By - July 1, 2018

Breaking bad habits

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In the popular television series Breaking Bad, Walter White made some extreme life changes when his health became an issue. For those of us who simply have a few bad habits to break, becoming a criminal mastermind would be like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer (plus, illegal). So, what’s a person to do?

Your chemical romance
Habits are formed two ways. One is by doing the same thing over and over like driving the same route to work every day. The other way is through actions that trigger the release of a chemical in your brain. The pleasure we get from that chemical release is what makes certain habits — everything from shopping too much or biting your nails to smoking or overeating — so very, very hard to break. We may know our habit is bad for us, but those cravings kick in. Then, the more we do something, the harder it is to stop — even when the habit starts affecting our health and well-being.

Take a hint, yo!
Our brains also are capable of helping us break bad habits with good ones. And while there’s no easy solution that works for everyone, we can do some things to take our cravings off auto-pilot.

  • Trigger happy. Triggers often fall into five categories: emotional state, time, location, other people and what happens immediately before the habit is indulged. Identify your triggers so you can take steps to reduce or remove their influence.
  • Small-scale operation. Start with small, achievable goals. Then, when that goal becomes your new habit, set another one. Keep setting small goals until your bad habits are gone for good!
  • Switch to the good stuff. Starting a new habit can be easier than focusing on quitting a bad habit. The key is finding something else you like doing so you don’t feel like you’re punishing yourself. Make a list of things you enjoy or think you might have fun doing, and then try doing those when you would normally indulge in the bad habit.

Walt this way
In the show, Walt wasn’t a role model for a healthful lifestyle — or, well, any lifestyle, really — but you can take a cue from his self-confidence when trying to break bad habits. Planning, mental preparation and being willing to overcome setbacks are all part of the habit-breaking process.

So, put your hat on, and face your bad habits like they’re trying to take you down. Because in reality, they might be. And you need to defeat them. Be the one who knocks on your habits’ doors.

Sources: health.harvard.edu, newsinhealth.nih.gov, nytimes.com, webmd.com
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