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Breaking Bad Habits

Want to quit overeating, smoking, drinking, gambling or spending too much or other bad habits? Unfortunately, just “saying no” doesn’t quit do it. Unlearning a habit that you’ve been practicing for 10-20 years demands effort. Habits are behaviors you’ve repeated so often, you now do them on autopilot. They’ve become part of your comfortable routine and they often help you alleviate stress.

As some anonymous once said, “Bad habits are like a comfortable bed; easy to get into but hard to get out of.”

Breaking habits is difficult. You need to motivate yourself to want to break the habit; track and monitor to identify situations and triggers that promote it; plan a different response when tempted to smoke, overeat, etc,; eliminate triggers; and accept some discomfort as you’re extinguishing the unwanted behavior and creating a healthier habit.

Lets talk a little bit about planning a different response. Research suggests that cravings last about three minutes. Your goal is to get through the three minutes without falling into the habit trap. Distract yourself by getting involved in another activity or fill you mind with positive thoughts about the rewards of your goa. Bad habits often help ease stress in times of anxiety or emotional discomfort. Develop another way to deal with that anxiety; preferable something you can use at the office or in public. Maybe instead of a cigarette or latte break, take three to five minutes to relax in your office with calming music and soothing positive images.

Main thing, don’t give up! Few people succeed on their first try. If you succumb, try again, and congratulate yourself for whatever length of time you were successful.

Terry Pfau, DO, HMD

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