HEALTH?
Mental stagnation = No new growth. When you continuously seek the need to satisfy your habit, you block yourself from growing as a person.
Physical ailments = Obesity and joint pain from overeating foods with no nutritional density, liver failure from alcohol abuse. Memory, Hair, and teeth loss from recreational drug use, STD’s and unplanned pregnancies from sex addiction and of course disease.
Emotional instability = Inability to not see the way out of Bad relationships – not just human relationships but also abstract relationships such as gambling or compulsive shopping
WHY DO WE REPEAT THE BEHAVIOR?
Here’s the thing, we all know about the repercussions of bad habits.
But most of us Don’t. Care.
Death/illness really aren’t motivators to stop..(There’s a joke in that statement somewhere.)
So what are some of the reason we continue bad habits?
PUTTING THE BAD HABITS ON REPEAT…
PEER PRESSURE & ‘SOCIETAL PERMISSION GIVERS’
We live in a world of gotta. have. it. now., Gotta upgrade now, Deliver this to me in less than 2 hours. NOW. To top it off we have constant permission givers such as
‘Low Financing’, ‘Treat Yo Self’, ‘It’s Ok,You Don’t Eat It All The Time,’ and one of my favorites:
We all have a little bit of petulant child in us. That thing that says to the health professional, spouse, or caring friend: “You can’t tell me what to do.”
Think how often you thought about “When I get my own place I am going to decorate how I want, go to sleep when I’m ready, and buy whatever food I want.”
Ironically, that same independent line of thinking caused some of us to become dependent (on meds for sleep & lifestyle diseases) caused by that slip into bad habits.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. When you have deadlines, family obligations, school obligations, health concerns, financial issues, It’s easy to slip into a bad habit that you don’t have to think about.
This especially goes for eating habits under stress. A quick trip through the Drive-Thru is one less thing to worry about.
THE COMFORT ZONE
“I love food too much” “That’s too hard” “It costs too much money to eat healthy.” “My knee/back/feet won’t let me do that exercise.” Some call those lazy statements.
Nope. I don’t subscribe to that line of thought. And neither should you None of us were born lazy.
There is something beyond those statements that is the REAL reason for inaction. More on that in a minute.
IS IT HARD TO BREAK BAD BEHAVIORS? REALLY?
Everything has an underlying reason.
Bad Habits don’t just spring from nowhere. They begin from a real place of something that has not been addressed and the habit takes up the space for having to confront it.
It’s easier that way.
But just as you are able to develop good habits you can also undo bad ones and replace them one by one but you have to be willing to take the first step, then the next then the next.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO STOP THE HABIT LOOP?
It is probably the rare health professional that has not been taught or have never heard about the Stages Of Behavior Change aka 5 actionable steps theory. When I had to study it I found it a little boring.
Mainly because many people never make it pas the Contemplation stage. They don’t have a reason to. Sure incentives like money or prizes work sometimes but only for a while before going back to Contemplation. The focus in using this theory (at least for my class.) was figuring out the “Why”.
Most people already know why, but WHAT is it really that keep you from moving forward ?
This is not to say that the theory doesn’t have its merits though.
Just looking at the chart can allow you to assess where you are so you can start your game plan of success.
Unless you are in pre-contemplation of course 😉
WHAT TO DO NEXT
You have made it this far! Yay!
So to recap: My question to you was “Why Do We Repeat Harmful Health Habits?” And throughout the post we looked into why we stay on the self sabotage loop.
But I don’t want that for you. Or myself for that matter.
So here’s what I would like you to do with the post. A little homework:
Take a moment to think about your personal bad habits in regards to your health that you would like to overcome.
What real or imagined fears have you not uncovered and how is that affecting your goal progress?
When you procrastinate on a goal, take a deeper look at why. Is it fear of success? Failure? Or is truthfully just not a priority?
Alcohol/Recreational & Medical drug abuse Is it a form of Escapism? Why?
Junk food and lack of exercise: Have you tried in the past and failed? Have a non supportive spouse or family member?
Once you find the underlying reason for the inaction, please take out a piece of paper and write down
what your preparation plan is towards resolving ONE bad habit.
Some of you may jump right into the Action plan. But if you haven’t thoroughly thought out the preparation, it’s that much easier to fail and allow frustration to kick in again.
Baby steps ok? Baby steps.
I would like to hear how this post was helpful to you and I would also love to see what your action plan is.
I appreciate you for taking the time to read my little corner of the web.