Everyone has habits. Some habits are healthy and contribute to our overall well-being, such as hygiene practices, diet, and moderate exercise. We can also form unhealthy or even dangerous habits, such as driving after drinking alcoholic beverages or gambling with money that was intended for bills or other responsibilities. These habits can lead to stress, negatively impact work performance, or create financial difficulty, legal issues, or family conflict. If you or someone you know has started to develop unhealthy habits, some steps can be taken to create healthier ones.

Reminder. Remember your triggers. Triggers are cues that influence thinking and behavior. Identifying your triggers can keep you from engaging in the pattern of behavior that led to the unhealthy or dangerous habits. Once you recognize the trigger, you can change how you would normally respond. Replace these habits with a new healthier activity, such as exercising, listening to music, hanging out with friends, or joining a club such as darts or archery. Whatever activity you use to replace an unhealthy habit, make sure it is enjoyable.

Routine. After identifying new healthy activities to try, create a routine to help turn it into a habit. Like setting the alarm clock every morning to wake up for work, try setting a healthy activity reminder to prompt you to go to the gym, for example. If you know you plan to exercise after work, set a reminder an hour before the end of your workday to remind you to go.

Reward. Unhealthy habits can leave us with questions, emotions, uncertainty, and regret. On the other hand, healthy habits leave us feeling good about ourselves and our choices. Reflect on how you feel after working out, spending time with family, or playing recreational sports. The more you engage in an activity that you enjoy, the more likely it will become a healthy habit that you can sustain. 

Replacing unhealthy or dangerous habits with healthy habits is not always easy. Try enlisting the support of a trusted friend or family member to get you started and to keep you motivated. You do not have to make this journey alone.

For information on how to build good habits, contact the Community Counseling Center, a Military and Family Life Counselor, or Semper Fit Health Promotions.