Kick A Tiny Bad Habit

When people are interested in improving and transforming themselves they often attempt changes on a monumental scale. Starting small, however, offers a better chance for success, and early success can help you move to the next step. Ready to begin the transformation process? One way to start - try kicking a bad habit.

This post focuses on things you can do in small increments that can lead to big changes. So let's start small. For the moment, forget the large things you want to change.

For now, take a moment to sweat the small stuff just a little, because it won't take much sweat. This change we're suggesting might be something so small, you just haven't bothered. It's so small, changing it strikes you as painfully simple. So why haven't you done it yet?

Maybe you toss your jacket on a chair rather than hanging it on its hook. Or you leave your keys in odd places rather than a designated spot where you can find them. You don't take 30 seconds to squeegee the shower and then have to scrub it down later. You leave your suitcase unpacked for weeks. We're not suggesting you do any of these things, but you probably have your own tiny bad habits. Fill in your own example, please.

These things are not character flaws and shouldn't make you feel bad about yourself. But they do offer you a chance to change, and in the process to feel good about yourself.

Turn Negative to Positive

First, notice that in just about any example you can think of, changing a negative behavior requires replacing it with a positive behavior or positive result. For example, the negative behavior of leaving keys in a pocket, on the table under a newspaper, or on the nightstand results in lost keys and a frustrating search.

Kicking a bad habit is best done by creating a new one. Try putting the keys in a bowl near the door you come in and leaving your keys there every time you come home. Do it enough times and it becomes routine…a new habit! Yes, it's small, but if you were to add up the time and frustration of searching for lost keys over the course of a year, it could be huge.

Try it yourself by first thinking of the small, automatic habit you'd like to change. Then decide on a solution. That's half the battle.

In his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business, New York Times business writer Charles Duhigg notes that neuroscientists trace habits to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which is also key in developing memories and pattern recognition. Conscious decisions, however, are made in a different part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. When behaviors become routine and automatic (which is essentially the definition of a habit), the decision-making part of the brain shifts toward other matters. You execute the habit without consciously thinking about it.

Shifting your habit back to the decision part of your brain, in other words, is a big part of the battle. Stay conscious of the small change you've decided to make, and eventually your replacement habit will replace the bad habit.

Try it. The results will probably make you feel better and maybe encourage you to try another small positive change. After a while, you'll find that changing a habit becomes a kind of skill that you can begin to apply to larger negative habits.

Looking for a positive habit to replace a negative use of your time? Try using your hot tub on a daily basis for 20 minutes a day. You'll be replacing a bad habit with relaxation, greater flexibility, and a daily feeling of rejuvenation. It's the perfect new replacement habit, because it's enjoyable, and the benefits can help enhance and improve your life in many ways.

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