Habit Change in 3 Easy(-ish) Steps

Habit Change in 3 Easy(-ish) Steps

Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.

Charles Duhigg

Resolution or not, there’s probably something you’re hoping to change in your life.

Chances are, it’s something you’ve been meaning to change for awhile.

But it’s become a habit.

A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

(Sound familiar?)

So, like most people, you just… haven’t given it up yet.

But, before you start feeling guilty about that (again), take heart:

Changing your habits is less complicated than you might think.

Read on for 3 easy(-ish) steps to habit change:

1) Prepare.

First, honestly assess your readiness for change.

Often a habit goes unchanged because we haven’t made the choice to change (or we’ve tried and struggled to maintain the change).

But other times, a habit goes unchanged because we don’t actually want it to change.

So, whatever the habit is, check in with yourself and be honest: Are you ready to give this up and leave space for something new?

Next, get clear on your “why”.

Ask yourself: Why do I want to make this change? How will my life be different when I do?

Finally, assemble any resources or materials you might need.

Is there any information you need before you make this change?

Do you need to enlist anyone’s help?

If you’ll be tracking your thoughts and/or behaviors (this is helpful in almost every type of habit change), how will you track your progress? Will you be tracking in a notepad or calendar? Or tracking in an app on your phone?

2) Pick your method.

Whatever habit you’re trying to change, you have a range of approaches to choose from. Consider which will work best for you and the specific change you’re looking to make:

The “cold turkey” method

This is what most of us picture when we consider any sort of habit change.

If the thought of giving up your habit all at once sounds too daunting, don’t sweat it! Choose another method that works better for you.

But for some of us, going “cold turkey” can have a liberating, energizing effect. And it can take whatever form works best for you.

For example:

  • Declaring your home a swearing-free zone
  • Giving up soda/pop/soft drinks
  • Quitting smoking

TIP: Several free apps enable you to customize your habits for tracking. If you decide to use the “cold turkey” method, some of them (e.g., NOMO) will create a clock that logs how long you’ve been free of the habit, and will even reward your progress along the way.

The slow-and-steady method

For the more gradually-inclined, this approach allows your brain time to adjust to whatever change you’re making.

The amount of time you give yourself doesn’t much matter. And you can always change up the pace if the change feels too aggressive (or not aggressive enough!) for you.

For example:

  • Reducing your fast food intake by 1 meal a day/week/month
  • Shutting off “screen time” 5 minutes earlier each night/week
  • Unfollowing 1 negative social media account per day/week

The “crowd out vs. cut out” method

Often overlooked and underused, this method can be especially powerful.

In this method, you shift your focus from the habit you want to break, and focus instead on adding in one or more new (often related) habits that you hope to pick up instead.

The result is that old habits are often replaced over time with new habits… purely because there’s only room in your life for so much!

For example:

  • To help break a nighttime TV habit, begin by adding in 1 hour of reading at night
  • To help break a fast food habit, begin by adding in 1 home-cooked meal a week
  • To help break a habit of complaining, begin by adding in a list of 3 things you’re grateful for each morning/night 

BONUS: Stick with this approach, and you may even stumble upon what experts call a “keystone habit”. These are habits that tend to boost our chances of adopting even more positive habits! For instance, by building a habit of drinking more water every day (TIP: you can use an app like PlantNanny or iDrated to help you get started), you may be more likely to incorporate physical activity and home-cooked meals into your routine, as well!

3) Re-evaluate and revise.

Once you’ve made the change, the key is to be as consistent as you can.

After a few weeks, pause to reflect on how it’s going. Is there anything else you can do to ramp up your efforts? Do you need to switch to a slightly different approach?

If you find you need to change things up along the way, don’t be too hard on yourself. That’s normal! Instead, switch gears and take the next step.

You’ll be a creature of (totally new) habit before you know it!

Enjoy this post? You might also like:

Mindful Goal-Setting
Spring Cleaning for Your Emotional Wellness
Unplug Your Way to Emotional Wellness

Need some help with habit change in your life?