Is it easier to start a new healthy habit than it is to break an unhealthy habit?
That’s the question that crossed my mind today as I was thinking about my health and my goals and how to make some positive changes in my life.
I tried googling it to see what others are saying. I expected to find dozens of articles out there with a definitive answer, but they either don’t exist or Google is having a hard time locating them for me. I’m not sure which it is, but I’m guessing that there aren’t a lot of posts out there that specifically address the starting healthy habits vs. quitting unhealthy habits question. Or maybe I just didn’t search hard enough? I don’t know.
I did come across several articles about breaking bad habits, though, but I didn’t bother to read them. I’ve already read a lot of those types of articles over the years, and they never seemed to do me much good. Maybe that’s not fair, though. Maybe they did help me to some extent and I’m just not seeing it at the moment because I’m in a pissy mood or something. Again…I don’t know.
Starting Good Habits Vs. Quitting Bad Habits
But I just feel like I want to make some changes in my life, and the thought of quitting bad habits is completely unappealing and demotivating to me right now. I’m starting to feel discouraged just blogging about it for the past couple sentences. That alone tells me that abstinence is not the best path forward for me right now. So, I think I’m going to try to add a new habit into my life rather than trying to give something up.
I specifically want to focus on improving my physical health. I mean, I need to work on every area of my life, but right now – today – I definitely feel more motivated to improve my health, especially by doing something to lose weight. I’m like in the 285 pound range right now, give or take a few pounds. That’s just ridiculous. That’s 100 pounds heavier than I was when I graduated high school 24 years ago. That’s just bullshit, right?
Do you know what 100 pounds feels like? Have you ever tried to lift 100 pounds?
Damn, 100 pounds overweight.
Okay, so I definitely want to lose weight, and I guess I want to do it by adding healthy habits instead of trying to give things up. I expect that I’ll automatically give unhealthy things up as new habits are started. It’s like, if you have a cup of coffee and you start pouring a gallon of pure water into it. Soon, the cup will begin to overflow because there’s only so much space available in that cup. The coffee will start flowing out of the cup until there’s eventually nothing in the cup but water. Some of that water will also spill out of the cup in the process too.
No wonder everyone seems to prefer that you begin by emptying the cup (focusing on bad habits) instead of overflowing it with water (focusing on good habits). But I can tell – again, even just by typing that sentence – I can tell that I would much rather focus on adding positive things into my life than focus on quitting or abstaining from certain things.
Why is that?
Habits And Willpower
I think it probably takes a lot more willpower to give up something you like (like fried chicken strips) than it takes to add in something else (like fresh vegetables). Sorry, I don’t have any scientific studies to point to. I just feel it inside when I think about it. I almost KNOW it’s true, just by talking about it right now. Don’t you feel that too? Or is it just me? Doesn’t it just seem easier and more fun to start a good habit than to quit a bad one?
So that’s what I plan to do: add some new healthy habits.
How To Begin A New Healthy Habit
But where do I start? There are a million ways to lose weight and improve your health. And there are a lot of different theories about what’s the best approach to implement those changes.
But I already have a method in mind.
Just before I started writing this blog post, I was sitting here reading Steve Pavlina’s ebook about personal development. Steve’s a blogger – currently based right here in Las Vegas – and on his blog he often documents his efforts to try new things by doing 30-day trials. He’ll pick something that he wants to try out, and he’ll do that thing every day for 30 days.
He recently tried fasting for 30 days (nothing but water), and that went really well for him. I think he actually managed 40 days before deciding to quit the fast. Steve’s done other 30-day trials like that over the years. Some of them became lifelong habits (like becoming a vegan and waking up early every day) and some of them were just for fun (like going to Disneyland every day for 30 days in a row).
Anyway, I like the “try it for 30 days” method, so I’m going to try adding a new daily habit for the next 30 days.
What will it be? I don’t know yet. I have some ideas in mind, but I’m not sure that I want to do those things every single day for the rest of my life. I don’t want to sabotage myself by starting with a new habit that I don’t really want to continue, so I’ll think about it tonight and hopefully decide on a new habit to begin tomorrow.
That’s what I’ll do.
How To Choose A Good Habit For A 30-Day Test Run?
Before I end this post, I think I’ll jot down some things to consider when choosing a new habit to form over the next 30 days. Are there certain factors I should take into account? Can I create a checklist for success? How can I stack the deck in my favor to ensure that I succeed with this?
Here are some questions I’ll ask myself when deciding on a new habit.
1. Do I Really Want This As A Daily Habit?
This is the best place to start.
Sure, there are many things I can do for 30 days that will improve my health and help me lose weight. But how many of those do I want to continue doing every day for the rest of my life? My ultimate goal is to create new lifelong habits, so I want to keep that in mind when choosing my new habit to start.
2. Will This Habit Cost Money?
I’m also a bit strapped for cash right now, so I don’t want to start a new habit that’s going to cost me a lot of money. Ideally, it won’t cost me any money at all, but if the cost is low I can live with that too. Even better – maybe it will be something that costs money but also saves money and basically pays for itself.
3. Is This An Easy Thing To Do Every Day?
I want to succeed at this, and sometimes the best way to achieve a goal is to pick something that’s so easy you almost can’t help but succeed at it. I like the sound of that. I’m going to choose something that won’t require a ton of willpower to accomplish every day.
4. Is Anyone Else In My Life Doing This?
Another factor to consider is whether or not my family and friends are on board. Not that anyone would actually be against me making healthy changes, but you know, sometimes it’s easier to do a new thing that other people in your life are doing too. And I know from personal experience that it’s hard to do something new when your family is doing the opposite.
At least, it’s hard for me.
To succeed I want to choose something that won’t require a lot of willpower, because I’m going to have days where I’m up and days where I’m down. I know this already, because I know myself, so I just want to make this as easy as possible.
5. Will This Habit Help Me In Other Areas Of Life?
In self-help circles, they always talk about things like synergy and congruence and holism. It’s the idea that one thing in your life affects other things, and that you ideally want to have all the different areas of your life in balance with one another, supporting one another rather than working against each other. You make much better progress that way and feel a lot more content along the way.
I like that idea. It makes sense to me, so I want to choose a new habit that gels nicely with the rest of my life and doesn’t cause any friction.
So that seems like a good set of questions to ask when deciding on a new healthy habit to start.
- Do I want to do it every day?
- How much will it cost me?
- How easy is it to do?
- Will my home environment make it easier to succeed or harder?
- Is this habit a good fit for the kind of lifestyle I want to have?
Okay, time to go think about some things.