Like most people, I’ve picked up many bad habits throughout my life.
And for the most part, I never considered them to be an issue. But one day I woke up and noticed the serious effect these habits were having on my health.
A diagnosis from my doctor confirmed all my fears and gave me the wake-up call I needed.
So, what were these bad habits and health concerns? Back and chest pain caused by poor posture and an addiction to sugary beverages.
I spend most of my days hunched over a laptop for work. I own a popular blog about water and hydration and I also contribute to many health resources online.
The problem is that working for yourself means you don’t get the benefit of a typical work schedule. There is no start time, no breaks, no set lunch time, and definitely no finish time. The result is I simply end up working throughout the day and sometimes throughout the night.
Years of bad posture and my love of soda caught up with me when one day I woke up and couldn’t move because of the intense pain in my back and chest.
Getting chest pains always makes you think the worst. In fact, I was certain I was going to die after spending a few hours typing all my symptoms into Google.
Luckily, it was nothing serious and my doctor told me I could easily reverse the symptoms so long as I broke my bad work habits.
That was all I needed to hear.
I read every book and article on breaking habits I could find. After consuming as much information as I could handle, I created a plan. The plan was based on the following principles I had gathered while reading about successfully changing lifestyle patterns:
>> Changing your environment can make bad habits harder and good habits easier.
>> You can’t simply eliminate a bad habit; you have to replace it with something else.
>> Small and consistent changes over time beat big and dramatic changes that are unsustainable.
>> Understand that a relapse is almost inevitable and plan ahead for it.
I started by getting a laptop stand so my computer is at eye level. I also splashed out on a new chair with extra back support, which keeps me upright when working and helps my posture.
That was the easy bit. Then I had to deal with the more difficult issue: my diet.
As a health author, I generally eat good, healthy meals, but the problem was my soda addiction. I thought that eating a relatively good diet and staying well hydrated with water would permit me to have a bottle of Coke while I work, but it turns out that I was wrong. So out with soda and in with fruit-infused sparkling water and herbal teas.
I’m not going to lie—it was hard.
I cracked many times during the first few weeks. I would sometimes run out of the house in the middle of a thunderstorm to buy my favorite soda beverage.
But these moments were also when I knew I would succeed because I knew they were coming and had already planned ahead for them by doing the following:
>> Minimizing the “damage” by only allowing myself to buy the smallest size of one single bottle (not a whole pack like I used to).
>> Not giving into negative thoughts about failure, but instead seeing my slipup as a small hurdle on the route to success.
>> Understand what triggered the relapse (typically stress and boredom), and think of different ways to cope with them in the future.
I honestly believe doing these things were what led me to totally eliminate my addiction. I kept a daily journal and noted that the cravings completely disappeared on day 56. That was one year ago and I haven’t touched a drop of the sugary liquid since—nor have I wanted to.
Yes, breaking bad habits takes a lot of hard work and determination, but mostly it takes perseverance. Like most people who successfully break bad habits, I tried and failed many times before it worked.
But the most important thing throughout the process was being aware that success wouldn’t come right away. Success came from planning for the inevitable relapse, consistent effort, and trusting the process.
Author: Luke George
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen