Many of us have bad habits we want to change, and it’s easy to do so if you have the right tools.
Someone who knows how is Dr Gina Cleo, a dietitian with a PHD in habit change. She says that to break bad habits, you need to replace them with good ones, and to do that – you need to create triggers.
“When you wake up you’re triggered to brush your teeth,” she explains. “When you sit in the car, you’re triggered to put on your seatbelt. You don’t need to remind yourself to do those things - they’re just part of your routine, part of your habits. Triggers can be time of day, or a place. If I want to take time out every hour to stretch my legs around the office, I would decide on a time that I wanted to take a break and I’d set a recurrent reminder for myself. At first, I’ll need the reminder to tell me it’s time to take a break, but the more I do it, the more automatic it will be and with consistency it becomes just as much a habit as brushing my teeth - and I won’t need that reminder anymore.”
So if your habits aren’t helping you reach your goals, take spring as the perfect opportunity to spring clean your habits. Here’s what to do when it comes to a few key areas of life that – let’s face it – we could all do a little better in.
1. If you’re overspending - become best friends with budgeting
“Start with knowing where your money is going,” says Cleo. “Look at your bank statements for the last 30 days and highlight all non-essential spending. Once you’ve identified what you can give up, it’s easier to pull back.” She also advises setting up default processes such as an automatic transfer on pay day into a savings account. Then, “focus on what you have to gain instead of what you lose.”
2. If you’re ditching a workout for the couch - exercise your consistency muscle
When it comes to our exercise and diet regime, Cleo says the mentality of ‘all or nothing’ needs to change. “A long-term approach to a healthy weight and wellbeing means consistency and not the ‘go hard or go home’ mindset,” she says. “Doing small things consistently can help us achieve our fitness goals much quicker.”
3. If your ‘quality time’ isn’t actually quality at all – mix it up
Cleo says the worst habit in relationships is too much screen time and not enough quality time. “Many people come home, cook dinner and then sit in front of the TV, without even realising the lack of communication,” says Cleo. Her advice is for couples to change their environment, by turning off the TV and going for a walk outside, for example. Soz Netflix.
4. If you’re bringing work home – be militant about your boundaries
It’s important to set boundaries between work and home so you can achieve a healthy work/life balance. “Do as much as you can in the office so your home stays your haven,” suggests Cleo. She also highlights that while downtime is important, “playtime is also very good for the soul.” Cleo advises participating in energising activities to make better use of your free time outside of 9-5. Line dancing, anyone?
This article originally appeared in the spring issue of The Suite Life.