Do you ever find yourself standing at the refrigerator when you’re not hungry? Do you chew your nails when you are stressed? Or perhaps stay up late watching TV instead of getting those much needed hours of sleep?

We all fall in to the trap of what we might call “bad” habits. Habits by definition are the things we are so used to that they become our default, even when we know better. Unhealthy habits might well be a less judgmental and better term for these actions that we take that most likely have negative impact on our health and wellbeing. We owe it to ourselves to make a change and find a new behaviour that improves our wellbeing.

Now, the trick is to stop justifying our poor choices and rewrite the script so we default to where we want to be.

Her are our 10 top tips for changing unhealthy habits in your life.

  1. Notice what you are doing

Often habits are unconscious. How often have you found yourself standing in front of the fridge reaching for the chocolate bar before you even realise it. Our habits become automatic. So we need to bring these actions into our conscious awareness and really notice what we are doing in order to make a change.

  1. Ask yourself what function does this habit serve?

As humans we do not do things for no reason. When you eat a piece of cake you get something from it. Perhaps it is reducing hunger or maybe it makes you feel good or gives you a sugar rush or something else. When we understand the reason behind our habit we are better armed to go ahead and change it.

  1. Ask, Why does changing this habit matter to me?

Often when people try to change a habit they do so for a short time and then go back to their old ways. In order to ensure long term success, we need to know why changing the habit matters. Is it because you want to improve your health? Is it to improve your mood? What will be the long-term gains from changing a habit? Once you know this reason, make a note of it and keep reflecting on it. It will become your compass through this journey.

  1. Set Reasonable goals

Changing habits is not always easy and sometimes we can be over zealous in trying to do so. To be successful you need to set goals that are manageable. For instance, instead of saying I will not eat sugar ever again. Perhaps your initial goal would be to reduce your sugar intake by half. Over time, you could increase this goal until you have completely eliminated sugar from your diet.

  1. Build in some accountability

We are more likely to be successful when we have a way of being accountable for our actions. Simply telling a friend about your plans and your goals and reporting back to them can be enough. Find a way to include a sense of accountability into your plan.

  1. Monitor change

Change is not always fast or obvious. If your goal was to reduce the amount of TV you watched and you went from 10 hours down to 9 hours you may easily dismiss this change as a failure. But any movement in the direction of your goal is important. So having a way to measure this change over time can be important in encouraging you to keep going.

  1. Slip ups are ok

Changing habits is never simple or easy, and as such slip ups are expected. In fact they are almost necessary for long lasting change. Slip ups can help us to reach our end goal by identifying where we went wrong and putting plans in place to prevent it in the future. Don’t be put off by a slip up, just notice it, redefine your goals and your reasons for change and keep going.

  1. Reward yourself

Setting yourself a reward for changing habits might help give you the motivation to keep going when times get tough. Take some time to think about how you might like to reward yourself for achieving your goal.

  1. Allow time

Most research suggests we need a minimum of 4 weeks to change a habit. So be sure to allow yourself the time and space you need to create those healthier actions in your life.

  1. Seek help when needed

Not all habits are easy to change by yourself. Some habits have been a part of life for a long, long time. If you are finding it hard to understand the function of your habits or if you keep slipping up over and over again, seek help from a Psychologist.

By breaking down the change process in this way and following our 10 tips for success you will find yourself on the path to healthy habits in no time.

Kellie Cassidy

Dr. Kellie Cassidy is an experienced Clinical Psychologist who works with children, adolescents and adults on a wide range of presenting problems. Kellie strives to assist her clients to improve their wellbeing and reach their goals through evidence based and clinically proven therapies.