Last Updated on May 12, 2017 by Marie Bautista
So you’ve tried (and tried again) to get to bed at a decent hour…or stop biting your nails…or quit losing your keys – but without any luck. Don’t give up! Read on for the secrets to changing any self-sabotaging behavior, and your life. When I got pregnant a few years ago, I decided to ditch my caffeine habit. Too much coffee wasn’t good for me, my baby or my wallet. (Plus, I don’t want my daughter’s first words to be, “Double-espresso grande mocha, please”). For a few days, I endured headaches and intense cravings – truthfully, I wasn’t sure if I could stick it out. But guess what? After one miserable cold-turkey week, the side effects had subsided, and not long after, so did the desire for caffeine. Yes, I felt better physically. And on top of it, my ego was virtually shouting, “Hey, look at me! I did it!” I felt more confident and in control than I had in ages And my success at going decaf seeped into other parts of my life. In the following months, I found the motivation to organize the piles of junk on my desk, curb my tendency to arrive everywhere ten minutes late, and stop biting my nails. In short, conquering my caffeine dependence showed me how many other positive changes were possible, too. Okay, you say, coffee is one thing – but what about super-size bad habits, like smoking a stick a day or procrastinating like crazy? Even if you feel like you’re hardwired to think and act in a certain way, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck for life. Any habit can be changed – and some in three to five weeks. Seriously. The trick is to keep trying, and focusing on your successes rather than your failures. Because slipping up sure does happen. It is part of the process. Your best plan of action is to focus on a single habit. Because you can’t attempt to completely overhaul yourself in one go. Here are some of your frustrating habits and how to get rid of them:
We live in a society of instant gratification. We get annoyed if it takes 30 seconds to download from the internet or if we’re on hold for more than a minute when we call our credit card company. Impatience may feel like standard operating procedure to you, but that doesn’t make it a good thing. Fact is nonstop agitation can weak havoc in your life in the form of high blood pressure, digestive problems, and a perpetual feeling of dissatisfaction. Freeing yourself from that constant sense of urgency – and experiencing true calm – can be an amazing, liberating feeling. Seeing the big picture is often the most effective way to chill. Have you noticed that whenever you are in a hurry, that is when the lines at the grocery store are the longest? If this happens, I constantly remind myself – although it is pretty hard, I admit – that I’m just one tiny speck in the universe. If I’m five minutes late, the world will not come to an end. You can also think of the waiting time as a mental mini-vacation from your crazy day. Or try to look at the frustrating situation as a gift. If I get stuck behind a slow driver when I am in a hurry, I tell myself that my guardian angel is putting someone in my path deliberately, to slow me down and prevent me from getting into an accident.
For years, I chewed my nails to the quick. My fingertips ached, and I couldn’t even open a flip-top lid on a can of soda. Nail-biting was incredibly tough to kick because my hands were always there in front of me, tempting me. I have a friend who is also a long-life nail biter. she hated her nails and attempted to quit, but always fell back on biting when she felt stressed. Then one day, she had a brainstorm. She tried acrylic tips, and had no desire to gnaw on the fake nails. Plus, she loved the look. The habit of not biting on her nails because of the fake nails stuck, and now, she does not bite her nails and they look hot, for once. Aside from acrylic tips, you can also try mental tricks to keep your fingers out of your mouth. An upcoming event, like a wedding or a work presentation where your hands will be on display can be a great motivator. Ask yourself if this is the image you want to present to the world – nervous, immature, compulsive. You can also focus on the eww factor: Remind yourself how germy hands can be.
3. Always losing things.
I probably spend hours a week searching for lost items – from kids’ homework papers to my favorite pen. This frantic digging around is a waste of energy and a drain on my mind and spirit. Sorting items down without thinking is the culprit. If it doesn’t have a permanent home, make one. I used to get frustrated looking for my car keys. Finally, I put a key hook next to my door. Problem solved. And if you still can’t find your stuff? Repeat to yourself while holding your keys: Don’t put them down. Put them away. Say it out loud if you need to. A few weeks of repetition will train you. During that time, don’t beat yourself up. If you are always saying, “I am so disorganized, I always lose things”, you are setting yourself up for failure. Once you get a handle on those keys, you will be more likely to create a place for other items, too – and gain that satisfying feeling of being in control of your life.
People judge us by what comes out of our mouth – and if every other word starts with “fu_” or “sh_” you won’t be respected at work or at home. When I had kids, I had to clean up my language. I didn’t want them repeating expletives that might fly out of my mouth in traffic. If you don;t have kids, try to act as if you have a small child with you – your own or someone else’s – wherever you are. This mental technique helps you watch your mouth: You wouldn’t curse in front of a toddler, would you?
5. sleeping late.
It is a vicious cycle. You stay up way too late zoning out in front of the TV, then keep hitting the snooze button the next morning. The trouble here is that you are not really enjoying any part of it. No matter how exciting that tele-serye is, TV probably isn’t making you happier or more fulfilled, and the frenzy you feel the next morning is a known tension-inducer. You might be watching TV as an escape from a difficult situation, or because you’re depressed or overstressed. But staring into your TV won’t help with these predicaments. To turn in on time, how about thinking of something positive you want to accomplish in the morning? It can be work-related or fun, like running with your best friend. And how about moving your TV out of your bedroom?
Here it is, the king of all bad habits. The longer you put off some work project, the more dreaded the task becomes, and the more your stress builds. Yet, we all do it. Procrastinating is especially big among perfectionists. They feel they don’t have the time or ability to do projects perfectly, so they delay doing them. The solution? Break big, scary tasks into manageable ones. If you’re writing research and are putting it off, take 15 minutes to gather materials. Do another 15 minutes tomorrow, organizing paperwork. Keep up the 15-minute chunks and you will get the job done. If you repeatedly procrastinate around a certain task or issue, figure out why. Maybe, you need to switch careers. Or maybe, the task is something you simply need to give up. Ask yourself what difference this part of your life will make to you in five years. Then, let yourself drop it. You may feel bad for a few days for “shirking” the responsibility, but stack that feeling up against the countless hours of guilt you’ve felt for procrastinating on that task, and there is no contest. Losing the guilt will free up your energy to focus on ditching other damaging habits, as well as developing a few healthier and more pleasurable ones, and that all adds up to a fuller, richer life.