Why Are Bad Habits So Hard To Break?

And how can we fix them?

“If life is what we repeatedly do, our habits are worth paying attention to.”


I picked up Real Simple magazine’s *Special Edition* of Finding Good Habits yesterday at Whole Foods, and it is filled to the brim with simple keys to being happier + healthier + more fulfilled. Highly recommend picking up a copy.

And, their advice goes far beyond the hummdy drum of waking up early + getting a run in + eating a healthy lunch + journaling. Snore. It touts capital “S” Specific ways to change our way of thinking so we can replace our bad habits with good ones — for good.

On “Breaking” A Bad Habit

Firstly, you don’t break a bad habit. You change it.

Our brains create habits anytime there’s a cue and a reward — for better or for worse.

For example, an episode of Selling Sunset is over, so we grab a snack. Not because we’re hungry, but because we’ve conditioned ourselves to go to the pantry during 5-second lulls in-between episodes.

In order to “break” this bad habit — aka change it — as soon as we see the credits begin to roll, we grab the dog and take him for a 15-minute walk instead.

Adopting these small but mighty changes (consistently!) will put your brain on a new and improved autopilot, that in turn, will lead to a significantly improved wellbeing.

Reframing The Way We Think

Wanna hear something wild?

“A large portion of our happiness is under our control.” -Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California.

I really love this because how often do we blame our boss, our roommate, our kids, the neighborhood we live in, the clothes in our closet, etc. for not exceeding our happiness expectations?

Often. So knowing — and furthermore, understanding — that WE hold the keys to our own happiness is paramount in feeling satisfied with and excited about life.

Sonja advises to not think of lull time (being on hold with the doctor or waiting in line at Starbucks) as needing to fill something, but to view it as bonus Me Time. Meditating or writing down your grocery list, say, feels so much better than the anxiety-inducing (and seriously unnecessary) mindless Instagram scroll.

“The hallmark of being a happy person is to experience daily bursts of positive emotion, so anything you can do to increase the frequency of these boosts will contribute to overall happiness,” according to positive psychology research.

Tips from the experts? Savor the little things each day — how great your hair smells, how delicious your coffee tastes, how mood-boosting a song is. Get into the habit of doing this daily to rid wasteful, mood-killing negativity.

Conclusion

Replace bad habits (mindless scrolling) with good ones (going for a 10-minute walk).

Effort matters. And over time, that effort becomes effortless.

My take? Feeling good is always worth the effort. No matter if it’s waking up at 5:30 am 4x per week to go running or connecting with your therapist once a month to better understand your insecure behavioral patterns — if it makes you a happier, more fulfilled person, that hootenanny is worth it!

One more thing…

An important thing to wrap your head around is that the 21-day habit forming concept is kind of old news.

Number 1, it is highly dependent upon the habit itself (the bigger the change, the longer it will take to change — like getting used to living in a new city or adapting to your new “mom of 2” life).

And Number 2, recent studies have shown that it takes the average person 66 days to form a good habit.

This shouldn’t scare us or deter us from forming healthy habits. Just know it is a process, and just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it can’t be done. You simply have to stick with it.

Your health, your body, your mind, your relationships and your community will thank you for it.


Thank you for reading today. Good luck mastering your feel-good habits, and let me know how it’s going.

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Be you.

XOXO,

Ashley