As a mom, you want to be your best mama self so you can take care of others and set an example for those you love. Your habits play a significant role in both the example you set and the person you strive to be.
When you consider the habits that make up your every day, you might recognize habits that are healthy and others that are counterproductive… or even bad. Whether you want to be a better version of yourself or set the best possible example for your family, understanding the answers to these questions will help identify the best way to tackle those bad habits:
- What makes a bad habit?
- How are bad habits formed?
- What are common bad habits?
- Why is breaking bad habits so hard?
- How long does it take to break a bad habit?
- How do you break a bad habit?
Today, I’m talking all things habits because we all have them. Whether good or bad, there is no shortage of information about how to understand, manage and even kick (bad) habits. This is your one-stop-shop for understanding what makes a bad habit, what common bad habits are and the age-old questions of how to break a bad habit and how long it takes.
Set yourself up for success in 2020. It’s the start of a new decade and is sure to be the best one yet with an understanding of the what, why, how and when of habits.
What makes a bad habit?
A bad habit is only bad in excessive, when the behavior detracts from something else you want to focus your time and attention on, or something that stops you from achieving a specific goal.
Bad habits are those that are unhealthy or a poor use of our time, but we just can’t stop. The question of what makes a habit bad is a personal one. Because what is bad for me, might not be a problem for you. I can’t stress this point enough.
The key to identifying you bad habits is to first identify your top values or priorities.
When you have an awareness of your values or priorities, you can identify what is detracting from them… those are your bad habits. Like many, I struggle with balance. I spend too much time on my phone and it’s far from a productive use of time, but it’s still hard to break that habit.
I love my work. It energizes me and I want to keep going. I also love my family and want to prioritize quality time with them. These struggles are real… for all moms. Awareness is the first step.
How bad habits are formed?
All habits are formed in the same way. It’s about repetition… repeatedly doing something in the same way. But there is more to it than that. In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg outlines what makes a habit:
- Cue – the trigger that initiates an automatic response
- Routine – the automatic response, which can manifest physically, mentally or emotionally
- Reward – the end result of the automatic response that determines if the habit continues… the reward for your action
Every habit follows this same cycle. Habits only become bad when they are unproductive and unhealthy.
What are common bad habits?
All habits are personal. What might be a bad habit for one, is not for another. When it comes to mom life, here are some common bad habits and I’m sure many of us can relate.
- Giving your attention to your phone when your child is talking. Ugh… I’m just as guilty of this as the next person, but I try to be conscious of the time I spend on my phone and truly compartmentalize my time so I can be more focused in the moment.
Note: I find it really helpful to use the Screen Time app on my phone that tracks my usage and gives me a notification each week to let me know if my average was up or down from the last week.
- Going to sleep too late. I’m a night owl and I often stay up later than I should or mean to. One of the main reasons I’m up late? Social media. Well, that and trying to make up for some “me time”. (I’m sure you can relate.)
Lately, I’ve found that a relaxing tea, some melatonin, ear plugs, and a guided meditation at bedtime will knock me right out. But, just like all habits, I have to make the conscious decision to choose those activities over scrolling social media, and sometimes the latter wins.
- Not upholding boundaries. Remember when you said there was going to be a consequence if your child didn’t get their shoes on RIGHT NOW… and then 5 minutes later you’re putting them on for them? We have all been there.
Following through is key when setting boundaries with your kids or in other areas of your life when it comes to your mental health and well-being.
Upholding boundaries or letting another “important rush project” fall into your lap at work are all a part of creating a habit. If you’re used to putting in extra hours as work, chances are there are some new habits that can be formed to create a healthier work/life balance.
- Not making time for what matters most. We’re all busy and sometimes in a bit of a rush. Whether in a hurry to get out the door or to get the kids in bed, it’s important to make it a habit to be intentional about the activities that matter, even if you are tight on time.
Scheduling in time each day to be mindful is a great way to help build your “present moment” muscle and create more awareness for what is happening around you right now. Even a quick 5 minutes a day is a helpful habit to check in on what matters most in that moment.
If some or all of these sounded way too familiar for you, trust me, you’re not alone. We all fall victim to a bad habit once in a while, but the good news is we can all overcome them with a little determination and motivation.
Why is breaking a bad habit so hard?
Habits are hard to break, especially bad habits. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone. And like me, I’m sure you’ve struggled to ditch bad habits in the past. But you might be wondering why habits are so hard to change. It’s really a question of science.
As I noted above, Duhigg talks about habits as a cycle of cue, routine and reward. The key part of this is that the process of executing a habit, from the initial trigger to the desired reward or outcome is an automated process. It is something you are conditioned to do with little to no thought. There is no need for intention. Your body and mind have been trained to follow through.
And this is why breaking a bad habit it so hard.
To break a bad habit, you must have an awareness of what triggers that bad habit and what your desired reward is. It’s about understanding. From there, you can work to reprogram the habit in a healthier way.
How long does it take to break a bad habit?
Like many things on the internet, you can find a variety of answers to the question of how long it takes to break a bad habit. From three weeks to 90 days, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The key is consistency. Every person is different so this is also a personal question, as what works for one will not work for another.
The key is to get started. From there, you must be consistent. This might mean 21 days or 45 days or 90 days. Consistency and intention will help create a new routine, but breaking a bad habit requires an active commitment to change.
How to break a bad habit?
There truly is no right way to break a bad habit, but there are suggestions to help you identify the issue and make a change. They say you can never truly break a habit, so instead focus on changing the bad habit for the better. According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, “you don’t eliminate a bad habit, you replace it.”
During my training at Mayo Clinic, one of the first concepts studied was how eliminating a habit is painfully more difficult to do than creating an alternative behavior. Elimination is perceived as deprivation, in which our will power only has the ability to manage up to a certain point.
Next Step: Create a plan
The first step in pursuing anything is to plan. If you want to know how to break bad habits, you must have a plan and that plan includes answers to the following:
- What habits do you want to change?
- What are the cues or triggers that initiate this habit?
- Can you eliminate any of the triggers?
Once you have a plan, you must set yourself up for success. That might be eliminating temptation from the home, creating a system of support and a focus on the desired state of being. The more steps you take to move in your desired direction, the more likely you are to succeed. It’s about creating accountability both internally and externally.
The new year is often a time for change. It provides the jump start many need to start or change. Whether you want to chase a big dream, drop a few pounds or just set a positive example, your habits play a significant role in your success. As you plan and prepare, remember that little eyes are always watching and learning. If you have a bad habit you want to break, take action. If you want to create a consistent exercise routine (a healthy habit), find a friend and commit together.
Resources to help you get started
Given the role habits play in our lives, you might also want to learn more. Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit is a great resource for understanding the science behind habits. From how they work to the role of willpower and whether or not it can run out, this is a quick read and something I find myself referencing often. James Clear’s Atomic Habits is full of tactical advice.
If you want to work on putting some of these ideas into action right away, schedule a 15-minute free-consultation to talk about how weekly coaching sessions are a great way to be held accountable for staying on track with creating new habits. Whether it’s finding time to focus on yourself once a week or you want to start eating healthier and moving your body more, wellness coaching is a personalized way to achieve these goals.
Now that you understand habits and how they work, do you want to take massive action for the better? This is your guide to transforming the bad habits you have and incorporating new, healthy habits into your life. Cheers to making 2020 the best and healthiest decade yet!