How to change your habits

What are habits?

Habits can be defined as routines of behaviours that are repeated regularly and tend to occur subconsciously – that is, we are not usually aware of them. It is that time of the year in the Cayman Islands when everyone is making New Year’s resolutions to change bad habits or to start new, good ones. Remember, habits may be difficult to change but they are not impossible to overcome.

How long will it take it change a behaviour into a habit?

If you search for the answer online, you will find several different sites and articles with a range between 21 and 28 days, but there is no solid evidence for this number at all. Psychological research recently published in the European Journal of Social Psychology reveals that when we want to develop a relatively simple habit like eating a piece of fruit each day or taking a 10 minute walk, it could take us over two months of daily repetitions before the behaviour becomes a habit.

How to start new habits

What is your motivation? Before starting a habit change, think through your motivations. Why are you doing this? What will keep you going? For example, if you are giving up smoking, your motivation may be your health, or the social pressure. Public commitment is a big motivator; tell the world about it. Seriously! Put it on your online blog, tell your family, friends, co-workers, the dry cleaner, the more people the better. You should have internal motivators too. Write these down in your plan.

Anticipate your obstacles. If you have failed before, think about what obstacle stopped you and how you will manage that situation again – plan for the pitfalls.

One at a time. It is possible to change more than one habit at a time, but you will be more successful if you try to change only one habit at a time. Focus your energy to that one habit change, and knock ‘em down one at a time.

Write it down. You have to write down your goal. Write a start date and an end date. Write down exactly what you’re going to do. Write down how you’re going to be accountable, what your rewards are, what the obstacles are, what your triggers are.

Commit, find support and have accountability. Think of who you can turn to when you need encouragement and who will hold you accountable. Have more than one supporter, maybe your mother, your sister, your best friend, co-workers, or your boss. Best yet, join a support group or an online forum full of people doing the same thing. Make the commitment to them, and ask for their help when you hit rough spots.

Know your triggers. Every habit has at least one trigger — an event that immediately precedes the habit, and some habits have more than one trigger. Try and find out what the triggers are for the habit you are trying to break, then create a positive habit to replace the negative for each of the triggers. For example, drinking an alcoholic beverage can trigger cigarette smoking. Try to avoid alcohol when you are trying to quit smoking and instead have a non-alcoholic drink or go for a walk.

Finally…don’t QUIT! If you do miss once, or twice, or three times, it’s OK; don’t give up. Just figure out why you missed, and plan to beat that obstacle next time. Then be as consistent as possible from then on out, until the habit is ingrained. “Failure is not about failing but when you stop trying.” (Anonymous).

If there is a habit you would 
like to adopt or change, the counsellors at EAP can help. 
To arrange a confidential 
appointment please 
contact us at 
(345) 949-9559 or [email protected]