Habits – Breaking Them Down, Making Them Easier

All of us have them.  Not all of them are beneficial for our health and wellness.  Oftentimes, these detrimental ones are rather difficult to break.  You might have guessed it; I am talking about habits.

As human-beings, we are habitual creatures by nature.  I would even go out on a limb stating that our habits keep us grounded.  Everyday life is full of habitual actions – some on a larger scale and others are rather small, insignificant level. In many respects, habits create our routines from the minute we wake up to the time we close our eyes and fall asleep at night.

Generally, people categorize habits as either good or bad.  There rarely seems to be an in-between category.  In today’s post, I would like to challenge you to review your habits from a slightly different perspective.

I think we can all agree on what falls into the two main categories of habits which are affecting you positively or negatively.  Brushing your teeth in the mornings and evenings, exercising daily, eating regular, nutritious meals, keeping your mind fit through learning or reading, going outside for a walk in the fresh air, reducing or eliminating harmful substances (i.e. alcohol and tobacco), getting enough sleep, interacting with family and friends on a regular basis, etc.  This list varies depending on each individual.

Some harmful habits might be:  sitting too long at your desk, watching too much T.V., scrolling on social media instead of getting in some exercise, consuming unhealthy snacks between meals, eating too much processed food or deep fried dishes, worrying too much about future events, isolating oneself, not indulging in adequate self-care.  And the list goes on here too.

Many of these activities are not consciously planned but rather executed instinctively.  For example, grabbing your toothbrush during your morning routine or cleansing followed by moisturizing your face.  It’s all part of a well-established routine, and there is no need to remind yourself about doing it.  There aren’t any excuses that get in the way of doing it.  You feel great once it’s done.

The task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.

By James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits”

On the flip side, we are often confronted with decisions and choices each and every day that may lead us to sway from our positive habits.  For instance, when you are preparing a meal and you are staring into the fridge at possible ingredients, you are faced with several decisions.  Since I am really hungry, do I quickly grab some cheese (I can hardly ever resist it) and a few crackers while I am putting together this really healthy, wholesome salad?  Or, do I recognize this as a ‘bad’ habit and stick to the plan of eating a nourishing salad without added calories prior to enjoying the meal?  This type of habitual behaviour falls into the conscious habits we all encounter on a daily basis.

Changing or altering habits can be challenging and frustrating all at the same time.  We tend to fall back into our old, known patterns of behaviour rather than forcing ourselves to get uncomfortable by taking a new path toward a new habit or change in our lives.  It requires an immense amount of conscious effort to make the better choices and completely neglect the voices in our head telling us to stick with what is “easy, familiar, comforting”.  For this reason, it is important to break down habits into miniscule parts and attempt each part step-by-step gaining momentum as you move through the progression of forming a habit.

The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us.

James Clear

If, for instance, I wanted to develop an exercise routine in order to improve my level of fitness.  Doesn’t everyone want some level of fitness AND to be able to follow through on an exercise routine at least 4 – 5 times a week, if not daily?  I certainly do, and for very specific health-related reasons, I have to now.

Knowing what I do about the formation of “healthy” habits, I begin challenging myself to a micro habit for one week.  In my mind, if I can practice this small part of a bigger goal over the course of a week, I will be pleased with myself and gain momentum toward the next, bigger step.  In doing so, I also gain more trust in myself as well as confidence that I can, indeed, follow through with what I need to do – exercise.

What does this micro goal/habit look like for me personally?  It started with biking on my stationary bike for just 5 minutes.  I completed this every day for one week and at the end of this time, I felt like adding and committing to more time.  It felt great for my body, and it was manageable to carve out the time each day.  Side note:  we all have the time; we simply don’t prioritize wisely.  I had to keep reminding myself – the day has 24 full hours and there is NO excuse for not taking 5 minutes for my health.

My mini, micro habit turned into a medium level habit as the weeks progressed.  Making sure not to overdo it, get frustrated and quit, I took it very slowly and progressed gradually.  Constantly reminding myself that any little amount of forward momentum and progress was better than none at all. 

Slowly but surely, I worked my way up to a macro habit, which was biking 40 minutes each day. Such a simple task, yet so profoundly difficult to implement into one’s lifestyle.  Now, when I get on the bike, it is almost as if my body craves the exercise. 

Since I would like to end on a positive note, I will not go into how detrimental routines go from being small, micro habits and end up being significantly bad in nature to your health, wealth and wellbeing.  I think we have all been there and can relate on some level to poor habits. 

If you feel like change is necessary in one area of your life, I challenge you to do the following:

  1.  Review and record the habits you have formed – both the good ones and bad ones.
  2.  Take a hard look at the changes you would like to make.  List them out.
  3.  Choose ONE habit you would like to shift for the better.
  4.  Break this habit down into tiny steps. 
  5.  Commit to changing this habit one step at a time (adding or eliminating one behaviour).
  6.  Using cue cards or sticky notes, write a reminder for yourself of your habit adjustment and place these reminders strategically around the house, office, car or mirror.
  7.  Just get started with this ONE small habit and see your momentum increase as the days go by.
  8.  Be proud of yourself at the end of a week.  Celebrate or reward yourself for being successful.
  9.  Once the first tiny step/habit is manageable and you feel ready for the next level, adjust your new habit accordingly to reflect your next-level of commitment.
  10.  Congrats!  You have sparked a fire inside of yourself that will ignite your inner motivation to continue.

Every action you take is a vote fro the type of person you wish to become.

James Clear

As you can tell, I have been deeply moved by James Clear’s book on making these tiny changes to achieve remarkable results. The good news is…you can too!

I am on the sidelines cheering you on to do great things. Let me know in the comments below the one habit you will start to initiate into your daily life 🙂

Until next time,

Lisa xo



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