You notice it while you're out at happy hour with a friend: "It's literally the best job ever. Quite literally, I love this french fry. Like, literally, I cannot stand the color green". It's all literally driving you bonkers, and it's almost enough to make you call it a night and go home early.
But it also makes you hyper aware of your own speech patterns—and oh no!— you have your own lexical version of your friend's "literally" addiction. Or maybe you notice that you're consistently hitting the snooze and skipping your morning workout, and how easy it's become to make a sarcastic comment instead of listening patiently when you and your significant other argue. It's time for a little "bad habits, be gone" action. Here's how to make sure it sticks.
Enroll your friends
It’s way more difficult to order that glass of wine if you just told your best friend you’re detoxing for the next month. With the overwhelming amount of social media literally at our fingertips—hi, smartphone!—its easy to enroll your friends in holding you accountable to your goals. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter splash your news all over your friends’ feeds. They’ll ask you questions, support your choices—and who knows, they might even join you.
Raise the stakes
Ah, is there anything more motivating than the fear of wasting money? That’s why fining yourself every time you slip back into your bad habits is such a persuasive way to change your patterns. But… you can’t just pay yourself. Make a deal with a friend or your bae that you’ll pony up whenever you execute your bad habit. The physical act of paying someone else your hard earned cash is enough to make you stop and reconsider your actions.
This is the transverse, and therefore WAY more fun, version of fining yourself for slipping up. Reward yourself when you stick to your new, better habits. Treating yourself doesn’t necessarily mean spending $500 on a shopping spree when you go a week without biting your nails—let the reward match the action.
If you’ve successfully gone one month without eating sugar, your skin is probably looking clearer and younger than it was before; try out a new moisturizer or even go get a facial. You’re trying to work out five times a week? Take Saturday morning to yourself and luxuriate in the act of sleeping in. If you’re trying to make more healthy choices, buy that special ingredient that costs a little more but tastes incredible over veggies (our picks: celtic salt, coconut aminos, and garlic infused olive oil). Use these little rewards to keep you excited and motivated to change your habits for good.
Set a new habit instead
This is a great trick if you have a habitual routine at work or at home that you’re trying to change. Let’s say that you’re tying to break the cycle of coming home from work and immediately throwing yourself on the couch to watch TV—instead, you could commit yourself to the routine of coming home and starting to cook immediately after work. Even if you’re not hungry, do it anyway; you can always save your meal for later. Or maybe you schedule yourself for a workout with a friend right after work every day—really pick anything that will keep you from repeating the cycle of actions that you’re used to.
Eliminate excessive decision making
As a society, it’s easy for us to suffer from decision fatigue—think about how many decisions you’ve got to make on a daily basis when it comes to your job and your social life. It makes sense that we fall into routines and patterns that don’t necessarily reflect best health choices, because by the time you get home from a long day of work you pretty much just want to choose the path of least resistance.
Make it easier to choose to step out of your bad habits by eliminating the option of choice in some areas of your life; maybe clear our your closet and stick to more of a fashion uniform (which is super chic, these days), or try eating the same thing everyday for lunch, or even drive the same way to work everyday. They're small changes, but can make a world of difference if anxiety and decision fatigue are issues. You’ll feel less overwhelmed by choice, and you can possibly save your brain power to make those positive changes you desire.
Breaking your bad habits can seem like a daunting task at first, but it's not about completely overhauling everything in your life–it's more about creating smaller, easier changes that will have longer staying power.
Illustration by Karley Koenig