Many of the most damaging things to our health come as a result of our behaviour. From smoking and drinking excessively, to eating the wrong types of food, sometimes it seems impossible to break free of a well-established bad habit, even when we know that it is bad for our health.
However, it is possible to change your behaviour, providing you approach it in the right way. Here’s some tips to help you.
Breaking Bad Habits
According to two researchers named Prochaska and DiClemente, there are five processes that you’ll need to go through in order to bring about a behavioural change in your life. They are:
- This is the initial stage, before you’ve even begun to consider making any changes in your life. Others may have made helpful suggestions to you and in order to progress to the next stage, you’ll need to be open to their ideas.
- This is the point where you begin to consider why you might need to change the behaviour, and it’s also the time when you’re most at risk of deciding against making the important change. It’s when you start to envisage obstacles; for example, how difficult it will be resisting a cigarette when you’re socialising, or how dreadful it will be watching others eat cake whilst you politely decline.
- Once you’ve addressed the obstacles, it’s easier to start preparing for the change. This stage is where you start taking action. You may throw out all the chocolate in your fridge or pour your beers down the sink. You start making plans about how you’re going to achieve your goal.
- It’s here where you start making the goal a reality. You might begin exercising every day or join a local dieting class. You’re now firmly focused on making the change happen.
- After you’ve succeeded, it’s then important to keep the changes up and not to slip back into bad habits. This is often considered the most challenging stage, and whether you succeed or not largely depends on your frame of mind.
Staying on Track When Breaking Bad Habits
According to Dr Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University, the good news is that humans are highly successful at changing their behaviour to achieve long-term goals. However, his studies have led him to note that ‘self-control is like a muscle. Once you’ve exerted some self-control, like a muscle, it gets tired.’
However, he suggests that the answer lies in regularly exercising self-control in order to strengthen resolve. He states that his research team have ‘found that you can improve your self-control by doing exercises over time. Any regular act of self-control will gradually exercise your ‘muscle’ and make you stronger.’