Apparently, the origin of the phrase ‘old habits die hard’ is unknown, but has been in circulation since 1758 when it appeared in an article by Benjamin Franklin. Here ends the history lesson, because we all know what it means, and if you’ve spent the last month try to stick to resolutions and goals, you might be finding some old habits harder to kick than others. So, why is this?
Well, doing too much, too soon, sets us up for failure as you can’t resolve them all at once. So, begin with habits that are easiest to change as this will give you some sense of satisfaction as well as encourage to stick to other goals.
Although we’d like to think that will power alone will be enough, it rarely is (sadly!) but if you can find other ways of dealing with what you’re finding hard to ditch, it could help a lot. For example, if you’re tempted to reach for a glass of wine when stressed, try calling a friend or putting on some relaxing music instead.
Another way to help you through is to set yourself one tiny change each week. If you always find yourself tempted to eat some cake at 4p.m. (a particularly difficult time of day, I find), try to avoid it by always planning a walk at that time or cutting an apple into slices and adding some nuts to the side so that it’s already there when you’re tempted by something more fattening.
Goals are often rather loose too – if you can make them less generalised, that can help. For instance, if losing weight is a goal, try asking yourself how doing so will make you feel and what extra things might you be able to do.
But food, drink and/or cigarettes aren’t the only habits that a lot of people want to change; relationships and their accompanying issues can trigger old habits such as being on your phone all the time, leaving the other person feeling neglected. Maybe they’re doing the same but if you want to change this, it will take a concerted effort. Another habit which is hard to drop is making remarks at your partner’s expense when you’re out. Maybe they laugh outwardly, but inside they feel hurt.
Being passive-aggressive within a relationship is also an easy thing to slide into but try to take a minute to think about what you really want to say instead of going into a sulk or being sarcastic. Criticising your partner’s family is another bad habit, even if what you’re saying is true. Blood ties are often some of the strongest out there and even if your partner agrees with what you’re saying, they might get defensive about their family being attacked.
It’s about spotting your triggers and then trying to avoid them or find healthier substitutes. I know that this isn’t easy but next time you give in to whatever temptation you’re trying to conquer, examine why you gave in……how were you feeling at the time, were you hungry, tired, bored or emotional?
Luckily, you can always learn from any lapses that you might have. Research shows that people who manage to keep to their long-term health goals view their slip-ups look at why that happened and then pick themselves up and start again. Progress isn’t a linear pathway but more a case of trial and error and learning what works for you.
I’m sure that you can think of other ways to stick to your goals – if so, let me know on this page so that other people can see your tips too.
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