Nail biting, swearing, procrastinating...loads of us harbour bad habits that we've acted out for years! We've spoken to life coach Clara Gibson to get her expert tips on how to ditch your bad habits for good...
We’ve enlisted the help of Clara Gibson, life, health and wellbeing coach of makethatdifference.org, to get her expert tips on how to stop bad habits like nail biting, swearing, putting yourself down and other common bad habits people struggle with on a daily basis.
Clara explains: ‘Habits are formed most frequently in early childhood. We develop a behaviour in response to a situation which achieves a result at the time that gets us attention, or makes us feel good in some way. Because the behaviour has given us something that at the time is rewarding, we do it again and again, until we are simply doing it unconsciously. Typically people only become aware of habits later in life when they become restricting in some way.
‘The repetition of the behaviour creates a well-trodden path in our neurological makeup. The reason why people find habits difficult to break are several fold – they’re not aware of the triggers, and need to have strong motivation to develop a new pathway that will become the new default setting.
Click through to find out how to stop bad habits…
‘The majority of people are not aware of how they deal with past, present and future. Worriers tend to spend their time unaware of the present (i.e. of what’s happening at this very moment). As they worry about what has happened in the past or worry about what might happen in the future, they have little awareness of what is actually their life ‘right now’.
‘This lack of focus on anything in the present can have a real affect on their happiness. Choosing to re-focus on what’s actually happening now will help you to worry less and think only about the important things.’
Even our very own Kate Middleton harbours the nail baiting habit!
Clara says: ‘Nail biting is a typical habit that people have picked up because at some point it served them well. It might have got them attention, or they may have seen someone they admired do it. Or simply they were bored and their fingers filled a gap in that moment.
‘Become aware of when you are nail biting, and focus on what you’re doing right now; ask yourself what is the wanted end result of what you’re doing? And what are you doing the task for? Is nail biting is relevant to that purpose? Probably not!
‘Replace the old redundant habit with something you want to be doing instead.’
‘Swearing can actually have a negative affect on our mindset. Negative thinking and the words we say to ourselves has some impact on our mood – which in turn helps us to be happier, healthier and more effective, or the reverse.
‘Become aware of when you swear and make a choice to change.
‘Take time each day to stop and reflect, have you sworn a lot? And why? Take note of the postitives around you and commit to make daily conscious action to change your behaviour.’
People like a gossip, but it could be that you’re camoflaging things that aren’t right in your own life.
‘Recognise that each person operates and acts from their own experiences, and you’ll learn to make fewer assumptions about other people’s behaviour. Recognise what your own behaviour may be saying about your own state of wellbeing.
‘I noticed years ago as I was learning to deal with serial bereavements that when I made judgements about others my mood slipped. When you feel that happen make changes to shift your focus onto something more important.’
‘We’re all human, when we are under pressure and we can become impatient, but some of us handle it better than others. To manage our temper breathing techniques can be very useful – as typically people are very unaware of how they breathe. We tend to breathe shallowly or hold our breath when particularly stressed or frightened.
‘Get into the habit of learning to breathe deeply: breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 2, breathe out for 4, rest for 2, breathe in for 4, hold for 2, breathe out for 4, rest for 2 and repeat 20 times, at least 3 times a day.
‘Notice how you feel before beginning the breathing exercise, give it a rating out of 10, where the worst you might be feeling is 0 and the very best would be 10. After the breathing exercise rate how you’re feeling then.
‘Learn to become aware earlier and earlier of building tension and take control of your short temper.’
‘Unless you’re motivated and disciplined enough, no change will happen, or it will happen very slowly.
‘There are definite health benefits to getting to sleep by 11-12pm – melatonin is released around 11pm – and if we stay up beyond that time we will not be able to get the same quality of sleep as we would do if get to bed by 11pm.
‘Intend to go to bed at a good time at a minimum of 4-6 times per week, and then set into practice the means to help you to do that, like eating earlier, not drinking stimulants after 1pm each day, taking some exercise, turning the computer off by 8-9pm, not watching disturbing late night movies etc. Also try listening to a sleep hypnosis tape.’
Find out which 10 things you didn’t realise were stopping you sleeping.
New Year’s resolutions, gym memberships, diets… they all start with the best intentions but hardly any of us stick to them.
Clara says: ‘Know what you really want and think how good we’ll feel for the ultimate achievement of being healthy and fit, eating well, getting enough sleep, taking regular exercise etc.
‘The only reason we don’t do this is because this habit is the easiest option – the pathway of least resistance and effort.
‘Make a conscious determined effort to make taking care of yourself easier, and easier than our old pattern of abusing our health and wellbeing.
‘Connect with the benefits of taking good care of yourself, focus on why they don’t want to be heavy, or not have bad breath, or not smoke etc. not on the efforts it will take to get there.’
Everyone knows you should never go to the supermarket hungry, but we still all manage to overspend or come away with things that we don’t need but want anyway.
Clara says: ‘Be aware of why we are buying things. Why are we buying food, or clothes, gadgets or accessories etc? Just as doing food shopping when you are hungry may well result in you buying food which will satisfy your hunger pang, purchasing needs to be better planned.
‘Think about how much you have to spend versus what you want to spend. Start to make note of everything you spend versus your income, and become aware of the interest payments on your credit card.
‘If you’re buying something to make you feel better, consider why you’re not feeling good about yourself and choose to look for all the things that are good about you and your life now’.
‘Typically, anything that you buy when you aren’t feeling good about yourself will remain anchored in that negative emotional state, and not associated with feeling good about yourself.’
‘Learning to be present in the moment, is key to learning to listen. If we are focussed on what is happening right now, not distracted with things that have happened earlier, then we’ll listen better and listen easily. We’ll be more relaxed as we won’t be focussed on what we are thinking we should be doing, instead of what we are supposed to be doing right now, i.e. listening!’
Lots of people are guilty of putting themselves down, even when they are paid a compliment.
Clara says: ‘Here in the UK, focusing on the negative is what people do.
‘Start to praise yourself for the most little things in life, like getting up in the morning, getting whatever you got sorted before going to work, or taking the kids to school. Look for what’s right in your life right now, acknowledge it, and look for more.
‘When your mind is focussed on the negative, make an active change to shift your thoughts to the positive.’
When something needs to be done, there are a hundred and one other unimportant things you can find to do to first…
Clara says: ‘Very often, people need to have the motivation to do things. It may not be important enough to do them, but knowing how good they will feel when they have completed it can be the thing that will motivate them to get it done.
‘Be mindful of the amazing feeling of success you’ll feel when it’s done. Sometimes people just need to have some tips, if it is something they don’t want to do they need to put it on the top of their list and simply just do it. This will help with developing your focus and self-discipline.’
Clara runs a free weekly short coaching session, which helps individuals to form habits that enhance their health, not hinder it. Find out more at makethatdifference.org.